What will happen in the “blur”

blurflickrIn Mexico there is an area known as the “blur”– the rare area where the water from caves underground mingle with water from the ocean.

 A recent post by Jon Becker, “Who are the Thought Leaders in Educational Leadership?” reminds me of that rarified space where two  entities mingle and create something new.

In his post, Jon challenged education leaders and scholars at the university level to connect with the social network of educators around the country.  

Partly why I haven’t been able to quit thinking about  his post was that I consider myself a pretty well-informed high school educator–I purchase professional books for our library all the time, attend ASCD occasionally, read incessantly and widely, and yet I didn’t know ONE name on his list of  influential education leaders.  

I think it stunned me because in “Twitterland” I find many of us working together or in separate strands loosely joined to change what education looks like.   We talk, share resources, read each other’s blogs, read articles when links are shared on Twitter, do our own research in our own spaces and bring that back to the collective forum.  It stunned me because I realized after reading his post how much ‘we’ are leaders in education–grass-roots, collaborative, networked leaders.  And if we aren’t familiar with their work–and I warrant many of us are not, then there’s a disconnect.  

How can you be a leader in education when you are this disconnected from the very teachers who are “recipients” of your leadership–practitioners at the building level all over the globe?   Don’t you need to reach out and take a pulse of what is going on in classrooms?  and what better place to get a lead on that than listening in on blogs and Twitter or Plurk or Ning or whatever networks you might choose, short of visiting actual schools?  How much are these leaders missing out on by not being a part of and publishing in these grassroots forums?

And how much more enriched our own online networks would be and can be by having a variety of collaborators–from k-20.  How much are we missing from having these leaders participating with us on many of these networks?   I think of leaders like Alex Courosa and Scott McLeod, as well as Jon, who invite our networks into their classrooms and how much I have learned from them.   If we are all (whether networked or not) interested in understanding, changing, and improving what education looks like, isn’t it incumbent on all of us to meet each other in accessible spaces–in the “blur,” so to speak?

Following on the heels of Jon’s post, Will Richardson twittered the fascinating New York Times article, “Scholars Test Alternative to Peer Review.”    The article shared similar points raised in academia in terms of peer-reviewed journals and how the rapidly changing web environment is pushing at those walls. 

“Instead of relying on a few experts selected by leading publications, they advocate using the Internet to expose scholarly thinking to the swift collective judgment of a much broader interested audience.

“What we’re experiencing now is the most important transformation in our reading and writing tools since the invention of movable type,” said Katherine Rowe, a Renaissance specialist and media historian at Bryn Mawr College. “The way scholarly exchange is moving is radical, and we need to think about what it means for our fields.”

As a high school librarian teaching students about peer-reviewed journals all the while seeing students’ visible confusion that academic sources are more “walled-in” than the sources they typically encounter on Google, this makes absolute sense.   Especially for leaders in the field of education, which stands on the brink of transformation because of the web 2.0 “revolution”, wouldn’t swift sharing of information and accessibility of new theories be important?

Advocates of more open reviewing, like Mr. Cohen at George Mason argue that other important scholarly values besides quality control — for example, generating discussion, improving works in progress and sharing information rapidly — are given short shrift under the current system.

“There is an ethical imperative to share information,” said Mr. Cohen, who regularly posts his work online, where he said thousands read it. Engaging people in different disciplines and from outside academia has made his scholarship better, he said.

To Mr. Cohen, the most pressing intellectual issue in the next decade is this tension between the insular, specialized world of expert scholarship and the open and free-wheeling exchange of information on the Web. “And academia,” he said, “is caught in the middle.”

Again, these changes in publishing drive home the very point both Jon’s post and the New York Times article make–that for me as a librarian and educator, it’s critical for me to stay “connected” so that I am teaching my students the most current and relevant skills for their lives beyond our high school.    I wouldn’t have been introduced to these education leaders, nor seen the NYTimes article had it not been for my own network.

It’ll be fascinating to see what happens as these rarified environments become more openly a part of the ‘free web’ and what will result in the “blur” as we all mingle our ideas together.

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2 thoughts on “What will happen in the “blur”

  1. If I may, here are a couple of thoughts of mine on this topic:

    [now up to 19-20,000 subscribers]


    I think many professors are afraid of ‘the blur.’ They’re much more comfortable with their peers who also live within the rarified environment of academe. Mixing it up with the masses is seen as undesirable, a waste of time, and/or scary.

  2. Scott, it was fascinating and also troubling reading your insights. And this statement you wrote says it far better than I did:

    “Since we’re education professors, what’s the point of our work if it doesn’t impact schools (or at least have a fighting chance of doing so)? Should we be pulling a paycheck if we’re essentially invisible to practitioners and/or policymakers?”

    Thanks for sharing. Carolyn

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