Connected educators may be the worst advocates for getting other educators to connect. Too often they are so enthusiastic at how, as well as how much they are learning through being connected, that they tend to overwhelm the uninitiated, inexperienced, and unconnected educator with a deluge of information that both intimidates and literally scares them to death. The connected, collaborative culture is so different from what these educators have learned and how they have practiced teaching for years. It is disruptive to say the least, and it requires a change in both attitude and practice, as well as a shift in priorities of time to be spent. None of this is easily accepted, unless there is to be a big pay-off. For some the pay-off will not be worth their change and sacrifice.
Routine is the enemy of innovation. Some people are comfortable with routine. They depend on routine to make life easier. It is far less work to continue doing the same old, same old, than to do something new. If it ain’t broke, don’t try and fix it! Too often these routines are part of education. Too often these routines become a problem in education.
Some educators strive to make rules for conformity and compliance. Lessons are developed to control the learning in the classroom. Seats are arranged in rows to control the students. Student compliance becomes an unstated goal for the educator. Failure to comply may result in negative grades for students. This has been a routine established for many educators for many years. For too many, this is how they were taught, so this is how they will teach. This is in great part what makes them comfortable.
We would like to think that this does not represent the majority of educators, but any educator reading this post can probably envision several colleagues described here. Much of this is counter to what is advocated by many connected educators. Because of that, connected educators threaten the comfort levels, or status quo of many unconnected educators. The idea of getting those comfortable educators to connect becomes a hard sell.
Being a connected educator for a majority is an endorsement of personal learning. Connected educators participate and guide their personal learning to get from it that which they need, both personally, and professionally. Once an educator buys into that way of learning, and reaps the benefits in very profound ways, it changes his or her perspective on learning. Many become advocates for Personal Learning Networks and self-directed learning, not only for educators, but also for all learners. They open up to a more collaborative perspective in learning.
The problem with this is that many connected educators were early adopters with short memories. They forget that, for many, when they entered the realm of connected educators, their education philosophies were not as they are now. Many were transformed over time. This arises as a problem when they advocate to the non-connected. Their expectation is that this transformation, that took time for them, will happen more quickly for the new adopters. This may become an unspoken promise to the unconnected that is often broken. It takes time to understand the connected culture. It takes time to understand the concepts of connecting. One cannot expect to connect and within a week or two to be transformed. Many newly connected educators are discouraged when that implied promise and expectation is not met. They drop off and drop out of collaboration.
I think that if we, as educators, are to benefit through collaboration, especially the unprecedented collaboration afforded us through technology, then we have an obligation to mentor our fellow collaborators through their various stages of experience with the process. We need to encourage and instruct continuously, as we also learn and reap sources. The better our colleagues can understand and navigate the process, the more sources we will have to draw upon. As they become stronger, we become stronger. To be better-connected learners, we need to be better-connected educators. We need to have patience, but continue to persevere to connect our colleagues. We need to understand that the tens of thousands of individuals involved in this relatively new process are in varying stages of experience, and many need coaching. Some may even be overly experienced and jaded to the point of being unresponsive, or even intolerant of the needs the recently joined. They to may need reminders from time to time. The idea of collaborative learning is that we are all in this together, and together we are better and smarter than we are individually.