Monday, 20 May 2013

Openness and Sharing

Photo Credit: @superamit via Compfight cc

     Lately I have been thinking of what does it mean to be an open educator.  One of the reasons is because a group of educators called The Fellowship of the Open Spokes, which I am a part of, has been discussing this very topic.  The other reason is because most of this school year I have been thinking about ways to make my colleagues at school share what they are doing in their classrooms. 

What does “open” mean?

Some people take it to mean being open on-line and blogging about your practice and sharing your successes and asking for feedback from colleagues about how you can do things better.  To me it starts as simply as sharing in your school and inviting colleagues into your classroom to see what you are doing and starting conversations about educational practices.  I don’t mean talk about just the “techie” things you do.  I mean talk about that great art lesson or math project.  I know a lot of teachers feel that their “techie” colleagues only value ideas using technology.  We need to celebrate all kinds of learning and teaching, even by sharing our failures so that we can learn from our mistakes. 

Open also means sharing resources on-line, using creative commons and allowing your work to be re-mixed as Sheri Edwards discusses here. 

You might not know it but you already are an open educator if you are using such curating tools as Pinterest.  You are creating boards that can be viewed by others and putting resources together to be used, whether for work or pleasure.

Some reasons people are hesitant to share. 

I have nothing important to share. What if it isn’t good enough?
The following video, "Obvious to You, Amazing to Others," is your answer.

This is my idea and I do it every year. 
Sharing is reciprocal and you will get many more ideas if you share yours.

I feel exposed and vulnerable. 
I’ve been there.  I have felt like that and I sometimes still feel like that and all I can say is that the feeling starts to fade after you see the rewards of sharing. 

Why it is important to share and be open.

Photo Credit: cbucky via Compfight cc

So we can learn from each other.  There is no original idea.  Everything comes from somewhere, some inspiration or a re-mix of something else. Every little bit that everyone contributes can be changed and made into something new. 

The collective is stronger than the individual. Two heads are better than one so think of the power of many. 

We need to practice what we teach our students.  If we want them to be collaborating and sharing their ideas then we need to be doing it ourselves as well. 

If we share our successes as well as our mistakes, everyone can learn from them and offer advice on how to improve. 

Things I have done to be an open educator and the rewards for my classroom and myself.

Joining Twitter 
Because of joining Twitter I:

-       began Mystery Skyping – students LOVE it
-       learned about Genius Hour and began it in my classroom
-       joined a global classroom project
-       joined various chats about education
-       learned about lots of other ideas for the classroom
-       followed many links to great articles, talks and books that are shaping me as an educator
-   connected with many educators I would never have met before Twitter
-       joined ETMOOC which taught me so much (read about it here)

I began this valuable reflective practice that makes me really think about everything that I do in my classroom

Vlogging  (Video Blogging)
It is similar to the blogging and allowed me to feel connected to a stronger community and receive feedback on my thoughts.  It taught me a lot about what kind of learner I am because I have been forced to share weekly in contrast to blogging, which I could choose not to do.

School team sharing at a district event (Engaging the Digital Learner Dinner Series)
Sharing (along with others from my school) with my own district what kind of learning and teaching is happening in my school showed me there were so many successes to celebrate.   Here is a video about the  Innovative Learning at Woodward Hill Elementary. 

Sharing and sharing online specifically, is not in addition to the work of being an educator.  It is the work. (Ewin McIntosh)

That is a powerful quote and you may disagree with it at first.  In the following video titled, “Sharing: The Moral Imperative” Dean Shareski talks convincingly about how it is true.  (The video is about 25 minutes)

Another place to hear about great stories of openness is Alan Levine’s site,  True Stories of Openness.

I hope you will start to share and be open and make all of us a little better because of it.  I look forward to hearing your stories in being open.  


  1. Jas if it makes you feel better almost every time I push publish on my blog I wonder if I've done the right thing. But I know that I know what I know because so many others pushed publish on their blogs and have shared their practice, ideas, or thoughts with me. It is through that sharing that I have had my thinking pushed, my thoughts changed, and I truly believe am becoming a better educator because of it.

    I totally agree with Dean in that it is our responsibility to share both with in our school and beyond with the world. What I struggle with is sharing vs over sharing. Can I or anyone else be accused of over sharing, to the point that we intimidate others from sharing? Or is it something I shouldn't even be concerned about.

    And for the record I was in total awe of what I saw from your school the night of the digital dinner series. It was the sharing of ideas both the successes and the failures that is bringing your school to the place that it is now, and where it will continue to grow to. Keep stepping out of your comfort zone, as you've probably already learned it brings you to wonderful new places you never thought you'd get to. Thanks for sharing Jas. I really enjoy learning with you.

    1. Karen, you make a really good point about the oversharing. I also wonder if it intimidates others into not sharing. Occasionally, I have been sending links and articles to my colleagues who are not on twitter with a little message saying, "just wanted to share..." and sometimes I wonder if they ever actually just find it annoying instead of useful. My other fear is that sharing about my practice is seen to be just a little too "keen".

      That being said, I really appreciate you and all of the other educators that share because I learn so much from all of you and I find that it truly does transform my teaching.

  2. Narinder Walia21 May 2013 at 21:56

    Great read Jas! Thanks SO much for sharing! I am one of those colleagues you share videos or links with. I truly appreciate it! I read/watch it all! It is so true that we all "remix" ideas or lesson plans that we were once inspired by from someone or something! The question of "how do we share our remixes", doesn't always have to be on a large scale or in a formal setting. I've learned so much from my colleagues when listening and sharing at recess and lunch. It's a safe, relaxed and comfortable time to share. That being said, I also enjoy visiting classes and just looking around the room and seeing all the learning that is taking place. I know that this doesn't always happen in our crazy busy teaching days! Over the past 9 months, I have learned so much from you Jas. Our brief and lengthy "show and share" moments have inspired me to share more with others! So PLEASE, don't ever stop being "keen".

    :) Narinder

  3. I appreciate your kind words, Narinder. I learn as much from you as you do from me and I am so lucky to work with you every day. : )

  4. I hope to share this post with my colleagues. You have carefully (as you always do) explained the concept of openness and sharing within the context of your own experience. I could hear your special voice shine through your beliefs!

    Jas, I’ve nominated you for a Liebster Award – a way to discover new blogs and learn more about the bloggers. Visit my blog post about it to learn more about the award AND me: Liebster: Discover New Blogs Keep the learning going!