When to copy and when to create

I’m a big fan of working together and sharing ideas with colleagues. I’m also a big fan of blazing your own trail as frequently as you can. When teaching, this is no different. You’d be a fool to ignore the glorious ideas shared freely by leaders in education, and it’s also good to leverage the paid-for resources as well as you can for their methods. However, spending time creating your own ideas is very valuable and promotes deeper understanding. But when should we copy from someone else, and when should we create from scratch?

Chris Lehmann recently discussed the challenges that communities of teachers face at his school, like standards and standards reports, senior projects, etc. The additional challenge is that there’s limited time available for teachers to come together to solve those problems.

It’s a tribute to Chris’s leadership that he makes time for these conversations. I would argue that it’s too common that other districts can’t or don’t make the time. I would also argue that the challenges faced at SLA are foundational and similar to what’s happening at some other schools. I hope that we are all actively “sharing out” the learnings and “aha” moments, because it may work for someone else.

I follow Dan Meyer’s blog– a math man from California. Part of his premise is to “be less helpful” to students – let them explore real life problems and don’t give students a formula that “will solve the problem if you just figure out where to put it.”

There are some discussions in the comment sections that teachers can’t really share ideas with others without falling into the trap “being less helpful” with TEACHERS. Teachers would do best to design and create their own investigations. I hope that teachers are indeed finding ways to craft as many ideas on their own.

In the end, I feel that we find a balance between creation and borrowing. We ask the same from our students, to refer to the best ideas from the best minds, and to pull ideas and thoughts from inside themselves.

It’s exciting that information and ideas can be shared easily and quickly, and they can be found anywhere in the world. The tools for sharing and finding become faster and easier to implement. For the first time, we have the choice  to create or to borrow. It’s a good choice to have. Our challenge now is to create ways to determine which are the good ideas and which are the bad ones, and then create ways to find the best ideas fast.

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