Collaborative action? Not yet.

Chris Lehmann’s post last week regarding Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody and educational change was particularly thought-provoking for me. If you haven’t yet read Chris’ post or the book, move them both closer to the top of your reading list. I thought Chris did an especially nice job of describing how the edublogosphere has been good at the task of sharing and is doing pretty well at community production (thanks, everyone, who’s contributed to the Moving Forward wiki) but has not yet done so well at collaborative action. Why? Because it’s hard to do, as Chris and Shirky note, particularly within communities that have loose ties like we edubloggers do.

Chris feels, however, that we possess the capacity to engage in collaborative action and that we maybe, probably, should be thinking in this direction:

The hardest challenge facing our community is that we’ve done a very good job at going after the low-hanging fruit. We’ve done what was easiest to do… and most of us would agree that it hasn’t been easy so far. To take things to the next level is going to be hard. Not impossible… and a lot easier because of the tools we have at our disposal today, but hard none-the-less. 

But "hard" shouldn’t be the reason we don’t do it.

While I admire (as always) Chris’ good cheer and ‘we can do it even though it’s hard!’ attitude – and even usually possess a high concentration of those myself – right now I’m a bit more skeptical that our loosely-knit ‘community’ has the capacity, time, or even desire to begin engaging in collective action, at least at the level that Chris describes. I say this despite all of the incredible value that I gain from the edublogosphere.

At the very least, collective action is going to require a very focused target outcome and some folks who are willing to shoulder the heavy load of visioning / coordinating / re-centering focus. And I just don’t see that happening right now. I see a lot of good people who care a lot and are even willing to do numerous great things for kids, schools, and/or fellow bloggers. But I don’t see us as being in a place yet where collaborative action can occur on any meaningful and important scale (and I’m also not sure what that place would look like so I’d know that we were there).

Of course I’d love to be proved wrong…

[I confess that I’m also feeling a bit despondent today about the whole prospect of influencing American policymakers regarding K-12 education. After all, if an initiative with a $60 million budget and the backing of billion-dollar foundations isn’t getting much traction in terms of putting educational issues on the political radar screen, what the heck are our chances?]

4 Responses to “Collaborative action? Not yet.”

  1. I honestly don’t think that Edin08 knows what it wants. I’ve read their position papers and it’s a little all over the pedagogical map. I think that the biggest problem is that I’m not sure anyone knows what the federal solution is right now. I’ve been playing with a blog post for a while about it, but I haven’t been able to get it where I want it.

    But I do think we have to understand why the change hasn’t happened… and understand what we have to do *if* we want to be agents of larger change. It takes a lot more than blogging if we want it to happen with any kind of speed.

  2. I just finished “Disrupting Class” (I know, I’ve been mentioning it alot lately), and the theories that Christensen, Horn, and Johnson put forth in the book with regard to why change hasn’t happened in our education system is very interesting.

    I’m working on blogging about where my thoughts are going after reading this book, but my feelings/thoughts/emotions around this are very complex right now… There are some things mentioned in the book that are hard to swallow — especially for anyone who has been involved in school-wide or system-wide change initiatives (like myself). Essentially, we’ve been going about it all wrong — and I would even argue that some of the ideas that we (meaning people in this edublogging network) are discussing right now with regard to strategies and actions for change may be the wrong things to do.

    Chris — If I can make it up to EduCon, I think it would be interesting to have a text-based discussion around this book. I’m even considering trying to organize a text-based discussion through Skype or – just because I think I need to discuss this orally with people before trying to write out my thoughts.

  3. Stephanie, I read Disrupting Class recently and know Steve Hargadon has too. Maybe a conference call or online discussion? I’d be happy to host using Adobe Connect or just a conference call line.

    I’m trying to finish reading The Innovator’s Dilemma before blogging about Christenson…

  4. I think you have hit the nail on the head about capacity. I would love to get more involved with collaborative work but there are only so many hours in the day.

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