New Slide: Giving Ideas Away

I came across an interesting Thomas Jefferson quote in Clay Shirky’s Cognitive Surplus today.

Here it is:

(Original Image:  Half Mast by Alosh Bennett, licensed Creative Commons Attribution)

Jefferson’s thinking here really resonates with me.  When I give ideas away—to the readers of the Radical, to the teachers that I work with on my professional learning team, to the teachers who follow my digital professional development wiki—-it doesn’t make me intellectually weaker.

In fact, when I share my ideas with others, everyone sees more clearly.

That’s why collaboration and intellectual philanthropy—whether it happens online or in our school buildings makes so much sense.  When we allow walls to keep us divided, everyone suffers.

Does this make any sense?

And if so, what lessons can educators—and educational policymakers—learn from Jefferson’s thinking?

Should we be designing compensation and evaluation systems that incentivize collaborative thought and shared reflection on practice?  Should we be restructuring teacher preparation and professional development models, centering new work around sharing between practitioners?

How would (should?) instructional practices and student assessments change if we believed that sharing is essential for developing the collective intelligence of organizations and communities?

Just thinking out loud here….Not sure I have any real answers.



5 thoughts on “New Slide: Giving Ideas Away

  1. Anna T. Baumgartner

    First, I think the main thing we have to do regarding assessments is to get people talking about it, because it’s pretty obvious that assessments need to be done on social skills and teamwork at a minimum. Even if we are just talking about basic career preparation skills, our students are going to need advanced communication skills to function in the global society of their future. After all, in just about every field (although, ironically, not including my teaching jobs where I’m always left to myself), it is necessary to function as a team, and success is not possible without good communication and social skills. I’m not sure why this is so difficult for the public/policymakers to accept, because working people should realize how important this is. Maybe the public is just not paying attention to what they all should know is true from their own work experience?
    Other areas of authentic assessment are also a must, but this one is easy to justify and any fair observer has to agree.
    By the way, I found myself assessing my own kids and their friends based on the dinnertable conversation. If they can engage each other and the adults in a meaningful discussion while referencing what they are studying in school and current events, then I don’t care what grade they got on the last history or English test because authentic assessments are much more meaningful.
    Second, I have to say the 40 plus educators I follow on Twitter have been an incredible source of knowledge and ideas and I’m very grateful to them for sharing. 30 minutes of tweets every couple of weeks is all I need to keep going, going, going. The Twitter education community makes exciting work of striving to become a better teacher and because they shared with me, I now try to follow their example and pass more ideas on to others.
    Just wish I could use Twitter to connect more easily with outstanding public school educators in China, too. Unfortunately, it’s not available on the mainland.

  2. Bill Ferriter

    Jdiefen asked:
    I don’t know how instructional practices and student assessments should change if we believe that sharing is essential for developing the collective intelligence of organizations and communities.
    Hey Jdiefen,
    First, thanks for stopping by—and believe me, there’s nothing intellectual or intimidating about me! I’m just a regular old guy who randomly babbles here online and likes it when people stop by to challenge my thinking.
    As far as changing student assessments, I’m not sure that I have the right answer to what revised assessments would look like either, but I do know that currently, almost every assessment that my students take, they take alone.
    They work by themselves, right? Usually answering multiple choice questions to demonstrate what they know as individuals.
    Shouldn’t we be asking kids to demonstrate what they know as a group—-and more importantly, that they know how to access the knowledge of an entire group?
    Shouldn’t we be teaching students how to write good questions that challenge their peers? Shouldn’t we be teaching students to respectfully challenge the misconceptions that their peers hold about topics?
    Shouldn’t we be teaching students to revise and refine their own thinking on topics based on feedback given to them by peers?
    What would that look like in action?
    I don’t know—what about evidence from comment sections of blogs? What about videos of classroom seminars? What about participation in digital conversations?
    Andy Hargreaves said at a presentation yesterday that one of our key assessment mistakes in schools right now is that we are writing assessments based on what we CAN assess rather than on what we WANT to assess.
    That’s a failure of our system that needs to be fixed because what’s tested is what’s taught—and right now, all we’ve figured out how to test are simplistic outcomes.
    Discouraging, huh?
    Sorry to be a downer!
    Rock on,

  3. Jdiefen

    This is my first time posting, and I feel slightly awkward about it, but I wanted to visit your site after a colleague of mine had blogged to you. Your response excited me! Like the person before, I too am in a teacher-certification program. A large emphasis on our learning is on sharing–members from our cohort share about their experience in the classroom, when they come across usefull teaching material (heavy emphasis on tech-related tools: which explains all of this blogging!), and of course, our cooperating teachers are a wealth of information that they pass along to us. After 15+ years of being in the field, they have LOTS to tell us. Just to toss in something anectdotal, today my teacher spoke with me about sharing back to her helpful information that I learn in class. Being encouraged to share knowledge (to pass around ideas) was exciting to me as it indicated her willingness/readiness to share between practitioners (granted I am not a practitioner quite yet, but learning from her is valuable).
    Before I go, I don’t know how instructional practices and student assessments should change if we believe that sharing is essential for developing the collective intelligence of organizations and communities, but I do agree that a beginning place is to have and encourage dialogue and sharing. I wonder if you can clarify or restate this question? I’d like to digest it a bit more.

  4. E.Hull

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I agree that its so important to share with one another. I am a part of a teacher certification program and one of our assignments is start blogging about our experiences. Here we all are in this teaching program learning how to put our ideas and thought out there to further each other’s and our own thinking. I believe that by sharing and collaborating together we create a better professional community and a better student learning experience.

  5. Lessons Learned

    I love your blog and your thought process. I never understood why some teachers were reluctant to share any of their expertise and ideas with their peers and/or were competitive with another colleague. Are not we all trying to achieve the same goal, regardless of subject matter, and that is student achievement?

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