Social Networking and Sustainable OER

Steve Hargadon helped me make a major connection yesterday with his post detailing some of the things he's learned through his experiences with social networking.

If someone [from the USDOE] had called, I would have said that this is project has at it's core a mistaken idea: that social media and personal learning networks can be directed from the top down. There is a reason that so many acronyms in this arena start with P for "personal:" PLN (Personal Learning Network), (PLC) Personal Learning Communities, and PLE (Personal Learning Environments). It's because these are individual connections created by the individual, and that is their value: they are personal...

If the Department of Education had called me, I would have recommended building an infrastructure that made it easy for educators to build their own networks--take the ideas of Ning, but add the pieces that would allow for resource sharing and better searching for colleagues with similar curricular interests. However, keep the brilliant Ning concept of letting people build their own networks.

This isn't about efficiency, it's about agency, experimentation, and conversation.
Likewise, Kathy Webb argued for a similar approach with IT Directors from across my state two weeks ago. During our semi-annual TCC meeting, Kathy tried mightily to get others to bite onto the idea of building an infrastructure that would enable teachers to not only find other professionals with similar interests and backgrounds, but share OER with one another. Sadly, I was among the few there that expressed much interest in Kathy's vision, or even in the idea of open educational resources and their potential in transforming the traditional learning environment.

The day following TCC, Kathy and I continued our conversation at the UCET conference, landing on the idea that people are the key to sharing OER, not mandates nor strict expectations of artificial generosity.  People network for the people, and once connected with genuine authenticity, people will naturally share in a community effort.

Finally, this afternoon our District's Secondary Ed Tech Team met to discuss the challenges of developing technology-related resources that can be used by and for teachers as we continue in our District to adopt the Common Core.  Being under a tremendous time crunch to begin widespread adoption of the Common Core Standards for Mathematics next year specifically, emotions ran high as the difficulty of the challenge was further understood by each of our Ed Techs.  At the end of the meeting, I was pleased to see how well Jared Ward and others understood the potential of social networking in connecting others that might contribute to the production of legitimate resources.

From day one in our District, I've wanted to create a mechanism that would allow our teachers to collaborate with similar teachers, in similar efforts, but varying school environments. While networks like Classroom 2.0 and even Twitter allow for teachers from around the world to collaborate about specific subjects, they fail to help teachers easily find other teachers that teach the exact same course with the exact same text (as if that were important) on roughly the exact same schedule. My dream would be to create such a system that not only tied into our District's SIS, but enabled easy collaboration while simultaneously providing an easy-to-use platform for natural OER distribution. True to Steve's advice that social networking be individually driven, teachers would never be required to participate, but by simply logging in, they could be instantly introduced to similar teachers with similar resource needs because the courses they teach are identical.

Is it possible with a common national core, that the federal government might eventually produce such a system? Might that have been an eventual consequence of their developing initiative? I have no idea, but think there's tremendous value in collaborating with other teachers that share identical needs.

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