What’s Missing in This Picture?

Digging deeper pays off.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about so much of what I’ve learned through Twitter and blogging. One of the points I made was about reading the comments made in response to particularly controversial, or even any article or post. Comments often contain points and arguments which can stretch your thinking and expand your perspective on a topic. Well, now I’ve learned something else.

If a post or article offers a link to another article or post and happens to be based on that link, go read the link. Yes, it involves more time and perhaps an extra click or two and it means you may get much closer to seeing the whole picture rather than just a piece. Here’s my tale:

I read Tom Whitby’s recent post which asks “Does Tech Hold Educators Back?” Right at the outset he offers a link to the blog post from which he quotes an unconnected educator describing his Edcamp experience. Initially I did not read the link. Rather, I read the post and became irritated about something in it but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I reread the post the following day and came up with the following:
Near the end of the post, Tom Whitby makes this claim:

Again, to better educate our kids, we need to first better educate their educators. Edcamps do just that, and most will be dominated by technology discussions, because that is the very discussion educators need to engage in to maintain relevance.

While I agree that enhancing teachers’ learning is key to enhancing students’ learning, the assumption that most Edcamps will be dominated by tech discussions and that these technology discussions are “the very discussion educators need to engage in to maintain relevance” rubbed me the wrong way. It sounds (in the context of the whole post, I remind you) as if educators who question a heavy tech emphasis are somehow seeking to avoid improving their practice. In my thinking, any educator who attends an Edcamp and returns as enthused by the experience as the quoted teacher is relevant and is making attempts to stay relevant. And that ought to be the point of acknowledgement rather than judging the individual’s nerve to question the heavy emphasis on tech tools and tips.

So I began working this whole argument out in my mind, preparing this counter-argumentative blog post and I re-read Tom Whitby’s post again (3 times the charm). And this time I actually opened the link to the original post by Tony Sinanis, “#Edcamp, What’s the Point?”. And imagine what I found: A perspective which echoed many of my own thoughts.

On the one hand, Tony Sinanis raises the question:
“are #EdCamps just about sharing tech tips and tools? Has the experience become about technology?” and then goes on to conclude that:

Although there was a relatively “heavy” tech focus at #EdCampLdr that wasn’t what most people will remember from that day – it is definitely not what I will remember that day. What I remember is that I was in a room with hundreds of like-minded, passionate and enthusiastic educators who excitedly self-organized to share, connect and enhance their craft. I remember the exchanges, discussions and conversations. The conversations generally revolved around learning and teaching; around thinking and inquiry; around innovation and a different way of doing things; around passions and interests.

Aha! That’s what I wanted to hear more about. That’s what I was missing in Tom Whitby’s post: an appreciation for a voice and perspective which calls our assumed practices into question. Rather than diagnosing the deficit in the observer’s view, we all need to continue to be curious about both our individual and collective learning. We need to ask such observers more questions: what were you missing at this learning event? What would you like to see more of? In what ways would you consider contributing in the future?

And I would have missed this whole part of the story if I had stopped at the first or second reading of Tom Whitby’s post and skipped reading the whole of Tony Sinanis’s post.

We need to recognize the layers of reading that these relatively new forms of publishing require. We can hardly claim to prepare our students to become critical thinkers if we ourselves are not prepared to do the necessary digging, surfacing and reasoning. That’s my lesson learned this time around.

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