As I am trying to promote and develop our new local Languages Ning, I am starting to feel the extent to which a lot of educators are NOT prepared for what I call “edu-wikinomics”.
I was very inspired by the book, Wikinomics: How mass collaboration changes everything, which depicts an optimist picture of collaboration in the business world. In fact, I felt it was more than optimist. It presents collaboration as the only way to survive in an increasingly competitive global markets, where well-kept trade secrets and the power of highly trained and experienced executives can be threatened by the masses getting together to improve on products and ideas.
My first reaction was that if the profit-making sector could see collaboration as a priority, why was not education following suit… What are the barriers?
• Isolation: some people still see teaching as an individual activity on which team work does not impact directly. “In the end, it is still me with 30 children”
• Lack of trust: suspicion that the outcome will not be as good as if it had been produced by one person only. “What will be given to me will not be as good as what I have contributed”
• Fear that good materials or ideas are going to be “stolen” for someone else to reap the rewards.
• Time: the misconstrued idea that collaboration involved endless meetings and is time-consuming when the aim is really to make everybody gain time.
• Lack of control: As teaching is not a collaborative activity per se, collaboration can sometimes feel like a dangerous loss of control over the planning and preparation process, with still the same exposure to the consequences in front of the class. “It was not really my planning-that’s why it did not work for my class”.
• Accountability: Accountability for results is individual and it often clashes with the need to collaborate.
• Isolation is dangerous, Education is a collective responsibility including colleagues, parents and society in general.
• If the criteria for the outcome to be produced are shared and come from the group, it is easier to challenge and control the quality of that outcome. The positive pressure on the members of the group should also ensure that no individuals want to let the group down.
• Original ideas and materials should be referred to clearly, so that the group can see the extent of each member’s contribution.
• Time should be gained by collaborating, if not in the short term, at least in the long term. If it is not the case, then the individual project is not viable in its original form.
• Learning to let go is not easy and it really is a continuum. Teachers need to identify what they are ready to do NOW to let go and how they are going to go about developing their students independent learning skills. It is a leap of faith.
• Accountability for results is ultimately personal, but let’s work on it as a team. We can all be accountable for our own results but we can also all benefit from the sum of our experiences…
Any more ideas and arguments to foster more collaboration amongst our working teams???