New Possibilities for Teacher Collaboration

by: Dave Scott, Grade 8 Humanities


After an off-hand statement with one of our APs over lunch, I found myself teaching a course on the history of Western philosophy for the first time. As no one in the school had taught this before, I was thrust into a course with little preparation or ability to draw on others more experienced than I to gain some insight into how to best organize this course.
However, through Neil Stephenson and a twitter connection he had, I was able to Skype with Brad Ovenell-Carter, teacher on Bowen Island who had taught a course on Philosophy for over fifteen years. Resulting from this conversation our classes will now be conversing through a Ning (a form of collaborative website) where we will dialogue and share reflections on enduring issues in philosophy. Additionally, Brad directed me to several resources related to a Renaissance unit our grade 8 students will be doing later in the year.
One article in particular will be of use, making the Renaissance into a case study to better understand how we could make Calgary a more culturally and economically dynamic centre. This article argues that the same radical transformations that occurred with the induction of the printing press are similarly happening today as we enter a new phase of hyper connectivity. Consequently, as the old modes of communication and control are overthrown we too may be on precipice of a renaissance of sorts. Ultimately, these chance connections have shown to be rich in possibilities and open up avenues for collaboration that would never have existed in the

past.

In terms of how this is shaping my professional development, the ability to connect with teachers a thousand miles away through SKYPE changes the whole model by which we often do PD. In my previous experience, PD entails choosing from a range of workshops that may or may not be relevant to what you are teaching.
In contrast this model allows me to collaborate with someone doing a similar course which as a result has both offered insight into how to organize the class as well as opens up possibilities for our students to cross-collaborate and dialogue. In my conversation with Brad, he discussed how tweeting is becoming his main source of Professional Development since he now has networks right across North America.
I am starting to see how new technologies have the ability to open up a transformative space for education, and that teachers will no longer rely on school or district boundaries to initiate new approaches to education.

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