'Hey, he stole my idea!'
If you're a teacher, you've heard this line before - a lot. Thomas raises their hand and gives the exact same answer Frankie was planning to give. Archer sitting across the room just happens to have also written a story set in space and Benjamin isn't happy. Anita has used similar colors on her art project to Rhiannon. Scowls are thrown around and it's pandemonium in the classroom.
When this happens, I usually use it as a springboard to an important discussion. Firstly, making a point of clarifying that a fact is not an idea, and that someone else also knowing the answer to the math problem doesn't qualify as theft, but also, and more importantly, the difference between stealing someone's work and being inspired by it. Taking the blueprint to someone else's creation - whether intentional or not - and using it to make an entirely different and unique other creation which stands on it's own.
I've long wanted to begin and maintain a blog. I like to write (I try to do so almost daily). I like to think (I do this a little too much). I like to share my experiences (particularly after a few drinks).
Somehow none of this has never translated into launching a blog. A tidy, easily accessible place to collect my meandering ramblings.
Call it being intimidated by any sort of social media requiring more effort than Facebook or Instagram do, but it never materialized and for that, I'm regretful.
In the last 2 weeks, I've recommenced study - having been slowing progressing online through a Grad Dip in Professional Writing and Editing - throwing myself head on into a Trimester of Blogging and Online Communication, a subject that encourages us to really take control of our online profile. And, much like the Thomases, the Archers and the Anitas of the beginning paragraph, I've found myself inspired by one of my course-mates.
Taking the tech heavy message of the unit to heart, he created a blog to share his thoughts on the subject - a Weebly, no less. Reading it and seeing the skill with which he had presented it (it damn well looked professional), I initially found myself feeling intimidated. I quickly overcame this when I also remembered one of the other messages of the subject, as championed by course leader Adam Brown - you have to start somewhere, you will get better if you practice.
With that in mind, I'm taking the plunge. Thank you Tom for the inspiration and setting of a standard to me to aspire to. I can only hope that my interpretation of the idea can stand on it's own.
So with this blog, I'm going to post...well, just about anything, while the overarching goal is to share heavily about my career in international education, I also want a place to talk about the other things that make up my life.
So here's some thoughts on the content of Week 1.
DISCLAIMER: I'm prone to tangents.
The focus of the readings has been the arrival of the Media Studies 2.0 model in the world of communications, effectively nixing the old elitist approach of Media Studies 1.0.
The point and goal of Media Studies 2.0 seems to be the creation of a world where the people are making & sharing resources individually and collaboratively. It's hands on, it's do-it-yourself, and its accessible not just an elite few, but to everyone.
As a teacher, the part about sharing collaboratively resonated loudly with me.
Education is an industry where sharing and collaboration these days are the norm. Teachers, particularly in large schools - my own position being no exception - work in teams. Creative minds from all walks of life coming together and throwing a wealth of ideas on the table.
Once upon a time this would've involved a lot of painstaking stenciling and laminating, a lot of hoarding and limited storage space.
Now, sharing and collaborating means placing your resources into a Google Drive and inviting your coworkers to collaborate. Click of a mouse and your coworker's resources are your own.
It's certainly an industry where the teacher who chooses to close their door, isolate themselves from their coworkers and play the lone wolf game, as if they were Mad Max, don't find themselves winning any popularity contests - particularly with their superiors. We are all united by the same goal - the education of children. In that respect, there is no race, there is no competition, every teacher everywhere should have the opportunity to educate their students to the best of their abilities using the best available resources.
So the subject has me asking myself about online collaboration from a vocational point of view.
Am I doing enough?
This time last year I attended a tech conference at the American School in Milan. It was one of the most inspiring moments of professional development I have ever experienced, as it pushed the idea of the power of tech in education. The power of resources like blogs, like Twitter. The available opportunities to collaborate not just with our coworkers, but with teachers on the other side of the planet.
It also opens up a whole can of worms with students too. They too could network around the world. A student in Muscat could have their work appreciated by a student in Shanghai whom they've never met.
Social media is is super highway of ideas and inspiration that can add so much weight to what you do.
This last week, I've fired back up my Twitter, shared a post or two chronicling classroom adventures, and slapped a few hashtags on there. No bites yet, but persistence - I imagine - is the key.
This brings me to the course discussion question of the week that I really wanted to discuss.
My thoughts on social media. Do I identify more with a dystopian or utopian view?
Well, I'll be first to admit that I can see the problem, that I'm directly affected by the problem. I'll come clean right here.
*STANDS UP* 'Ahem...Hi, I'm Aaron and I'm a social media addict.'
And not the kind I should be. Not the creative, ambitious, blogging and networking kind. No! I'll spend hours accomplishing nothing on Facebook, check my Snapchat as you try to have a conversation with me and internally rage when I can't get reception enough to refresh my Instagram.
This is a fully fledged problem that I believe often keeps me from reaching my true potential (all that writing I could be getting done, all that stunted creativity), not to mention how rude I must appear sometimes.
It's a problem that I've taken to remedying by locking my phone away for hours at a time, just plain refusing to touch it. With a little extra willpower, it seems to be working. Though the thing that scares me is the difference. The amount of brain power, concentration, creativity and motivation that has magically returned since I forced myself under control is a scary thought. All this potential for accomplishment that was being locked away. My distraction was slowly killing me and I find it a little unsettling to consider the way it must affect others, the way it will affect people in years to come.
(I was going to take a moment to discuss the Black Mirror episode '15 Million Merits' that was required viewing for week 2 of the subject, but I'll save that for another post)
So having said that, you're probably thinking that I lean towards dystopian, right?
Well, no. I simply cannot.
Returning to the conference in Milan, I am reminded of a story told by one of the keynote speaks (and a treasured coworker of mine). Coming from an Italian family, he described the experiences of his great grandfather as he immigrated to the USA ahead of his family in hopes of a better life. It was over a year before his wife and children were able to join him, and during that time, their love was kept alive by way of mail, with letters taking weeks to reach their destination. They survived it though, despite the immense challenge.
Fast forward many decades to my coworker meeting the woman who would go on to become his own wife. Having to spend a period of time abroad from one another, my coworker was able to push a button on his iPhone and, within seconds, be looking at the face and listening to the voice of the love of his life.
This is a beautiful thing, and while I do see the dangers technology poses for it, it's difficult to imagine a more positive argument for the advancement of technology than the fact that it makes love possible.
I live away from my family. I like to travel. As well as living in Oman, I've also lived in London. My closest friends and family are spread out across the globe, and I absolutely LOVE that I can speak to them whenever I choose (timezones permitting). I love that I can Skype my parents every weekend. I love that I can return home during summer and not be surprised by how different everyone is, but the appearance of new babies, new partners, new jobs, new lives.
A well traveled older relative of mine told me that the hardest part about living overseas is that you tend to fall out of touch with everyone. They traveled before social media was a thing. Unfortunately (fortunately?), this is a sentiment that, thanks to the reach of the world wide web, I am unable to share.
Social media keeps me in the loop, it makes being a citizen of the world easier.
Social media and technology is like any sort of power. It can do good or harm.
I pray that I continue to have the will power to update this blog more than I spend checking my phone at dinner.