To Share or Not to Share, that Shouldn't be a Question
|Photo by Ansonlobo, from Wikimedia Commons|
When studying about my moral obligation and moral imperative, it seemed extreme. I “owe it to others to share” (Dean Shareski) information, practices, and lessons that I have developed or encountered to improve learning for others? It is enough to make one feel guilty for not already having a platform in which to upload and share my entire Google Drive that is packed with countless hours of preparation, collection, and creation. Am I wrong for being hesitant to share my resources or am I being selfish?
Education is such a unique profession but I will try to draw parallels to another profession, medicine. I have a doctors appointment tomorrow to examine a birthmark on my upper cheek that has recently become irritating. I rely on my doctor to have acquired the resources to make informed decisions about my skin. This doesn’t mean she has conducted hundreds of hours of research and studied birthmarks but rather that she has made herself familiar with the work of others through the web of medicine networks. She accomplishes this with her commitment to continue to develop professionally. The doctor that she may send me to will do the same but will have more training and education in their particular field. How does this differ from teaching? We want our doctors to exchange findings and information our health so why wouldn’t we want teachers to make the most informed decision when educating our youth. By definition, sharing allows and promotes these exchanges which ultimately impact student achievement or provides a remedy for a patient.
I believe there is another underlying idea to this concept of sharing and I think I can draw another parallel to the pharmaceuticals. Someone produces a cure for an illness, often in pill form, and charges a fee for the consumption of that medicine, whether it is you or your insurance company that pays the bill. How does that differ from designing an effective unit that allows students to reach authentic learning that produces measurable achievement? Is it not better for humanity to share these “discoveries” with the same moral obligation? It is easy to say yes. However, the University that I attended obtain a career in teaching felt differently. They charged me a small fortune, my third born, and the majority of my leisure time which is now dedicated to finding ways to offset that small fortune (aka student debt).
This is why I don’t blame teachers for wanting to be compensated for their “remedies” on sites such as Teachers Pay Teachers and understand the value of such a platform for many teachers to share resources. I would hope that Martin Shkreli-like teacher does not exist but rather a person who puts in their personal time, example Dan Myers, gets what they deserve. (I knew I recognized Dan Myers from our readings and it was from a TedTalk video that I watched in another class. If you haven’t seen it, it is worth a listen). I think this also speaks volumes of the teaching profession and the type of individual that it attracts. Those that are selfless which is reflected by the tens of thousands of free resources that are available to teachers.
As an educational leader, creating and promoting the use of PLNs for teachers to build a network of resources that are particular to their interests and needs will give educators the opportunity to reach levels of professional development that couldn’t be offered in any traditional PD settings. The educational leader needs to help build and cultivate PLNs while ensuring teachers are using or finding trustworthy resources. The network that is built will only as good as the resources that are in it. I also think that leading the culture of sharing teachers’ ideas in social spaces must mean that leadership itself is participating in the shift in culture.
As Erci Sheninger notes “Everything is changing--society, the educational landscape, and learners - and it is time for educational leaders to embody a modern, progressive form of leadership.” The concept of PLNs in my district would certainly be considered modern and progressive. The use of these platforms promote the 6 Secrets of Change presented by Michael Fullan (2008) especially with (2) connecting peers with purpose, (4)learning is the work,(5) transparency rules and (6) systems learn. Change is difficult but it can be rewarding to break the loops we see in an educational system that is currently not getting the most out of our students. If a traditional teachers’ impact has no boundary on their influence on our youth, imagine the impact of a teacher that practices connectivism through PLNs and social media outlets. If “knowledge is networked and distributed in nature” (George Siemens) then, as Dean Shareski states, “Why would we hoard good teaching and learning. There is something very unethical about that.”