Will writes this week about some thinking inspired by a tweet from John Pederson:
So when John Tweeted “Community building is the new professional development” it really resonated, because it suggests that unlike most so-called pd that schools offer, getting our heads and our practice around this is a process, not an event. It’s learning, not training. (I cringed a couple of weeks ago when a principal said “Wow, our teachers are going to need a lot more ‘training.’” Ugh.) It’s not something we can “deliver” in a four-hour PowerPoint-like session. As Linda Darling-Hammond suggests, “…teachers need to learn the way other professionals do—continually, collaboratively, and on the job.” If that’s not a description of what I see most of us doing in these spaces I don’t know what is.
The thing about trying to argue that network/community building should be the goal of 21st Century professional development is that there’s an assumption in that argument that community building as a piece of professional development is a new way of doing things, that that building community is a 21st Century idea. And, perhaps with the technology, there are some “new” things there – but there might also be some “good” things there that are done in new ways. (I don’t think that John and Will make that assumption, for what it’s worth.)
“New” and “good” are not synonymous. Neither are “new” and “bad” or “old” and “bad.” Or “old” and “good.” Plenty of new things are bad, plenty of old things are good and so on. I would like it very much if people working on teaching and learning projects, people studying and thinking about and implementing tools and practices, would separate the age of something from its value and attempt to make decisions based on that thing or idea or tool or practice’s value, rather than its age.
I understand why the “21st Century” whatever label gets put onto things. It’s sexy. It sizzles. It’s “new” and shiny. And yet – good professional development has always been about community building. Professional organizations in the 19th and 20th Centuries were about community and conversation and collaboration. And they and we should be in the 21st Century, too.
Yes, we are in community when we blog and tweet and share and read and write and learn together. This is how I learn and sometimes how I teach. Of course the technology changes (some of) the nature and the speed of those interactions. The power of collaborative technologies is certainly “new” and, often, “good.” (Not always, though. Plenty of “bad.”) But the networking itself, social or professional or otherwise, isn’t the new bit. It’s the good bit. Rich. Rewarding. Powerful. Sustaining. Rooted in professional conversation. Really, really good.
But not new.