Where are the “Best Practices” Examples!??!

One of the most popular posts (judging by the number of comments it received) on this young blog (6 months old) was Working, Breathing, Reproducible, Intriguing Models – where I lamented the seeming lack of good models of project/problem based learning supported by tech and web 2.0 applications. I wondered where they were and why they weren’t being marketed ad naseum on every edtech blog out there.

Recently Will Richardson posted asking Where are the Best Practices? He cites Tom Marsh:

It brings me back to NECC where during a Webcast I was a part of Tom Marsh asked this very question: Where are all the really, really, really great examples?

And David Warlick wonders:

There are some pretty important conversations going on, and teachers, as much as (if not more than) anyone else, should be engaged in these conversations. Blogging, wikis, and other new web applications seem ready-made for these conversations — but what do teachers talk about in your teacher’s lounge?

I don’t think there are that many “Best Practice” examples out there on the web for the following reasons:
1 – Many school districts tend to block access to posting student work and/or the online applications to do so. (Like you never heard that one before.)

2 – The finish work involved in sharing something publicly is often the hardest most time consuming part so it doesn’t get done, especially in the “testing everything” age.

3 – Some don’t feel that the finished product is important, only the journey there is (I disagree) so they have no publishable finished product to share (THE POWER OF THESE TOOLS IS SHARING IT – MAKING IT A RESOURCE FOR OTHERS!!!!) But I digress.

4 – The sharing part can also be the most technically demanding part and the costliest. It costs me little to nothing to make a video with my students but what if I don’t have a web site to share it on? Or I’m not familiar with FTPing? Or my district forbids or even kind of frowns on sharing student work and I don’t feel empowered to buck that and become marginalized – which is a big step for teachers that don’t get paid much money or respect and have their standing as a professional as one of the few things to hold onto – that’s tough to jeopardize for many.

5 – At the middle and high school level teachers tend to have students for an hour or less at a time, so doing lots of web 2.0 stuff and getting it to a polished, publishable state is tough – and publishing “works-in-progress” isn’t always appreciated by administration and some parents until they’ve been enlightened about the process.

6 – At elementary school level you are often starting kids from scratch (because no one else is doing this) and just getting them going on one application takes time (and how is that prepping them for the ITBS?????) and time-wise teachers often have to choose between doing tech/web 2.0 or doing a project (with maybe some tech support) and all the time being questioned about the educational value of what they are doing – how many are really going to deal with that and buck the system?

7 – Unfortunately some are more interested in being able to say they are doing the most cutting edge stuff and spend time always doing the newest thing as opposed to really utilizing one or several tools really effectively with their students so edtech and project based learning come up looking weak.

8 – Many just don’t realize what they have done is “Best Practice” WOW! kind of stuff, or they don’t see the value in publishing, or they are too modest. “You mean publish that!? Isn’t everybody doing stuff like this?”

The answer is NOOOOO!

I have found though that if you get one good, solid product out there it creates a buzz – and suddenly you are the expert (true or not) and gain a certain level of trust. Just like a movie director that makes one hit movie suddenly is a genius and is given more encouragement and support to carry on with other projects. Don’t try to do everything! Do one thing really well (or maybe more than one thing depending) and be able to showcase it and its effectiveness as a learning situation and tool. From my experience, if what your students produce is quality, and the process along the way led to real learning, you will be “allowed” to do more. Then get what your students have produced published on the web whether it’s a blog, or video, or wiki, or a web page … you get the idea … so it can be part of a showcase of the “Best Practices” so many are looking for.

Maybe we can even get the edbloggers with the highest readership (and everyone else too) to each make a roll of “Best Practice” or “Model” or whatever examples of edtech that is easy for even a novice tech person to find and use to navigate those examples. Some of the Wikis posted to do this are great, but mainly to those that already “get it.” Let’s have multiple portals to these examples – and a links section in the right hand column (TOP) of everyones blog might be a good place to start. But first we need the examples.

Who decides which examples are worthy – and how do we find the examples that might already be out there????

Learning is messy!

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5 thoughts on “Where are the “Best Practices” Examples!??!

  1. Brian, I thought, when I started blogging with my third graders last year, that I was way behind everybody, that thousands of teachers had been doing this for a long time. As you note, boy was I wrong. And I found that I was in an even tinier number who blog personally AND blog with their kids. Yesterday, maybe sensing your impending post above, I retold part of the success story of blogging with my class this year. I had blogged about them several times during the school year, I even posted a three part “through the school year” series. I felt I had sort of “done my job” in spreading the word. But yesterday I realized that it’s important for us on the front lines, in the trenches, to tell the story over – and over – and over. It gets old, you feel like you are retelling the obvious, like doesn’t everybody know this by now? And it does get a little scary, at least for me, when you stick your neck so far out and say, “hey, look what my kids just did!” You are putting your work, and the work of your kids, out there in front of God and everybody.

    So I don’t have any answer to your question about where the best practices are – folks can look at my class http://roomtwelve.com – but it’s just one isolated room. I agree with your points above. I’ll do my little part by telling our story. Hopefully the word will spread, but it is so incredibly slow…

    Good luck as you start your 26th year of teaching – it will be mine as well! – Mark

  2. Thanks Mark. I suspect that http://roomtwelve.com probably is a great example. But who is going to decide that? You would think this would be easy – but when you go about making a clearinghouse you have to set standards and then you have to have a respected committee to decide (where do you get the committee?) But maybe the most important aspect here is just putting the examples out there isn’t enough, you have to have an explanation of all that is going on – you would have to write something explaining everything your students learned and got out of writing their blogs – what standards did you meet? Why should other teachers want to do this? How do you do this? And by the time you are done who will read all of that and make sense of it and be motivated by it enough to take on classroom blogging like you did?
    Learning is messy!