Collaborating with colleagues from beyond our school walls helps us become stronger, better, and more innovative educators. As Oliver Wendell Homes wrote, “Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind…” To that I would add, “minds from other places.”
I am attending the 2015 International Society for Technology Educators (ISTE) annual conference where it’s a bit of a zoo — a crazy, good, really busy, intellectually stimulating zoo — with people to meet, activities to learn about, lectures to hear, things to play with, information to process, and much more. Collaboration is in the air.
While I love professional development events, be they small edcamps with their personalized knowledge sharing or big conferences with their exhibits, receptions, and opportunities to attend workshops, for me it is always about connecting with and learning from colleagues.
The interactions with people from outside my school’s walls always make Oliver Wendell Holmes’ words come alive — collaborative moments that make (not just help) me grow my teaching and my learning life by transplanting all sorts of ideas into my mind. The constantly changing array of colleagues from outside my school — people who do things better or just differently than we do — never fails to create new technology knowledge, increase my intellectual energy, and motivate me to pursue new ideas. I take it all back to my school. Moreover, sometimes my ideas get transplanted into the minds of my colleagues and are carried back to their schools.
Recently a colleague surprised me by saying that an upcoming, conference-related dinner with tech colleagues was a social event. How wrong he was. I wanted to say, “But the social part has everything to do with teaching and learning, challenging people like you and me to expand and refine our knowledge.”
And sure enough, the dinner — which I attended — was filled with exciting conversations. During just two hours I had conversations about coding, Scratch, maker activities, 3-D printing, digital citizenship, digital parenting, and more, chatting, sharing, and yes, collaborating with colleagues from at least nine or ten schools.
Collaboration is at the heart of everything we do in education. Every good teacher collaborates daily with in-school colleagues and students. No matter how good we are, however, if we do not take advantage of opportunities to connect beyond our school walls — learning together, talking together, playing together, and yes, eating together — each of our schools and our programs will become too insular.
Without collaboration from beyond our walls, our teaching and our schools won’t be as strong or as innovative as we want. As Helen Keller once commented, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”