Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Summary: WEB 2.0 February 2008

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Local, Global, or Glocal?

I've been struggling a lot with the concept of classrooms and schools collaborating and connecting globally. In fact, the question "is networking and collaborating outside of school central or supplementary" was raised at Educon and I was instantly immersed into an internal battle over my position. What I've realized is that I am not really debating whether or not we should immerse our classrooms globally; instead, I'm struggling with the starting point for establishing a global classroom and school.

When in the classroom, my focus was on leveraging the power of a global audience. We opened our wired discussions to other schools. We blogged to the outside world. We leapt at every opportunity to connect and collaborate with the outside world. Sadly, I look back and realize that the primary reason it couldn't sustain itself was the lack of a school climate and culture that was supportive of the systemic acceptance of school as a learning community.

Today, my interest is in creating sustained, systemic changes where every classroom is empowered for the 21st Century, not the proliferation of isolated classrooms and small pockets of change that are based more on the individual teacher than the culture as a whole. While I understand the excitement about collaborating and networking outside of the school as well as the need, I find it just as important if not even more important to discuss what is happening within the culture of the school itself: is it a collaborative environment? is it a learning environment? is networking occurring? is literacy a focus in all classrooms?

Thus, my answer to the question about networking and collaborating outside of school is that we need to "Think Globally, Act Locally". In other words, my focus is on being Glocal: 'starting from within the local community and spreading globally (Hicks).

Leverage Local Connections

At the classroom level, a great starting point is bridging gaps between your own classrooms. If you teach three sections of the same subject such as Chemistry, are your classes collaborating and connecting or are these functioning as isolated sections? By creating an environment where all your sections are collaborating, communicating, and connecting, the collective knowledge is widening and students are beginning to experience a community of practice within the school.

From there, this type of learning environment can expand to others teaching the same subject (or grade level for k-8) so that it is now about a collective approach to American Literature not just each American Literature teacher functioning in isolation. Through discussion forums, wikis, webcasts, and live broadcasts, the framework for collaboration becomes relatively simple yet the importance of creating such an environment is a critical step for learning for students and adults: "educators who are building a professional learning community recognize that they must work together to achieve their collective purpose of learning for all. Therefore, they create structures to promote a collaborative culture" (Dufour, 2005, p.36).

It doesn't stop there. As the students and teachers become immersed in a learning community, the skills in collaborating, communicating, and connecting continue to grow so that the community, network, and audience can expand its boundaries across departments, sister schools, and onward to a truly global classroom. The key, however, is that the environment is allowed to grow naturally and the foundation of such a learning community that much stronger where students are able to scaffold their skills and teachers are able to best understand how to leverage participatory media and the global audience:

There are those kids -- just like there are those teachers -- who will take to the idea of writing to an unknown audience and seeing what happens. But hoping and wishing for the serendipitous moment makes for bad teacher planning, and over the long haul I think it won't get the vast majority of our students publishing their voices to the world. If we want to see kids embrace the power of communication technologies like blogs and wikis and podcasts, we need to be good teacher-planners. We need to give them reasons to publish. We need to help them see their audience... whether it is using a blogging platform for and art classroom exhibition that other students will critique or bringing in a group of math majors from a college to work with our math students, kids need to understand why they should share their work with the world, and then -- once they do -- we allow for all the serendipitous moments that so many of us in the edu-blog world have benefited from to occur (Lehmann)

An Example Worth Discussing

Blogging is a perfect example of what I'm discussing here. Right now, there are a lot of isolated blogs within schools where students are blogging for a specific course and that is it. When the student leaves that teacher, the blogging essentially ends unless the student chooses to continue writing. In theory, the blog has a global audience but even in cases where this is true, the length of time students have with the blog is too short in most cases. While these educators and students are undoubtedly doing wonderful things, the question of sustainability and systemic change raise questions about the long term impact of such endeavors.

What if students were given a learning space as soon as they entered the school, including a blog space, and this was used
across courses and grade levels? In other words, the student owns their space and grows with them -- a sort of blogging across the curriculum. By creating such a space, the process could be scaffolded where early grades are learning what it means to engage in transformative blogging and beginning the process of creating their network locally while thinking globally. Here is an rough example of what this might look like within a high school:

9th Grade: all students receive their learning space; students begin blogging in a central space with a focus on learning the process with an audience of their peers
10th Grade: students begin to expand their network to the entire school; the concept of connecting and communicating with a wider audience begins to form as students continue to build their skills.
11th Grade: The network continues to expand and reach out to a wider audience in an organic way. Students understand what transformative blogging represents and what it means to write for a local and global audience
12th Grade: The hope is that students have reached a point where blogging is a natural part of their personal and professional learning environment. Students are writing in a natural and fluid environment that will sustain itself long past formal schooling

While very rough and by no means perfect, this is the type of environment I believe allows for the perfect blend of local and global so that 21st Century skills are not only taught but learned and that a learning community is built from within in order "to promote the qualities and dispositions of insatiable, lifelong learning in every member of the school community -- young people and adults alike -- so that when the school experience concludes, learning will not" (Barth).

The Ripple Effect

Many of us are excited about Global possibilities but sometimes at the expense of local. As Christian Long recently stated in his blog, "perhaps whether there is something to be said for NOT going global just because we can, especially if it serves our kids better in the process. Maybe we need to talk about concentric circles of local scale first. And global pitches second." If the belief is that all classrooms should be collaborating and connecting with the outside world, we need to develop learning community within our own walls before moving outside to a global community. Systemic change is difficult when it come from a few exceptional teachers -- pebbles tossed into the lake. It comes from the entire school functioning as a learning community and creating a powerful ripple effect that rocks the whole lake and branches the community out organically.

So, is it global, local, or glocal? I'm thinking Glocal*!


Barth, R. (2007). Turning Book Burners into Lifelong Learners. Published in Educational Leadership 2nd Edition. Wiley & Sons.
Boyd, D. (2005). Why Web 2.0 Matters: Preparing for Glocalization.
Dufour, R. (2005). What is a Professional Learning Community? National Educational Services.
Hicks, D. (n/a). Towards a glocal language curriculum: 2000 and beyond. Cambridge University Press.
Lehmann, C. (2007). When to Publish.
Long, C. (2007). The Global vs. Local Connection.

*Glocal has a number of definitions and uses that I'm obviously not employing here. Basically, my point is that we need to think both globally and locally, so the term, in this context, is just the merging of the two terms.


Ryan, interesting ideas. You caused some writing on my end...



Your points are quite interesting and offer some insights into what I'm pondering.

I don't see this as a walled garden issue but as more of helping students grow their network starting from within and giving each student a learning space that isn't confined to a specific course or a specific teacher. This focuses beyond individual classes and moves it towards a systemic use of participatory media and literacy focus.

The last thing I want is a walled garden. However, I think there is a starting point where connecting locally allows us to branch off. Perhaps audience as peers makes it seem as though I'm advocating for this. However, I'm advocating for students to start local and expand.

How many students are blogging right now without a global audience? It is great to speak about the Internet in an authentic state, but there are a number of classrooms blogging and an audience is never established. By the time one begins to form, the course is over and the blog ends because it is course or grade based NOT student based.

I want all students to have the opportunity to engage globally for a sustained period. Right now, I see a few exceptional teachers doing the best they can within a limited scope: grade-level or subject-matter.

Thanks for the thoughts that I'm sure I'll continue to ponder.

I too am struggling at the moment. I am wondering if we are shooting ourselves in the foot because we have a great number of educators testing theory without sound research.

I shouldn't even try to relate this because I just picked up the book, but your line of thinking is similar to Neil Postman's Technopoly. I stumbled upon this book through Wes Fryers NCLB post and then, in an odd occurrence, discovered the book at eye level while crossing through Borders to get to the coffee shop.

Postman provides great insight to the all or nothing line of thinking that technophiles support. He cautions that when the new is blindly looked upon as just better we fail to look at it with both eyes.

I am with you. If we just unleash students on this stuff because it is the next big thing are we losing something that will not be revealed for a decade or so?

Postman begins the book with a story from Plato's Phaedrus. There are two thoughts in this story that are eating away at me. 1. The inventor/discoverer is never the best judge of good or harm. 2. (speaking of writing) Pupils will receive a quantity of information without proper instruction, and in consequence be considered very knowledgeable when they are for the most part quiet ignorant. (access without understanding)

Are we building knowledge or breeding contempt for it? (Google will make my choices for me using an algorithm)

Sorry I did this here, but I am having one of those moments. Am I a leader or a follower? And for that matter who are leaders and does the fact they blogged first make them the authority of the future of education?

Some teachers are working hard to make sure HOTS are part of the experience, but what about the vast majority?

I need to regroup.

Your point is well made and I agree... maybe I am missing somethings as I read your message and Mighuels response.

1. Doesn't everything go back to the school's and teacher's purpose, goals, and objectives. Ask why you want to have your learners collaborate and you will find where you need to start!

2. Can't you list a dozen school activities that lack congruence across grade levels. We ask our k - 12 teachers to meet once or twice a year to align curriculum?

3. Once you can define what the purpose and ultimate goal of our public education system is, than we can finally begin to address your point more fully. Are we trying to get them into college? Are we focused on a basic set of knowledge standards? Are we preparing them for the 21st century? Are we trying to help them become life long learners? Are we trying to get them to be active citizens of our country? Are we focused on behavior? Is it to learn how to pass the test?

Interesting quick reads I found in 2 minute Google Search:


Hey Scott:

Thanks for the comment. Since you've laid out your thoughts by points, I'll respond in a similar fashion :-)

1. Of course, it does come back to and should come back to what we are attempting to accomplish. Obviously, there is extensive research in the area of collaboration, so I'll simplify this a bit that it is considered a best practice.

Because of that, I want collaboration occurring with great breadth and depth allowing for those global connections to foster growth on a local level. As Reich and Solomon say, "you must make sure they are tapped into the world and the local community, so that the changes and differences that result from being connected to people all over the globe are integrated into what you do at local and global levels."

2. I sure can but there is two issues here: 1. cultures of isolation must be removed in schools 2. I see this as more than just an activity. In fact, this is what I want to move away from: today, we are doing a collaborative activity. I don't want collaboration, connecting, and networking to be an anomaly but what we do day in and day out as learners.

With today's tools, this should be easier to accomplish for teachers, departments, and schools. Again, the research is vast in the area of professional learning communities yet many are still not embracing this concept or have embraced it on a surface level.

In some sense, I would say because of your comments I feel it is even more important to build this foundation locally if we want to see all learners experiencing a glocal (boy, I'm butchering this term) learning environment.

3. Not to heavy of a question, eh :-)

Seriously though, since most mission statements around the country encompass pieces of each of your questions, I'm sure we could package it up in a nice, cohesive statement.

But, like intended vs. taught curriculum, I wonder if the intended mission of many schools is truly lived out in each and every decision made within schools.

Wow! Thanks for the comment Ken. I must admit that I've never read anything by Postman but you have me intrigued.

Based upon the questions and thoughts in your comment, I know I've missed something well worth reading, so I'll hold a bit on my thoughts until I've read this piece.

Thanks for getting the wheels spinning!!

I was just having a conversation with Scott Meech and a few other educators about the value of Ed.Voicethread in comparison to having a teacher use a pro voicethread acct with students using sub-identities.

Ed.Voicethread is a great solution for students to carry a digital suitcase and create a digital learning trail over time. It is a bummer that it doesn't allow authentic comments from people who will never be able to have an Ed.Voicethread account, but I'll take the upside.

We have the same thing with blogs. Some teachers have their kids use blogger for a history blog, some english teachers then have the students use blogger to create a separate english blog. We need one platform in our school so students can blog across different classes and across many years.

Definitely a timely post as I've been thinking about these same challenges, Ryan.


I love your concept: "Golcal"

Yes, I believe it is very important to "Think Globally, and Act Locally". I can see how new technology, such as blogging can help. This new culture has the opportunity to build bridges across the globe and allow communication between cultures like never before. Making connections at the local level with the school community is a start in bringing us all closer at the global level. This is as you said a "collaborative culture" and educators need to help generate more interest in using new technologies to enhance the learning environment.

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