Each week I have an opportunity to participate in an #Edchat discussion twice each Tuesday. #Edchat, for those who may be unaware, is an organized discussion held twice each Tuesday on Twitter. Twitter is a Social Media application connecting people locally and globally for the purpose of exchanging information, links, videos, and almost anything that can be digitally transmitted. The attendance in the #Edchat discussions varies from several hundred to about a thousand educators each week. The #Edchat topics are always educational in nature. A detailed explanation can be found at #Edchat Revisited.
This week’s topics were somewhat related. The first dealt with school culture, and latter #Edchat was about how schools can more positively involve parents in the education of their children. These discussions went very quickly as the ideas and suggestions from all those involved flew by. Hundreds of observations, and suggestions, followed by reflections, corrections, and additions for those ideas were exchanged. Both sessions were very high-energy sessions, an evident influence of the passion on the part of educators involved for these topics.
If you are not an educator, school culture might need some explanation. It is not something studied by student teachers in their college classes. It can be defined, but it looks different in every school. It may be influenced by a District administrator, but it is different in each of the districts buildings. It is a collective attitude of the specific educational community, or school. It either welcomes, or discourages innovation. It sets the tone for bullying in that community. It determines the openness of educators to change. It determines how welcoming and mentoring the faculty is to new teachers. It sets the tone for openness to various methods of teaching. It influences the respect for and between students, teachers, and administrators in a building.
In the district that I spent most of my career the cultures of the High School and the Middle School were completely different. I always felt that The Middle School taught the kids, and the High School taught courses. Middle Schools are often team oriented and that goes a long way in affecting the culture of each school. Decisions were made with this in mind. Schedules were formed with this in mind. Assignments of teachers were made with this in mind. All of this supports the culture of a school, making it slow to change.
School culture tends to change very slowly unless influenced by something coming from outside the existing culture. If a new administrator comes to a school with any leadership skills and a willingness to change things, the culture may change. A problem with this is the turnover rate of administrators. Often the changes to a school last as long as the administrator does. The vision often travels with the visionary. The other way that the school culture changes, is from the bottom up. It comes with a teacher’s vision that influences others. A single teacher can influence others with a vision and a passion for that vision. In order for that to occur however, the teacher needs to have an exposure to ideas and influences other than those from the school’s culture.
Enter Social Media. Educators are involving themselves more and more with social media applications. Like me, many have developed Personal Learning Networks to help provide sources for teaching and learning. Educators exchange links for information and collaboration in order to improve their teaching. The exchange of ideas however, often goes beyond a simple exchange of information. The cultures of schools are being discussed, dissected, analyzed, and evaluated. The best parts of cultures from many schools are now being introduced to other school cultures. The vision of some is becoming a vision of many. Social Media for educators opens up a world of exposure and transparency to cultures of other schools. A first step to change, dare I say Reform.
Educators are beginning to change the way faculty meetings are conducted. The very topics opened up through Social Media are topics that educators are discussing with more awareness of what other schools do more successfully. Cultures are being reshaped by expanding the pool of experiences through Social Media. Twitter and Facebook are connecting educators and ideas. Blogs are expanding ideas and being referenced for change. Social Bookmarking is cataloging a huge quantity of quality sources that are now literally at the fingertips of educators. Educator Ning sites are growing and thriving with educational groups, Webinars and free Professional Development.
Social Media is having a positive effect on changing a system that has been slow to change. Educators need not look to justify their use of Social Media. Educators may need to justify why they are not employing Social Media. We cannot expect change, or reform, to come to education without enabling or arming educators with the proper tools to affect that change.
Your comments are welcomed!