Putting the ‘we’ in weave

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“In a world of rapid change, we each need to garner as much useful information as possible, sort through it in a way that meets our unique circumstances, calibrate it with what we already know, and re-circulate it with others who share our goals.”
Marcia Conner, The New Social Learning: A Guide to Transforming Organizations Through Social Media

Transformative learning is connected learning.  Transformative living is all about communication, communities, and coming up with new ways to share understandings.  “The true power of the Internet can be found in communities that form just in time around any given topic,” (Jeff Utecht), from his amazing resource Reach.

Technology reminds us of how much we like people.  While there is evidence to the contrary (see Gamergate), the optimist, idealist, the-weekend-is-always-just-around-the-corner-ist has to believe that most days, being logged on means being connected to something that has the potential to save humanity.

“Welcome to the Collaboration Age, where even the youngest among us are on the Web, tapping into what are without question some of the most transformative connecting technologies the world has ever seen. ”  (read more from Edutopia and Will Richardson here).

I’ve been teaching MYP and DP Literature for a decade.  Reading and writing are social subjects.  Think of the number of book recommendations you receive in a given year.  Your family and friends love the idea of sharing stories.  Stories connect us, invite us to better understand ourselves.  Our understandings are devalued unless we spread them out, discuss them, and unpack them together.  Years ago this unpacking was constrained by the four walls of my classroom.  Today, my students unpack and as Austin Kleon would say they ‘learn in the open.’  

When my students blog or post to Youtube they are communicating to themselves this idea:  I contribute.  If every student today took a moment to authentically feel those two words, I think I would have a great deal more confidence in tomorrow.  Students (and educators) need to see themselves as makers, as artists–as being people with something to offer.

One of my all time favorite shares is the amazing talk from Angela Maiers entitled “You Matter.” 

In it she invites us to remind our educational communities that what they do and say are important to us.  Asking our students, asking our colleagues to contribute implies that message.  When I set up blogs with students I remind them that I believe that what they have to say belongs to ears bigger than mine.

I know that a networked student is an empowered human being.  I wasn’t on Twitter until I was thirty years old.  I cannot begin to summarize all that I’ve gained from Twitter.  What if I had my PLN at age fifteen?

Communities are made.  We all have a role to play in making them.

“The Collaboration Age is about learning with a decidedly different group of “others,” people whom we may not know and may never meet, but who share our passions and interests and are willing to invest in exploring them together. It’s about being able to form safe, effective networks and communities around those explorations, trust and be trusted in the process, and contribute to the conversations and co-creations that grow from them.” (Will Richardson, ‘World Without Walls’).

This age is also then about vulnerability, something Brene Brown speaks about (if you haven’t watched this, do yourself a favor and do so now).

To share, to listen, to collaborate means we need to open up.

This is what I’m talking about when I talk about technology saving humanity.  Our networks invite us to be vulnerable to be courageous and to share.  Our networks allow us to practice the art of listening.  Like the title of Utecht’s book, networks command us to reach.  We reach not with closed fists, but with open hands–helping hands.  Cue up the Stevie Wonder already, will you?

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