There are two bloggers I want to introduce in this last 508 blogging assignment: Derek Sivers and Maria Andersen. Sivers’ is a former recording industry mogul who uses his blog to muse about the life lessons inherent in his daily events, relationships, and encounters. Anderson blogs about the teaching of math and is one of the change lights in an area of our profession that is still sadly mostly in the dark. They are both great role models and in some ways complementary.
Sivers became successful and famous and then gave his company away. Anderson is becoming successful and famous by giving her “best stuff” away. My journey towards becoming a self-directed educator is teaching me that the more you give away, the more others will want what you have. As I gain confidence in my own message and teaching model, and come to believe that given the choice (unlike the trapped audiences of my 36 years’ worth of classrooms) other educators will want to hear what I have to say about change, technology, and education, I turn to Sivers for old-fashioned mentorship about finding my place as a leader and to Andersen for the challenge to rethink my role as a teacher and find a new place for myself in the profession.
Sivers does not qualify as an “educational” blogger. He reflects on the the events in his life and the life lessons they illustrate. He writes about big themes such as ideas, turning problems into opportunities, and fear ( a piece that should appeal to those among us who live in districts where one bad act becomes a reason to take away another freedom or shut down more access to the internet). I especially love the presentation (video below) about leadership and “followership” that he did at TEDTalks in Feb. 2010.
What Sivers says about these roles speaks directly to the conversations going on in this week’s discussion forum. To become a leader, you have to find your first follower. Every follower in turn has the potential to become a new leader by finding the next follower. If every teacher will find one colleague to follow and another to follow him/her into this movement towards change in education, then large scale and lasting use of technology will happen. The work will become exciting, energizing, and passion-lighting.
Gardner wrote (p. 166) that “an educational system is not worthy of its name unless its representatives can clearly articulate what that system is striving to achieve and what it seeks to avoid or curtail.” In “5 Minds” he mapped out a carefully detailed template for progress. First you learn everything there is to learn your area; then you integrate it all into a big picture; finally you’re ready to create. But still he wonders (p. 164): “How does one know that one is making progress …?” Sivers says (2009-11-21) that “all this learning means nothing until you make something happen.” Sivers agrees that it’s important to keep feeding the brain with new information and perspectives, but for him the processes of learning and coming up with ideas have to be bundled with action and execution. They are not sequential steps but parallel activities. Life is not a nice line but a tangle knot.
Andersen is a woman like me who in 2007 had not yet become turned on to the world of technology tools or resources. Now she’s doing a doctorate on reform and innovation in math education. Her work is confirming what we have all known for some time — i.e. that math teachers have a pretty limited repertoire when it comes to helping students learn. We explain a lot and use co-operative learning to some extent but generally put little time or place little emphasis on inquiry- or project-based learning, on mastery, or on communications skills in math. This just isn’t good enough and she’s becoming one of a few leaders in this field who are collecting more and more followers. Like Sivers, Andersen reads widely and almost everything she reads becomes fuel for her mission to make the learning of math meaningful. Math teachers can’t just be good mechanics; we have to become big idea people who can help students learn to make connections, come up with ideas, turn them into actions, and communicate new understandings. These are the skills and attitudes Sivers believes are critical to become successful rather than sidelined in life
Sivers’ blog is found at: http://sivers.org/blog. It’s minimalist — no bells or whistles — just a series of reflections. To find Andersen’ blog — Teaching College Math — go to http://teachingcollegemath.com/. She’s all about activity and tweets and interesting tidbits and well thought out presentations about the nature of learning and math … math… math… math. Both of these writers challenge me to ‘revision’ my work even as I am leaving public school teaching, to act on ideas, to find my audience and to engage them by listening as much as by talking, to keeping feeding my own idea mill with new reading and conversations, and to reflect — always reflect — in order to keep moving forward. Mash the writing of these two up with Mitra’s work (which I’ve written about before) and the wisdom of Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot (video below) and you’ll see that as much as I say I’ve retired, the act of getting out of public school teaching is really a giant step away from complacency and towards renewal.