The year ends today and I've spent some of this Christmas break looking at old pictures. I came across this picture from our trip to Vietnam in 2010:
It got me thinking about a couple of different things regarding teaching and growing as a learner.
The first thing that strikes me is no matter how much I try, I cannot work alone. This home is isolated yes, but they can still connect with others by hopping into the boat and sailing off.
Unfortunately, education is turning into a more and more isolated profession for a myriad of reasons, one of those being technology integration. Doors are staying closed, poor practice is continuing, and collaboration is waning in many schools. Professional development is losing value and relevance in many schools, which is driving people to web resources like Twitter.
(Keep in mind, this is simply my observation. I know not all schools are in this situation, but I think we can agree that it isn't difficult to find at least one colleague that feels that way about teaching.)
Since this is a year-end post, I might as well throw in a new year prediction. The last few years have seen incredible advances in technology and connectivity. The connections I made in 2011 are invaluable to me and I am still returning to Twitter for inspiration and collaboration. I don't think the value of those connections is waning at all. I've found some amazing people that formed the foundation of my PLN, and I feel fortunate that others feel the same way about me as I'm added to theirs. Connections are continuing, but my network for change is still limited.
I think 2012 will be the year of local collaboration. I know collaboration happens frequently in schools, but I think 2012 will show an explosion of local, "grassroots" growth and development. Rather than working as individuals to connect with others digitally, I think schools will begin connecting different groups across the world and then bring that group's expertise to bear in their locale.
However, local collaboration isn't going to take place of its own accord. There need to be local leaders willing to step out and take risks. Stephen Harris, principal of Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning said it well in a recent Connected Principals blog post: "Do then think." Don't take blind risks, but plan for intentional, meaningful change in schools and then work together with the people around you to make it happen. I can discuss change in my school with friends across the world on Twitter, but when it comes down to it, change won't happen without the help of colleagues across the hall.
2011 was fantastic, and I'm excited about beginning 2012. Take a risk and connect with someone in you building to find ways to make progress in your buildings. If we all work hard at home, we might see the broad change we've been talking about for so long.