The quiet revolution in education

(Clay Shirky: How social media can make history)

While education reformers like Michelle Rhee, Joel Klein, Bill Gates, and others will tell you that education is stuck in the status quo, right underneath their noses there is a quiet revolution occurring in education.

The revolution is happening through social media. Every day thousands of hours are spent by educators, even during the summer, to improve their personal practice through discussion and sharing of resources. Every day more and more educators are joining the fray, choosing to sign up for social media sites (like Twitter) so that they can become part of the conversation on education reform. While the number of educators not yet sharing their ideas dwarfs the number sharing, those that are sharing are vocal about the benefits that they are getting and inviting their colleagues daily to join them.

There are probably 50,000 educators using Twitter alone, and if each of these teachers posts just 1 average length tweet a day, that’s about 500,000 words written each day on education by people in the trenches. If each teacher on Twitter reads just 10 tweets a day, that would mean that more than 5,000,000 words about education are read each day via Twitter (The actual numbers are likely to be much higher than these conservative estimates).

Outside of Twitter, educators are connecting through Classroom 2.0, Future of Education, and literally thousands of other Nings and professional development sites. There are almost certainly thousands upon thousands of conversations between educators, about education, happening on Facebook every day as well.

Educators are doing much in the non-digital world to connect as well. Edcamps and Teachmeets, which are free professional development conferences, have sprung up all over the world. Educators are organizing TEDx conferences, like TEDxUBC, TEDxDenverEd, and TEDxPhillyEd, to name just a few (I attended all three of these).

This is all done outside of the more traditional professional development avenues, and it is having an impact on education. Teachers are flipping their classrooms, engaging in education hackjams, discussing educational practices in massive weekly Edchats, presenting their innovative educational practices with thousands of other educators via online webinars, and much, much more.

Much of this quiet revolution is happening during times when educators would have traditionally been off work, during their summers, their breaks, and at their homes, challenging the idea that educators aren’t willing either to change, or to spend their own time doing it. Educators are not being paid to participate in the opportunities discussed above, nor are they being given much support.

Instead of blaming all of the current problems of education on educators, maybe it’s time to support the thousands of innovative educators out there taking matters into their own hands? None of the accountability systems in place, or being developed, accounts for the incredible professional sharing occurring globally in education today.

The grassroots efforts are a much more effective way to introduce systemic change than top-down efforts ever will be since peer pressure is always stronger than authorative pressure.

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3 Comments

  • I love all the new ways of learning (and their lovely names): edcamps, teachmeets, hackjams, edchats, Tedx and the new one I learned recently – PechaKucha – http://www.pecha-kucha.org/. I’m starting to hear the noise level rise in the quiet revolution as more and more people get excited about the opportunities to participate and contribute.

  • David Wees wrote:

    I’d love to see more people at a higher level on the education hierarchy recognize the value in the grassroots efforts. I think all of these new ideas are great, but all of them basically revolve around the same basic principles: share and communicate what you know.

  • I think the quiet revolution is a humble revolution and that’s why it’s not gaining mainstream traction. Yet, it’s powerful, it’s grassroots and it’s gaining momentum. I love the point you made about how we’ve taken ownership of our own PD. That’s a huge piece of it, in my opinion. We’re going outside the system and being more effective.

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