Research clearly demonstrates that the most effective schools focus on learning, not teaching. Everybody learns in these schools from the students to the teachers to the maintenance people. Research also demonstrates that too little authentic learning actually occurs in schools.
Many Some of us simply close our doors and teach the same way we have been doing for many years. We are intimidated about opening our practice to the scrutiny of others.
Recently there's been talk in the blogosphere about the purpose of online social communities like this one. If all of the available tools in here are also available on the wider Internet, then why do we need a constrained place like this?
Here's one answer. Many of us in here now, don't need this place. We've become pretty good at meeting other people and sharing substantive ideas on the larger web. But, obviously most educators are not in here. Most educators have probably never experimented with most of the tools of Web 2.0.
I'm guessing that most teachers would not feel very comfortable in this social community. As one blogger wrote, attendance here is a lot like being at a huge conference. Despite the presence of so many people, it is so easy to feel lonely at huge conferences.
But, I'm hoping that many educators would feel comfortable using online social communities at the school building level. Imagine the majority of the teachers in a school discussing ideas, from the mundane to the profound, back and forth on a social community. Might teachers feel less intimidated about asking questions about best practice if it was not in a face to face setting? Teachers could share ideas as to how to work most effectively with particular students. Could these types of social sites truly promote learning amongst faculty members within individual school settings?
Think about content integration that could take place as a result of social sites, like this. The other day I wrote a current events newsletter about an increase in the planting of corn. More farmers are planting corn because it's being used in ethonal gasoline. Students could consider this current event in every subject area. Teachers could support one another in building a comprehensive set of lessons to examine this event. I'm a social studies teacher, but I recognize a good video about the planting of corn from a science perspective when I see it. If I found such a video I could incorporate it into the social community and inform the science teacher about it. He could do the same for me when he found something appropriate for social studies. The science teacher and I work with the same students. We live in the same town. Our kids are in the same baseball league. We could call across the hall to one another. But online communication will aid us in doing our jobs.
Social sites could also benefit the management of logistics. Principals could post memos in the social community and respond to logistical questions publicly. If a student is going to be tardy for his next class because of something that happened in my class I could simply write a quick note to the teacher. The note would not be anywhere near as intrusive a a phone call, since the teacher could check it when he/she had a free minute.
So, here's the point, because I feel like I'm rambling. Social websites like this have the potential to revolutionize educational communication. But revolutions need not encompass the entire world at one time. Instead revolutions can take place school by school. Every school could have its own constrained social site.