This photo is of my brother and I in 1994. This is our first car, which we shared ownership over. If you can believe it, I’m the guy on the left! The colour of the car, if you’re interested, is “Cypress Metallic Green”.
If there’s one thing I’ve been acutely aware of since working with teachers, it’s making sure I don’t rob teachers of a sense of ownership. I think this is because I know how I feel when I am doing something I perceive I don’t have ownership over. I’m someone who really needs to be involved in something or else I disengage in it.
This raises some interesting questions for the kind of work I do now. Often I am leading the use of technology in classrooms – which means I am usually creating something : communities, websites, tutorials, ideas… which I assume others will find of benefit to them. But always gnawing at the back of my head is, “how do I give people ownership over the things I create? How would I feel if I was on the other side of the fence?”. On the other hand, I feel that sometimes you DO need someone to take the lead and kick things off, and I do acknowledge that not everyone is like me, and some teachers do indeed appreciate being given strong direction.
This issue has been raising its head with our Writers’ Club. The idea is that I create blogs for students of the teachers that join, and they instantly become part of a global community. Which is fine for those who have never had their kids blogging. But what about teachers who are already blogging with their kids? Do they need to abandon their work to join our community? And does this then represent a lose-lose situation, where we miss out on being involved with teachers who already have significant expertise with blogging and global education, and they miss out on being part of a vibrant community?
For a long time, I wrestled with the idea. I talked at length to my colleague in Shanghai, Toni Olivieri-Barton, about it, and I came to the conclusion that, eventually, the audience factor would win, and teachers would be convinced to start afresh on the Writers’ Club.
But this ignores the need for the teachers to have ownership.
So when Denton Avenue from New York joined, ready with their blogs, I decided to give them accounts but let them have their own blogs as well. And it works. The students with their own blogs simply put their blog address into their profile, so that when their profile is clicked on by a Writers’ Club member, they see the student’s blog address and can visit and comment on their blog, outside the Writers’ Club. The security of the site is still maintained, the students with their own blogs benefit because they are able to participate in the community and drive readers to their blogs by doing so; and the current members of the Writers’ Club benefit by having new things to read and have a greater audience for their own work.
It’s not ideal – it would be simpler if everyone had a blog on the Writers’ Club. But if I can convince those teachers already doing great stuff that this work won’t replace what they do but enhance it, and I can bring even more students from around the world together, then it is for the best.