My friend Bruce Dixon pointed out to me a few weeks ago that if you do a search for “lesson plans” in Google you get almost 9 million hits, which, when you think about it, is a pretty amazing number. Not saying that they are all great plans, mind you, but when you think about the scope and variety of classroom related content that we can mine these days as opposed to just a few years ago.
Yet this concept of sharing content online still seems problematic for a lot of educators. As I travel around talking to teachers, very few of them argue when I suggest that this is still an isolated profession, and I get the strong sense that there is very little articulation around plans, practice or classroom experiences using online tools much less any local digital databases of documents or what have you. When I ask teachers to talk even in general terms about the experiences their students have had previous to arriving in their classes, most sit quietly and scrunch their shoulders. I know, I know…there is a time factor involved in doing this, or least a perception of one. But it just seems amazing to me that at this point there is no real shift towards publishing more of what we do, more of what our kids do, not only to expand our own knowledge base but to model for our students that potentials of sharing.
All of this was brought to mind, once again, in an by Issac Mao titled “Sharism: A Mind Revolution.” While I think the ideas may wax a bit too poetic at times, the thesis is powerful: in this world, the less we share, the less power we have. It’s an interesting discussion of the challenges to intellectual property and copyright and to the still ingrained perspective that to own and keep private our own best thinking is in some way protective and sustaining of our cultures.
Non-sharing culture misleads us with its absolute separation of Private and Public space. It makes creative action a binary choice between public and private, open and closed. This creates a gap in the spectrum of knowledge. Although this gap has the potential to become a valuable creative space, concerns about privacy make this gap hard to fill. We shouldn’t be surprised that, to be safe, most people keep their sharing private and stay “closed.” They may fear the Internet creates a potential for abuse that they can’t fight alone. However, the paradox is: The less you share, the less power you have.
Mao discusses a lot of the benefits to blogging and sharing, the rewards we can potentially reap, and the positive consequences for the world. And he touches on the implications for education in terms of at least giving our students a leg up in “communication, collaboration and mutual understanding.” Not to mention the idea of helping our students to create a digital portfolio that can not only serve to help their teachers get to know them and their passions more effectively but that can connect them to other teachers and mentors who share those passions. And that is power, not only in the knowledge that we gain but in the learning relationships we foster.
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