Educators as Knowledge Seekers
If you had told our ancestors that in the 21st century all of the information ever known to man would be available in a hand-held device that fits in your pocket, they would never have believed you. Actually, you probably wouldn’t have to go back more than a couple of generations for them to think this idea was something out of a science fiction novel. But this is our current reality, and in fact, the data generated every day on the web is increasing so much by the day that it’s almost enough to make your head explode.
As mentioned in my last post, critical consumption is a key component of the creative process, but what does this mean for us as researchers. How are we, as educators, navigating this flood of information and seeking out only what is best and/or most relevant for our students and ourselves? What opportunities are we giving our students to be knowledge seekers? And what do we want students to do with all this knowledge? The answers to these questions are complex and multifaceted, but I’ll do my best to unpack these.
Knowledge Seekers choose to Seek Knowledge
One of the most important things I want my students and fellow educators to know about me is that I don’t have all the answers. And if we’re being honest here, sometimes I wonder how I’m even qualified to be a teacher with as much as I don’t know. But with this understanding that I am not the knower of all things, I think it’s perhaps more important that my students and fellow educators know that I will always choose to seek more knowledge. And I’m not alone in this. I’d say that most of the world’s best teachers choose to seek knowledge. When I teach, this is what drives me.
Photo: Skip Walter https://skipwalter.net/2012/01/05/the-four-boxes-of-knowing/
knowledge seekers consult trusted sources
Luckily for us, knowledge can be sought out in a lot of different ways these days. As an educator and a knowledge seeker, I think it’s important that we find trusted sources for acquiring skills and information and that we show our students how to do the same. Education is a shared experience, and when it comes to seeking knowledge about teaching and learning, I find it’s best to consult the experts. Now, these are often ‘experts’ in pedagogical theory and practice within their fields, but sometimes they are simply people who are sharing their varied learning experience with others. For me, this happens on Twitter, through podcasts and educator websites, and can also be found in textbooks, online course and in rich Professional Development sessions. In my work with students, part of my role is to introduce them to sources that they can consult to seek knowledge, and another part is to teach them how to be discerning of credible sources in their search for knowledge. Common Sense Media has played a big role in shaping the digital citizenship curriculum and approach we use at my school, and their lessons on News & Media Literacy are fantastic. Other great resources include the #digcit and #iste hashtags on Twitter.
knowledge seekers Fail forward
We know that learning is a process and that nobody becomes an expert by only doing things once, but it’s always good to remind ourselves and our students that the path to knowledge is often paved with failed attempts and semi-successes. This week’s TED Talk by Diana Laufenberg highlighted the importance of letting students fail as part of the learning process. As educators, it is our duty to celebrate mistakes and failures in an effort to normalize and de-stigmatize them. This is not easy for most of us, as educators or simply humans. We don’t like being wrong. We don’t like failure. We don’t like to not be good at things. But it’s only when we embrace these experiences and give them the value they deserve that we can move forward from them. In my class, I take every opportunity I can to share my mistakes and failures with students because I believe it will help them relate to others. Sometimes we incorporate this into a morning meeting or number talk. Other times, it’s in the form of a provocation for a learning task. Here’s one of the most recent examples I’ve brought into the classroom and staff meeting to discuss the idea of failing forward:
knowledge seekers reflect on their learning
The final thought of today’s post is one about reflection. This, for me, is quite possibly the most important component of the learning process. For without continual reflection, how will we know we have learned? How can we make sense of our knowledge and apply it? Are we ready to do something with this newly acquired knowledge? Perhaps this has been on the brain lately because we are moving away from a skills-focused approach to a more learner-centered philosophy of teaching through inquiry at my school. Much of my work in with the curriculum team this year has been to explore inquiry models and help develop one that fits our community and context. A large part of this journey has brought me to Kath Murdoch’s inquiry cycle which places reflection at the center of understanding.
Photo: Taryn Bond Clegg
So as I wrap up this week’s reflection about being a researcher, educator, student empowerer and knowledge seeker, I think it’s a fitting time to pose one last question to all my fellow educators; How does being a knowledge seeker impact your practice?