The title of this post is a bit misleading. It is not social media that is changing education, it is the people involved in education who are collaborating by sharing great ideas and challenging others to continue to grow as learners.
Before social media, there were pockets of brilliance in every school, district, and education system but very few people knew about them. In some countries education was (and still is) viewed as a “race to the top” in which you do not share ideas, you hoard them and hope that your ideas are better than others’. Schools competing with each other do not share ideas and, as a result, they do not grow as effectively. What social media has done is allowed the spreading of great ideas in more efficient manner. Educators in British Columbia can connect and learn from practices taking place anywhere in the world; in addition, they can receive feedback on ideas from any people interested in education. Good ideas not only become viral but these same ideas also grow to become even better. I love stealing ideas (and giving credit) from other educators. George Couros told me one time, “the more people I connect with on Twitter, the more ideas I can steal to make our school better.”
Yes, we still have rankings of schools and countries and these do create much harm and stress; however, as Chris Kennedy said, we can now connect with educators in the other countries to find out what they are doing well and how we can work together to bring those ideas into our own systems. Let’s be honest, do we want ONLY our students to do well or do we want ALL students to do well? Can we help create a better society if we are only helping students within our walls to be great? We don’t hope to be the best by knocking everyone else down… we hope to be GREAT alongside those who we work and grow with.
On Saturday, I had another great edcamp experience at Edcamp Fraser Valley. The Edcamp experience is highly promoted through Twitter and blogs and the actual day can almost be like a microcosm for Social Media. We had sessions facilitated and participated by parents, teachers, professors, admin, and students (from elementary through university) and it was all about sharing great ideas and making them better. People left the edcamp reflecting on how they are going to bring these to their school or learning community… and they left with connections to people that can help them to do this. We meet people who have like interests that inspire us and we meet people who respectfully disagree and cause us to look at things through a different lens (in my opinion, this is what we need to see more of in social media – those intellectual collisions that help us grow). Edcamps and social media are driven by passionate participants who want to share a voice in education.
Social Media is a place in which there is less hierarchy (I realize it still exists). Prior to social media, the idea of me connecting with the author of the book I just read or the keynote speaker I just heard would have been absurd; now, I almost expect to be able to continue the discussions with others, including the speaker or author, through social media. Also, when conversations are occurring on Twitter, I rarely know the formal position of the person I am chatting with as it is about the dialogue, not the position. We purposely did not include position or affiliation on our name tags at EdcampFV for this reason… it is not about where you work or what you do but more about what ideas you bring to the discussion.
Gone are the days when we believed we should be trying to be the best by outdoing the school or country next door. In today’s world we are starting to realize that in order to become great, we need to collaborate and help each other grow by sharing ideas and challenging mindsets. Yes, policy changes need to take place but the people that can drive system change are those who work within the system; educators, including everyone that impacts education, can affect change by modeling and sharing great practices.
So, how is social media changing education? It is not… but the people using it to continually connect are directly and indirectly affecting those ‘around’ them and thus, changing what we call education.