User Generated Education

Education as it should be – passion-based.

Educational Networking and Networking Bubbles

with 4 comments

I started off my journey as an educator in experiential education. For about a decade I was member of and attended the annual Association for Experiential Education (AEE) Conference.  Their vision is:

Our vision is to contribute to making a more just and compassionate world by transforming education.  Our mission is to develop and promote experiential education. We are committed to supporting professional development, theoretical advancement and the evaluation of experiential education worldwide.

This group of educators preaches, promotes, and practices the tenets of John Dewey and Kurt Hahn.  They design learning experiences that are hands-on, learner-centric, group-focused, and service-oriented.  As a young educator, I was excited to have found my tribe. I needed this educational network even back then as public schools have a history of being didactic and curriculum-text-test driven.  I found other educators who had similar pedagogical beliefs and instructional practices.

My teaching still focuses on experiential learning, but I began integrating technology as a means to enhance the learning experiences.  As such, I discovered and re-established my educational network through Twitter, Virtual Conferences and Webinars (Classroom 2.0 Live, The Global Education Conference, The Future of Education) and face-to-face educational technology driven conferences (ISTE, DML, EdCon).

Last year, I integrated mobile learning into my undergraduate course on Interpersonal Relations.  I used a lot of activities I learned through my early days in experiential education, but added a mobile element to them.  The results were very exciting, see:

Recently, I became loosely reconnected with AEE by following them on Twitter and Facebook.  I noticed a lack of technology integration and social-educational networking by its members.  Coming from a mentality that when promoting technology integration, we must begin where the educators are at, I thought that presenting at this year’s AEE conference might help members of the organization see the value of technology integration.  The activities I use for experiential mobile learning are familiar to the members.  They just have the added enhancement of technology integration.

My workshop got accepted and I presented it to about 20 educators.  They laughed, played, bonded, and created. See photos from the workshop:

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I was excited to see the close to 100% engagement throughout the workshop until I get to the final reflection.  To end my workshops, I do a go-around the circle inviting participants to describe how they might use the workshop activities in their own learning settings.  Many of the participants questioned and criticized the use of technology in schools. “Kids will abuse it.”  “Our IT department has shown us all of the non-student friendly parts of the internet.”  “Technologies are not stable enough.”  A few did “get it” . . . The 30 something teacher said, “I thought I knew technology but need to get more up-to-date,” . . .  The 21 year old college student who said, “This is natural to me.  I wish more of my college teachers would use technology,” . . . The twenty-something French Canadian teacher who stated that she can’t wait to try these with her French class.  The workshop evaluations were less than stellar (not poor but not great either) and confirmed their skepticism about educational technology.  I was extremely grateful for one comment on an evaluation that stated, “It was great to have some new activities at the conference.”  Their negativity and critical responses took its toll on me especially given the amount of energy, passion, and excitement I put into my workshops

As I feared, they are not my tribe any longer.  I not only mourned the loss of this tribe, who meant so much to me earlier in my life, but also mourned that this organization cannot transform education, as per their mission, as long as members remain in their like-minded educational network bubble.

The questions that have emerged from this experience include:

  • So do I teach and present to those who are already or partially converted to the power of technology to enhance learning; or focus on those who may have a solid/progressive pedagogy but are technology skeptics in hopes that a few of those educators see its power?
  • If I do decide to save myself the emotional toll of critics and naysayers, am I doing the same thing as the members of the Association of Experiential Education – staying with like-minded educators, staying safe within my own educational networking bubble?
  • Do these educational networking bubbles actually do the opposite of their intended visions – hinder advancements in educational reform rather than promote them?
  • Is my passion and excitement for educational technology perceived by others, who are not “converted,” as being too zealous resulting in the opposite results – a turn-off rather than a turn-on (double meaning intended – turn-on the technology).

Whichever direction I choose to go, I grateful for the opportunity to connect,  share, and get support from my human-humane network . . . which has become so much more to me than just a social network.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

November 4, 2012 at 5:33 pm

4 Responses

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  1. I love the idea of presenting to both those who are already converted and those who are skeptics. Both audiences can benfit from your presentations.

    I often provide professional development for Adult Basic Education teachers who do not use much technology in their own lives, and therefore are fearful of using it with their students.

    It is challenging to present to an audience that you don’t know well. You aren’t sure what their expectations will be. Getting generally ok to good feedback is still a success, especially if you are presenting new ideas. Pioneers attract critics. It is normal to receive pushback when you are advocating for change.

    Now that you know the audience better you can meet them where they are at. One way to do this is to acknowledge their fears and concerns and do problem sovling exercises together. They came to your session, so they are at least curious about the possibilities that integrating technology can offer.

    For many instructors integrating technology is a big, overwhelming change. Successful changes usually start small. Is there a small step you could give them to try?

    Burgen Young

    November 5, 2012 at 6:43 pm

    • Thanks for the advice, Burgen. I think it is difficult when working with educators with fixed perceptions about technology in the classroom (i.e., it doesn’t belong there beyond a whiteboard). Like I said in my post, they were engaged during the workshop and I showed them an end-of-course survey completed by my students

      With that said, I do agree with you that it is important to present to both audiences. I did have a few skeptics that got excited.

      Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

      November 7, 2012 at 11:42 pm

  2. I agree with the comment above and I’ll go one step further. Show them the success. Last year, I sat at a table of educators – primarily full-time, experienced higher ed faculty – who volunteered to learn more about developing community through the use of online tools. Attempting to overcome their resentment at being required to build hybrid components into their existing curriculum design was my biggest obstacle. I switched gears from a review of tools linked with pedagogy to sharing stories about learning experiences online and positive feedback from students about how the online components enhanced their overall learning experience. Then, I put them face-to-face with an online learning community to show them.

    I hope we blow some wind back into your sails. You are doing great work and sharing your ideas, experiences, and insights benefits all of us. 🙂

    Deb Mynar

    November 7, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    • Thanks, Deb for your response and example. This is one reason I promote social networking – I get support, feedback, ideas from folks like you!

      Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

      November 7, 2012 at 11:31 pm

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