You can't be a change agent if you're an expert ...

2/18/2010 11:02:00 pm

Well, you can, but it's tough.

When you're on the early part of the learning curve others look at you and say:

"Hey, it's Darren. If he can do I can do it."

Once you hit a certain level of competence or expertise they same people look at you and say:

"Hey, it's Darren. He can do it, I can't."

Did you hear the change in tone in the first part of each of those statements?

Neophytes can be models of change for people new to learning something different. Experts have a different aura about them. That aura of expertise is intimidating for neophytes. The aura of "not quite an expert", the sense of newness associated with someone learning something they've just learned, is motivating for newbies.

We need less experts, more neophytes. Actually, a constant influx of neophytes to provide a continuous stream of models to engage new learners.

What are the implications of this for change agents? What about teachers; because aren't all teachers change agents for the stuff they teach?

Posted via email from dkuropatwa's posterous

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  1. This happens to me often as a technology "genius". Thankfully I'm still teaching in a regular classroom. That helps ground me and gives what I do a bit more credibility. Still, the more I continue to try to help others with new technology, the less successful I feel.

  2. From the day I started I was labeled a Technology Genius (I wasn't, but the label stuck). So It's really hard to talk people into trying stuff I do.

    Fortunately we've had a number of teachers starting at our school recently who are willing to try. But then they're "Digital Natives" so of course they can do it :(

  3. This is why we should suggest to all teachers that are using technology (no matter what the level) to showcase what they're using and how they're using it. From the simplest Moodle discussion to the most intricate use of Twitter and Google Docs, we learn better from one another (no matter the level at which we "seem to be").

    Nice post, thanks to Miguel Guhlin I found it. @mguhlin

  4. My best tech advocates at school are those who are technically not expert but have very sound pedagogical content knowledge.

  5. Great post Darren!!!!! I couldn't agree with you more!

  6. @Joseph Thibault "we learn better from one another"

    I think you nailed it. We all, consciously or unconsciously, look for models or examples to follow. It's probably the most often asked question when you hear a new idea: "Do you know anyone who's already done this? Can I see what they've done?"

    Seems to me we fall into two broad groups: those who want to be first and those who fear being first. And there's an inherent contradiction in the fear of being first for teachers:

    We all want our students to take risks; that's how learning happens. If we're unwilling to take risks ourselves and be models for our students can we honestly expect them to risk sharing their thoughts in class and learning from their mistakes?

  7. An expert can (and probably should) be a community leader or a network node. It takes a village, with different roles.

    It is healthy and cool to have advanced experts in your community of practice. You also need a lot of active novices, contributing and being appreciated for their contributions, and gradually taking more and more central roles within the community.

    This way, newbie recruits have role models of other, slightly more experienced novices, and a full continuum of development opportunities, all the way to central community members who are experts.

  8. P.S. I wish the "email follow-up" were a default.

  9. Can't argue with anything you say Maria.

    We have a tendency to ensure we have some expertise in the stable and I'm thinking we need to be more deliberate about ensuring we have a continuous intake of novices as models for learners (teachers, students, ...). They are best situated to be models for people on the far left of the learning curve.

  10. "Blessed be the noobs, for they will inherit the world."

    The message I am taking home: "An expert can't be a change agent by himself, but he can lead a multi-level community of change."

  11. I often wonder though, how did those people become known as the experts? Did they jump at the bit to show everyone what they were doing? Or did administration ask them to?

    While I understand adminstration is looking for those models for others, but do they understand what may happen by pointing out "experts"?

    Change is definitely seems like a game that has to be played deftly.

  12. This is actually really interesting and something I had not considered before. I'm always amazed at how subtle changes like this can have profound effects on the perceptions of others.

    It's insights like this that are highlight why teaching is an art and not a process.

  13. It is this kind of thinking that gives me the courage to continue to learn new things! It is my out - if you will. There is immeasurable value (for yourself and others) in being a lifelong learner and admitting/embracing that this means you are not an expert!

  14. As an educator of adult learners I feel that I too am always learning. Therefore, are we really ever experts?
    Kathy C.

  15. I concur with this premise. It is the classic debate of the specialist versus the polymath. I think perhaps that there will always be a need for experts in a particular subject area, however when it comes to the area of education of learning, innovators are truly valuable. The goal of the newer learning methodology is to encourage students to conceptualize what they are learning in a different way so as to assist those who utilize a variety of different learning styles. From this perspective, it’s easy to see how important being an innovator to initiate change really is.