Photo Credit- Peter Harrison

“…knowledge is becoming inextricable from — literally unthinkable without — the network that enables it.”   ~David Weinberger

On a cold, snowy and windy Canadian evening, Royan Lee (@royanlee) and I braved the elements and met up for a chat in a cozy pub. Like all such chats our goal was to catch up on things, enjoy a pint and change the world. We chatted about our kids, our jobs, our short and long term goals and the challenges we face in each of these areas~great stuff.

We shared some excitement about Apple’s pending announcement and the prediction that they would be ‘entering’ the text book market in a significant way through the iPad platform. We both agreed, based upon the past evidence from Cupertino, that this could be a game changer for our profession; with a proviso, that is captured with this question:

How will our systems adapt to embrace innovation and are we open to the idea of ‘teachers as designers’? 

Networks, as David Weinberger’s quote stresses, have mashed and flattened knowledge (what we have called content) to the point where it is  fluid as it is spread out in the minds and experiences of those who dwell in networks. We put in, we take out in a manner that is alarming is it’s ease and rapidity.

Many school systems are only now understanding this fluidity, as they struggle with the transition from a fixed, block and control  mindset~where information flows out  from the center (or top) of the organization in a controlled manner and the avenues that teachers, students and parents have to put information ‘into’ the system are strictly controlled and regulated.

Controls and regulations are not bad things, they are actually essential for the operation of any network. The idea that  Royan and I wrestled with was how Apple’s foray into content would alter our work as teachers. The use of content apps and the creative tools present in the ‘cloud’ creates an opportunity for teachers (and students) to collaborate (on a huge scale) to interpret,design and create ‘content’ for learning. All of this in a well-managed and strictly regulated network. One thing we know about Apple is they have the whole hardware/software and network integration/regulation thing figured out.

You see, one of the things that educators struggle with in the area of social networking and collaboration is trust~we don’t trust the openness of these platforms and we don’t really trust, in a deep way, our  professional knowledge and judgement. This why we tend rely upon centrally produced text books as the carriers of content and shy away from using blogs and SM tools, too few of us are using these tools.

In a world where content is created by the members of the network, and the capacity to connect to create content texts is available in a seamless, all be it messy, manner teachers will need to be designers. And school systems will need to adapt in ways that will allow these networks to function.

If we do, it would be a remarkable evolution and provide the impetus for a radical, necessary shift in how the teaching profession views itself and is viewed by others.

Cross posted at  thesmalleroffice.wordpress.com


One Comment

  1. Grant Lichtman said:

    The Apple announcements shook me in a way I have not been for many years in education; a true game changer. We are in the process of founding a new collaborative network of schools to coordinate much as you describe in the creation and sharing of curriculum, program and ideas. We will be announcing in the next couple of months; let me know if you would like to hear more about it. We are not vendors; all schools treading the same paths!

    January 24, 2012

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