Teach & Serve No. 16 – The Networked Reality

Teach & Serve 

No. 16 * November 17, 2015


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THE NETWORKED REALITY

We are not encumbered by any walls, much less the four walls of our schools…

In the course of my work, I have the opportunity to spend time with large groups of educators who periodically come together for cohort meetings at locations across the country. The organization for which I serve helps put these events on for professionals in our network to bring them together so they can share with one another, learn from one another and simply be together with one another. In Chicago, Illinois last week, I was with over 65 principals from schools in our network. This week, the technology directors and folks with similar jobs in our schools will be gathering in Omaha, Nebraska.

As a participant in prior gatherings like this, I found them to be engaging and refreshing – chances to be with like-minded people discussing topics of the day that could make a difference in the lives of students back at my school. As a coordinator of said events, it’s very interesting to stand back and watch these gatherings unfold. Because the conferences in our network feature folks from a maximum of 90 schools, the people who come to them frequently know one another. Certainly they are familiar with each other’s schools. They have a shared bond beyond the jobs they do, so settling in and getting comfortable with each other doesn’t take very long and then the gatherings can really take off.

What I’ve found most intriguing (and, some might say, most obvious given that what I am about to write isn’t any great insight) is how connected these people remain between our periodic get-togethers. Though most of the schools in our network are spread across North America with miles-and-miles in between them, these people have been in contact in “off” years. They’ve been collaborating and working together, advising one another and staying abreast of developments in each other’s schools.

NetworkThe reality of our work today is that we are not encumbered by the “four walls” of our schools. We can be connected to wherever we’d like, whenever we’d like to be. We can reach out for expertise beyond ourselves, find wisdom in other contexts, look to people who are not us to tell us who we are and who we can be.

This is not just something we ought to do for fun. This is not just some opportunity we might consider taking advantage of when everything else at our school is going well and in place. This is not simply an option in the 21st century. It’s an imperative.

The reality of being able to be networked with other educators around our cities, our states, our country and our world is a reality that matters. It matters to our students, for their worlds are not our worlds. Their worlds are not the worlds in which we grew up or in which we learned to teach. Their worlds are interconnected and immediate. And we have to push into those worlds with force.

The networked reality calls us to do this. We don’t need to wait to read monthly journal articles about best practices being implemented in inventive schools half a country away from us. We can be connected to that progress, right here, right now in real time. We can bring experts to us. We can be experts for one another. The networked reality challenges us to be current, to build online Professional Learning Networks and to access them. To follow trends on Twitter. To fill our news feed with articles to parse, stories to read, strategies to attempt. The network reality makes our professional world so much larger while simultaneously rendering it so small we can grasp it, access it and use it to the benefit of our students.

After all, isn’t that what we’re all about? Aren’t we about benefitting the kids? The best way to do that, in real time, is to get comfortable in the networked reality.

Get comfortable in it and get to work.