One of the greatest benefits of my school board service is exposure to really smart people, both inside and outside of our schools. There have been countless ideas that I have borrowed from our school leadership, from classroom teachers, or from education conferences that I have been able to apply in my job running Charlottesville Tomorrow. Ideas for management. Ideas for education. Ideas for community engagement.
One recent example is being highlighted by The Daily Progress in a story today about my organization's launch of cvillepedia, a hyper-local community wiki that anyone can edit with content about Charlottesville and Albemarle County. A lot of my confidence in launching this initiative with my colleague Sean Tubbs came from our amazing educators.
Last year I attended, with our Superintendent Dr. Pam Moran, the Virginia Association of School Superintendents (VASS) Conference. There I saw Alan November speak to almost all the Superintendents of Virginia giving a presentation on "21st Century Learning." While I am not a fan of that term, I am a big believer in using state-of-the-art technology and resources to engage learners, and the larger community.
Three things really struck me about Alan's presentation:
- He was very smart about explaining the importance of the "grammar of the Internet." How to use tools like Wikipedia and Google most effectively. I think Internet literacy is as important today as media literacy.
- He was a firm believer in the educational benefits of Wikipedia and the ability to use wikis as tools to connect kids around the world to content. He said, "We should teach kids to publish responsively in Wikipedia."
- The vast majority of Superintendents in the room seemed shocked, terrified, and/or incredulous.
Like Virginia's school superintendents, I have gotten similar reactions from close colleagues when they have heard about the cvillepedia project. It makes me think back to 2005 when they were equally skeptical about my blogging about community issues and allowing people to comment on those posts.
The Albemarle County School Board held a recent work sessions about the use of these tools in our classrooms. I have seen our principals and teachers advocate for the ability to use blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and wikis. They have convinced me.
Thus, I am putting my money on our community, which I think is going to pour a lot of talent, energy, and knowledge into this local wiki and make it a very powerful educational tool. I also hope some local students will help lead the way. I am thankful their teachers put ME on the right path.