The Edge: who’s there and who’s not

Posted: July 24, 2016 in clmooc
Tags: ,

So, I’ve been thinking about change and being on the edge. I think about it because of my primary role as Director of Educational Technology, but also reflect about my affinity, or not, for it when I was in the classroom.

I am currently participating in CLMOOC 16 (Connected Learning MOOC) and Kevin Hodgeson posted a link to his blog post in the CLMOOC Google+ community. He included this image and quotation (from Howard Reingold) which got me thinking some more. Most of the schools I have been a part of have not been the out there on the edge kind of places.

Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 3.49.05 PMKevin commented that he has sometimes felt pressure to move away from the edge, if I am paraphrasing correctly. In comparison, as someone in edtech I am often encouraging people to come closer to the edge, to experiment, to try a small change. I lure them with food and prizes try to help see why it might be a place to visit some times.

Then I thought about when I was exclusively a teacher and at first was thinking, “oh yes, I was totally fine with change and exploring the edge.” However, if I am more honest, I was enthusiastic about changes that I wanted to make, edges I wanted to explore. I tolerated changes and edges that I was indifferent to, but changes and edges that I did not like, I did not exactly embrace. This is hardly unusual. And, because I was not opposed to exploring the edge in theory, I always described my opposition as opposition to the particular rather than the edge, but I’m not sure that is 100% true. I got away with it because it was clear that I wasn’t just putting my head in the sand, and I led change or exploring the edge in other areas. Sometimes I had to back away from the edge, or was asked to, just like Kevin.

Maybe what frustrates me is when folks are not interested in even thinking about what exploring the edge might mean. Or, maybe what I find frustrating is that this disinterest in change comes across as prioritizing teacher ease over student learning. Exploring the edge just because it’s there isn’t what I’m suggesting. What I do think is important is to remember that the context in which we are teaching changes regardless of whether we want it to, grant that permission, or pretend otherwise. If we do not change as well, not only have we not even investigated the edge, in our stasis we have moved farther from the edge not remained in place.

The flip side of course is equally frustrating. An institution filled with folks on the edges of all different ideas, strategies, and curricula does not look like a school program so much as it does the 3rd day in a row of indoor recess. Schools have mission and vision statements, strategic plans, and cultures to guide them and help to determine which edges to explore. And, they are big beasts that do not make quick turns.

Individuals exploring change in the midst of bigger institutions is a tricky business.

  1. dogtrax says:

    Exploring those edges is tricky for many because beyond lies .. the unknown. Here Be Dragons and all that. I guess that’s why I like collaborative spaces like CLMOOC .. we can try to head to the edges together. Thanks for sharing!

    • mseiteljorg says:

      I agree that the edges are scary for some. Thanks for your original quote that got me thinking about change and my own conception of my own feelings about it.

  2. Wendy says:

    Thanks Wendy, definitely why I like CLMOOC and other MOOCing. The ‘bigger institution’ I’m sitting in is definitely not cutting edge and happy sitting back in safe-land. There is also the hierarchy to deal with and this can dampen (very quickly) any flame of creativity or ideation. However I continue to quietly investigate the edges and be there if anyone else ventures that way (less quietly).

  3. dogtrax says:

    I took your text here, created Word Cloud, and then added annotations — for today’s Daily Connect. Forgive me.


    • mseiteljorg says:

      I. LOVE. THIS.
      First, I the back and forth conversation is great. Second, I think turning the word cloud into a thinklink and adding comments lets somewhat related thoughts and responses fit together without needing paragraphs, transitions sentences etc. This is part of what I like about asking students to make webs of complex ideas as opposed to always writing papers (which of course I also do). The web or thinglink annotation is so much more fluid and certainly mimics more the way I think and interact with other ideas. The combination of the two tools just works so well.
      Thank you.

  4. tutormentor1 says:

    If the majority of middle school educators in the US were pushing the edge, the way Wendy and Keven have been doing with these articles and remixes I’d feel great hope for kids in the public school system. Keep sharing these ideas!

    • mseiteljorg says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting.
      I think the idea of remixing is so important for us as educators and for students. There’s really very little that I ever say or do that is truly original. I put my spin on a whole bunch of pieces of this and that. I combine. I add a favorite ingredient, put the whole thing on a different plate. Students need us to share that we do this, IMO. Of course I want my students to think for themselves, but the idea that they need to be ORIGINAL (deep voice, all serious) is maybe a little misleading when we as teachers share ideas and base what we do off of others.

      • tutormentor1 says:

        I’ve been building a library of articles, research, ideas, etc. for over 40 years, which I first used to help me figure out what to do each week when I met with a 4th grade inner city boy in Chicago. Then I used them to help me lead a tutor/mentor program with 100 pairs of kids/volunteers in 1975 and 300 pairs by 1990. Then I used them to think of ways cities could make great tutor/mentor programs available in more places. I started putting my library on line in 1998 and have expanded it since to include links to people from around the world, including the #clmooc community.

        I’ve constantly innovated new ways to do my work by learning and being inspired by the work and ideas of others. It’s a habit that I’ve developed over 40 years of practice and that I hope we can all pass on to young people, starting as they enter first grade.

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