Home > Shifting schooling > Lurkers, reveal thyselves!

Lurkers, reveal thyselves!

April 15th, 2009

According to our “About” page,

This website is a space for theory and practice to interact, for theory to inform practice, and practice to inform theory.

We aim to support educators to talk about contemporary education, and to equip them with some analytical tools (articles, thinking objects) for doing so.

Reading the description above, it does seem to me to read a little bit one-way – i.e. this site is about “us” helping/telling/teaching/equipping “you” to be able to think about or talk about 21st century learning.

However, I personally think  of  shiftingthinking.org as a space for people to engage in collaborative knowledge-building, debate, discussion, questioning, etc. It’s not about “us” telling “you”, but rather, it’s about all of us thinking together, pushing and challenging our thinking, asking questions, and so on, within the general “frame” that we have established around 21st century thinking about learning and education.  However, as many bloggers know, in the absence of comment or feedback  sometimes you can really feel as though you are just talking to yourself. (I’m sure a lot of teachers and parents must feel like this sometimes!).

Thanks to the magic of google analytics, we know that we are getting visitors from around the world to shiftingthinking.org, and I have also had people emailing me or telling me in the kitchen or staffroom at work that they’ve read some of the site and found it interesting.

In the interest of opening up these discussions further, I would hereby like to call on all you lurkers, readers, and passers-by – drop us a comment or two!!  (In the last week or so we’ve been getting hit by spam-bots,  so it would be nice to read some genuine comments from humans, rather than websites trying to sell us viagra!). So if you are reading this, don’t be shy – I’d love to hear:

  • Who are you?
  • What brought you to shiftingthinking.org, what do you make of these ideas?
  • What are your own questions, experiences, memories, visions, and challenges with respect to thinking about education and learning for the 21st century?
  • OR – if you’ve been lurking for a while – what’s held you back from commenting to date?

Shifting schooling , , ,

  1. | #1

    Thanks Maurice for joining the discussion and offering your thoughts, I’ve been enjoying reading them! I’d say there’s quite a lot of people out there like your colleague who aren’t sure they’ve got something to say yet, but it’s good to know they may be listening in! And I acknowledge that the available modes for chipping in with our own 2c are a bit limited at the moment and don’t suit everybody’s modes of comfort. It’s not always easy to turn our thoughts into words and coherent sentences quickly. But probably the bigger challenge is letting those words and sentences pass through the filters of our own internal “editorial controls”. One way around this might be thinking about comments as being more like zapping out an email than writing a scholarly article…

    We do have the webcam comment facility – but even that requires us to convey our thoughts through language (or maybe not – I’m just thinking that people could show their drawings, or even dance an interpretive dance via the webcam!)

    Re: Cartooning as a research methdology, I’ll need to have another look at the paper I picked up at AERA and see if it looks like it’s OK to write about it here (maybe I need to contact the author first).

  2. Maurice
    | #2

    The other day I sent the URL of this website to all the teachers at my school. I had an email response from one of my colleagues who said he’d been following the blogging here recently. He wrote:”I know they’ve been wanting people to respond, but sometimes people don’t write until they really have something to say.

    To me this is an example of the sort of thinking that is difficult to push past. Like learning to swim, you never do it by sitting on the edge of the pool.

    I’m not expecting much of what I say to be profound or even particularly meaningful to others, since it’s like most of our communication – pretty ephemeral and inconsequential in the bigger scheme of things. But by joining in, bit by bit our dialogue creates something: a picture of participation, an image of a growing community, a scene within which we have some space to act, to move, to be either ourselves or some persona we choose to adopt.

    Rachel, I’d like to know more about cartooning as a research methodology, and Chris, yes I do want to see some of “her work” – your brilliant cartoonist student.

  3. | #3

    The reply to my comment was honouring – thank you. I’m right there with you on the cartooning. I have a student who is submitting all her classwork in Year 13 in cartoon form. It’s so brilliant I’ve gained her permission to use it as a teaching resource. Don’t get me wrong, this young woman is a great writer – but she’s a GENIUS cartoonist. Want to see some of her work?

    (By the way, I love text. Text is coming into its own in this new digital world. It’s so infinitely adaptable, transferrable, classifiable and most importantly SEARCHABLE… writing is the new new medium!)

  4. admin
    | #4

    Comments feature has been added to the home page. It also has the benefit of filling up the white space that was there before.

  5. Ally
    | #5

    Hi Rachel,
    I’m keen to give it a go if you think it might be worthwhile and yes please to your offer of making it happen!

  6. | #6

    Hi Ally, it could be worth a try. If we’re going to do this I’m of the opinion it should be on the front page – the easiest thing to do would be to enable the “comments” feature on the front page, and add a heading and sentence at the bottom inviting visitors to add their general comments, questions, greetings, right there. Do you want me to make this happen?

  7. Ally
    | #7

    Hi Rachel,
    While you were away, we had a little bit of a push for this site at the curriculum conferences. I’ve been wondering whether we need to structure it in some way so there is a place that people can leave short comments, thoughts, questions, wonderings etc that might not relate directly to any of the discussion threads in progress. Do you think this might be a way of encouraging more people to jump in and have a say?

  8. | #8

    @Christopher Waugh
    Hi Chris,
    Love your comments, and I am musing on your suggestions about humour, shorter entries, point of view, sense of “who” this blog is and it’s mission, etc. You will have to forgive us, being researchers/writers it’s very hard to stop the flow of words once they start to coalesce… but I am all for the short entries! I actually think the more comments we get, the easier it will be to keep posts short, as we can be more dialogical than “deep musing”. We’re also trying to find more ways to make this site/blog less text-only (we now have the capability to link in video entries and comments, and audio comments too I think?. You might also have seen a couple of my other postings which feature visual metaphors I’ve used to represent some of these ideas. My latest enthusiasm is for cartooning – I went to a fascinating paper presentation at the AERA conference in San Diego in April about cartooning as a research methodology – and I’m hoping to spark something off this soon! (Though like all the other fun stuff, this might have to queue up behind some of the less exciting jobs and tasks in my post-holiday backlog……..)
    As you alluded to in your comment – time is perhaps the biggest challenge! Like you I often find myself blogging at odd hours, not because I have to but because I *want* to. We are so excited to have you contributing your thoughts and experiences to shiftingthinking – this is exactly what this site is all about – and your thoughts about how to find and engage more people like you in this space are completely and enthusiastically welcomed!

  9. | #9

    Vera, I’m back at work now (managed to have a fantastic trip to Mexico, almost entirely unaffected by “swine flu”, might I add) and now have a chance to reread your comments above. I can completely understand what you are saying re: a reticence to publish ideas that may be half-thought-through, or which don’t seem “authoritative” enough according to one’s stern and judgemental left hemisphere! I know it is precisely this feeling that holds back many of my own colleagues from contributing to the site, although we are definitely working hard to get people to warm up to feel comfortable to do this.

    I think this gets at the heart of a matter that i think is central to 21st century thinking about education (and our role in it). To succinctly borrow from some of my favourite authors (such as Kress, Barnett, and my colleague Jane Gilbert, among others – see refs below) – in the 20th century we were trained/educated to believe that “good” knowledge was authoritative, stable, trustworthy, tested, built incrementally,etc. In the 21st century, we need to not only recognise that knowledge is partial, unstable, and ever-changing, we also need the ability (and resiliency) to be able to constantly re-evaluate our own knowledge and beliefs in light of new evidence and changing contexts. And we have to believe that it is OK to do this – in other words, that being uncertain, or changing your mind, or having a different opinion than you did a week or a month or a year ago is not a bad thing!

    I actually believe that as a community of people interested in shifting education for the 21st century, it is CRUCIAL for us to be comfortable to share our ideas, beliefs, knowledge, theories – comfortable in the knowledge that these can be revisited, changed, updated, argued with, etc, without feeling that this is “damaging” our credibility as thinkers. I see it as the opposite! Personally, my favourite kinds of disagreements are the ones I have with myself (which happens frequently). I think the most interesting and important stuff lies in the tensions, the grey areas, the contradictions, the places in our thinking where we keep changing our minds. I need other people’s views and ideas and knowledge to interact with mine – to move our thinking along together, so to speak.

    We look forward to hearing more from you!

    Barnett, R. (2004). Learning for an unknown future. Higher Education Research and Development, 23 (3), 247 – 260.

    Gilbert, J. (2005). Catching the knowledge wave? The knowledge society and the future of education. Wellington: NZCER Press.

    Kress, G. (2008). Meaning and learning in a world of instability and multiplicity. Studies in Philosophy and Education, 27, 253 – 266.

  10. | #10

    Hi Chris and Vera, I can,t tell you how excited I am to read your posts! I,ll have to apologise in advance both for the bad punctuation and the short reply, I am writing from a hostel in Mexico City (officially I am on leave but could not resist logging in to see what,s happening on the site! I hope to engage in more discussions here with you in May when I,m back on NZ shores. Meanwhile, stick around, it,s great to have you here! (on ShiftingThinking, not in Mexico….. you know what I mean)

  11. | #11

    Hi there,

    I’ve just come across this website after reading some of the material on the NZCER site for the Curriculum Conferences. I thought I’d respond to the invitation to comment on your post, even though I’m a newbie to this blog.

    I am at once excited and overwhelmed at the ideas being discussed herein. I’m the HOD of English at Mount Aspiring College in Wanaka and am deep inside the process of grappling with the current change in direction of the Oil Tanker of the great literary and educational tradition of teaching in my particular field. There is so much going on, so much to preserve and so much that is possible, that I find myself awake and engaged in writing to blogs at midnight of the middle Sunday of the holidays.

    One thing I would say is that the sheer volume of information and discussion online about the New Curriculum and changes in education in New Zealand is enormously daunting. I barely know where to begin… and unfortunately, being in a remote area, the opportunities for face-to-face discussion with others in the same boat (extended metaphor, nice) are few and far between.

    One of the commitments I’ve made to my students with their online reading journals is that I will respond quickly to their posts. The effect of doing this has been tremendous. The improvement in both quality and quantity of their work has been unbelievable. A writer almost always DOES need a reader. And when the reader shows themselves to be interested and engaged and critical in their response to the writing, then you are motivated to write more, and better. I’m hoping this response may stimulate you the same.

    Which brings me to a point. knowledge, ideas and information are becoming more and more transient in this brave new world of ours… and thus what you write in this journal and on this website is often only relevant in the now… perhaps, to encourage greater reciprocity in this endeavour, the content might need to be modified to being more – readily consumable.

    Rather than just interesting and deep musings. Perhaps this journal should have a personality, a mission, a sense of who it is, and a sense of humour. Perhaps it should sometimes write short entries. Perhaps bloggers could learn a little from other authors, about what makes people read and respond. What can be done to create tension?

    I love what is written in the quotation on this entry. I love the notion of the learning environment being interactive and reflexive and democratic. I do think new technology has a very important role to play in this process, and I am developing websites to accompany each of my classes to explore the ways this can be done. Photos can be taken in class and instantly uploaded from my phone to the site. Students’ work is there, as are my plans and materials. The students can access it anytime, they can comment.. or not. The classroom itself is already becoming a more dynamic place, a place where what is done is the stuff that can only be done with others. Discussion, debate, experimentation and testing of ideas.. mutual challenges.. and the digital presence is operating as a recording device.. keeping a record of what occurs. Silent but present. Perhaps it needs a persona too. The texts we study are traditional, and still incredibly relevant. Incredibly. They give a great sense to the students of their experience being part of something larger, older, than themselves…

    Anyway, thanks for being here and writing so many interesting things. I hope this comment won’t be regarded as spam.



  12. Vera
    | #12

    Why have I just been lurking? Well, probably because I have been educated in a 20thC context and it is rather demanding, if not a little scary, to write into an unknown space. A writer who, in some ways, captures the ideas I am wrestling with is Daniel Pink (see A whole new world. Moving from the information age to the conceptual age). His central argument is that we are moving from an economy built on logical, linear capabilities to one built on inventive, empathetic, big picture capabilities. Because of these changes we need to value not only those who are logical and analytical but also thinking that is contextual, synthetic and big picture. While in practice I have empathy for both “left” and “right” brain kind of thinking – in fact I think both are essential (Pink suggests we need “androgenous minds”, and I agree)- when it comes to writing something that is “out there”, to be examined, the pull of the “left” (only saying something when an authority, with evidence, etc) is very strong. So Rachel, what is your response to this?

  1. | #1
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