The year 2011 was perhaps one of the most humbling years of my life, professionally speaking. I began the year believing that I was quite in command of my office, my classroom practice, and that I was ready for the next step administratively. Then something funny happened. I didn’t get the job I wanted. At the time I was devastated, but in the end it might have been the best thing that ever happened to my career. The rejection forced me to go back to my roots and reinvent my approach to professional development. How can I grow to become an instructional leader that will be effective? That became my mantra. It led me back to the classroom, as I redoubled my efforts to complete a second Master’s Degree, but it also led me to the Internet once again. This was where the humility truly began.
I was so confident in my knowledge and use of educational technology that I thought I had nothing to learn. Unfortunately I had fallen into the complacency trap, and my rude awakening came fast. Something has happened to the web over the last five years. I was a participant in social media networks and was well-aware of what had commonly been labeled “web 2.0,” but I had yet to realize the radical shift that had taken place through blogs and sites like Twitter.
The Internet was being used in a new way. Rather than simple posting of content, the storage space had evolved into a conversation, and the conversation was being conducted in a collaborative fashion. While I slept, the Internet had completely changed! I immediately realized that my arrogance in thinking I knew it all about educational technology was so far off that it was comical. My proficiency in technology skills meant nothing because I lost sight of what was a moving target.
Technology didn’t stop developing in 2005, and neither did the innovation in its applications. In 1992, Francis Fukuyama famously posited that we had reached “the end of history.” Yet I have spent the last five months feeling more in tune with Vaclav Havel’s declaration that “history has accelerated.”
Catching up with the furious growth of concepts that have dominated the blogosphere and Twitterverse has been a maddening and thoroughly humbling experience for me professionally. Most of all, however, it has been an enriching one. I have found the voices of fellow educators to aid and guide me – which was something that I had never experienced before! The old Internet was a very cold, solitary experience – this new Internet is dynamic and very engaging. Ideas get exchanged in an open forum, and I have yet to come away from an #edchat experience where I wasn’t blown away by the great ideas of someone else.
Perhaps the lesson is that complacency is the enemy of progress. To be a quality educator means not resting on one’s laurels. We have to continue to pursue new ideas and new ways of thinking. This happens best for all of us when we develop a PLN. This will be an ongoing process for me in 2012, and I’m excited to be back where I belong!