Aside from taking about a zillion pictures during our trip to Australia, (and yes, I did take that photo) I did do some work too, giving presentations at the Expanding Learning Horizons Conference in Lorne on the south coast and at a smaller, local conference in Mackay on the East Coast. (Did you know like 95% of people in Australia live near a coast?) After the one in Mackay, a woman came up to me and gave me an Aussie “yeah but.”

“I’m really interested in all of this, but I have to tell you, I can’t do any of it in my classroom.”

(In case anyone is wondering, I found the lives of educators in Australia to be pretty similar to those in the US, especially in terms of their own use of social software and their ability to access these technologies in their schools. But I do have to say that some of the work that’s being done in Queensland to prepare teachers to teach with technology is pretty impressive. I’ll save that for a later post.)

“So that’s fine,” I said. “But what do you want to learn more about? What are you passionate about?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I mean, what do you do when you’re not teaching?”

She looked at me quizzically as if to say ‘Well, what does that have to do with anything’ and said “Well, I really love mountain biking. I do it with my family all the time.”

“So, that might be a place to start,” I said.

She hesitated. “Oh.”

“I mean, there must be thousands of mountain bikers out there who are sharing stories and information online,” I said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some pretty vibrant mountain biking communities that you might explore.”

Her eyes widened. And then she said, and I quote, “Oh! You mean I can do this for myself?”

We talked for a few more minutes about how this is about learning for yourself first and then potentially modeling that for your students even if you can’t necessarily use the concepts very easily in school. And when she walked away, she seemed almost surprised that it wasn’t just about teaching, that it was about her own personal learning, too.

I know I’ve been here, done that in terms of teachers as learners, but that moment really captured for me a lot of what’s been niggling at me of late. Not only is our kids’ enthusiasm for learning being largely dampened by the system, so is that of our teachers. And I’m not sure which of those problems is worse.

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