Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Share - Constructing Modern Knowledge '10, Part Two

I attended an education conference with my 20-year-old daughter (a junior in college majoring in communications - not education) in the summer of 2009.  We did not attend any sessions together the first day.  When we met up later, she was a bit confused..."Why don't the teachers talk at these conferences?"  And, apparently, she had no problem at all asking questions, giving her opinions, and disagreeing with the presenters during the sessions she attended. And, she thought it would be ridiculous to have it any other way.

While attending Constructing Modern Knowledge (CMK) this summer I found myself once again reflecting on "THE SHARE" part of learning.  

Young children, though there are exceptions, have no trouble sharing their thoughts, ideas, problems, items from home, or what they ate for lunch. At times there's a sense of urgency to their need to share an accomplishment.  And they'll share it with an individual, small group, whole class, or the class pet.   Don't try to postpone an excited sharer, either, because it's like waiting for Christmas - "Can I share about is time...what about now...?"  And young sharers, try as they might, don't always need their share to be related to the topic.  At our school, I've heard that some of our youngest sharers have taken to beginning their unrelated sharing with..."I know this is off topic but..."  Well, at least they've put some thought into what they're about to say!!

A learning environment where children can share is such a valuable part of their growth as learners.  It helps to create a respectful community, and it helps ideas to grow. Learning to share and to respect the sharer are important skills.  And, "THE SHARE" will flourish unless an environment develops that makes the children feel their ideas are not worth sharing or risks are not worth taking.

So what about the adults?  We've all been to a workshop, conference, meeting, where there is a lack of discussion or interaction.  We know what the feels like.  

I left this year's Constructing Modern Knowledge with a renewed sense of the power of sharing. There were many ways of sharing during the institute, whether it was as a speaker, asking questions to the speakers, joining in a small group discussion, exploring what others were working on, appealing for help or providing help, having a conversation, or by presenting a finished product. While not everyone shared in every way, it would have been nearly impossible, or a waste of money at least, to attend and not interact in some way with others.

As I planned a workshop for the week following CMK, I was excited to have "THE SHARE" built into the day.  I have reserved time during my workshops before for participants to share, and usually there's a reluctance.  This time I felt more optimistic.  The work session was collaborative, and I noted lots of good ideas that would benefit the whole group.  At the end of the session, however, there was that initial reluctance to present finished projects or works in progress. With some encouragement, presenters came forward, and it was a great part of our workshop.  Once the presenters began sharing, they were amazing!  

We have opportunities for teachers to present, places for teachers to post resources, and we've had events where teachers can showcase their work.  Each time, teachers (many of them) have been been hesitant, for a number of reasons, to "show off" what they know or what they've done, even though they have so much to offer. 

So why are teachers so reluctant, in some situations, to share, but in others, very willing to share? Or, another way to ask the question would be:  Why are SOME teachers so willing to share and others so reluctant, especially when the same teachers know how valuable it is to have collaborative learning environments for children.

Here are some of my thoughts, but I would love to know what you think...

Why do some conferences or conference-like events have a better SHARE than others?
  • There are events that some people go because they want to share - so THE SHARE is better.
  • The design of some events attracts those who have had experiences with sharing at events.
  • Certain events at conferences attract those who want to share - and THE SHARERS attract one another.
Why is there a reluctance to THE SHARE?
  • Not everyone shares in every way - whole group sharing is intimidating to some adults; there needs to be some small group opportunities.
  • Encouragement is sometimes needed - presenters/organizers need to recognize this.
  • A change of culture is needed.
  • Taking risks is not encouraged.
  • Some people need to be asked.
  • Adults don't feel a sense of trust.
  • Adults need to practice - in an environment where they feel safe
  • Too many of the same "give it to me" presentations.
Here's to an exciting year of sharing, both within your classrooms with your students and with your adult colleagues as well!

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