We consume. Do we produce?

CC licensed photo shared by Flickr user John*Ell

The relationships between consumers and producers in life cycles and food webs is introduced in the elementary years. Children genuinely enjoy exploring the relationships among animals and other organisms in our world.

As I navigated through the websites Stumble Upon recommended for me this morning, I got to thinking: We’re really good at consuming. How are we doing with producing? Sharing?

We’re in the midst of planning an upcoming professional development day for elementary teachers, and they were surveyed to find out what tech integration topics they’d like to explore. One of the responses indicated “websites for use in the primary classroom.” I guess I understand where that response is coming from, but a few keyword searches in a short amount of time could result in a list of such websites. Consuming.

I’m meeting monthly with a group of elementary teachers who volunteer their time after school to explore ideas and tools that will help them become more adept learners, and hopefully bring that knowledge into their classrooms for use with students. We discuss the “shifts” in education- the importance of connected learning- the tools and applications that can be used for students to authentically demonstrate their learning- there’s honestly too much to explore in the short time we have together, but I do appreciate the time these teachers are spending stepping outside of their comfort zones and working to produce. Not only are they creating projects as we explore certain tools, but they’re producing new ways of thinking and transforming their mentalities about teaching and learning.

I often hear, “Well, they have to start somewhere,” in reference to teachers taking on new roles and trying new things in the classroom, but at what point do we apply a little more pressure? How long do we allow teachers to either a) ignore technology and the “shift” or b) use it in superficial ways that don’t necessarily add to student learning before we push them to step outside of their comfort zones? Do we have time to allow them to continue to consume without at least attempting to produce?

Administrators need to provide opportunities for their teachers to become producers of content and ideas. Why? Because our students are natural producers. They act, they sing, they dance, they draw, they make up jokes, they journal, they create websites, they problem solve through social interactions, they establish their own YouTube channels and comment on peers’ work… they produce. If we don’t foster that love of creation in our schools, it will diminish.

Dean Shareski says, “If you generally think of the Internet as a ‘place to look up stuff’ you’re missing the best part.” Agreed. How will you help your teachers become producers and share their ideas? How will you help design learning opportunities for your students to do the same?

Without producers, the consumers will eventually dwindle away, won’t they?

14 Replies to “We consume. Do we produce?”

  1. Lyn,

    I feel that we need to continue to share, share, share and I firmly believe that passionate educators will follow our lead. I also believe that once a few start to share and others see the positive effects that there will be a domino effect.

    There will always be a few that will not ever get on board and the administrators will have to deal with these teachers at some point. The reason is simple, again citing Dean Shareski, we have a moral imperative to share.

    As you say we have to foster that love of creation and the best way to do this is by modeling it for our students.

    Besides, I was always taught that it is better to give than receive. Thanks for being a giver!

    1. Patrick, I agree that a small handful of engaged, enthusiastic teachers can be very influential in helping to bring about more widespread change in our schools! Thanks for all you model for us! I am always learning from you!

  2. Lynn,

    Great post! I am grappling with the same issues now. I think that helping teachers become producers starts with leadership. If we don’t set the example and communicate the value and benefit then our words will be hollow.

    I think that you can only understand the value of producing if you are in fact generating content and products. Doing it myself has helped me to see the degree to which reflecting, writing, and publishing can have a positive impact on my practice as well as my self-concept as a learner and a leader. Besides all of that, it is a lot of fun!

    As a result, I am able to talk about this subject with my teachers and ground my words in real experience. Because I see the value and benefit of producing, I believe that my enthusiasm and passion comes through in my words and presentations on the subject. I really think this fuels their desire to jump in and try themselves.

    Thanks again for sharing. Really thought provoking!


    1. Ian, thank you for sharing your thoughts. I agree that the benefits become so much more apparent to teachers (or anyone) when they start using the tools and creating themselves. You’re right that as leaders we have to share our enthusiasm and our own work to help support teachers and in their endeavors!

  3. Lynn, well articulated. It’s the classic change adoption problem. See for a short piece on that. And underlying that is a classic motivation challenge (Sir Ken’s Element, Dan Pink’s Drive). I think your approach though of working with a few teachers at a time to explore together is a good one. Perhaps take it a bit further and form a learning team and do some action research together to change a classroom practice through using educational technology.

    I recently wrote One person at a time while reflecting on this sort of challenge. Seems from the comments there, lots of us are faced with similar puzzles… but, one person (or a few) at a time, will get us from “here” to “there”.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Brian, and for sharing your post. I recall that one and I agree that we need to help one person at a time develop their skills and comfort levels in these areas to help bring about change in our practice. Next month at our “tech” PD day several of the teachers who work with me in that small group are leading sessions of their own! I’m so excited to see that happen!

  4. An important comment, Lyn.

    Being more of a producer is something that people struggle with for a multitude of reasons I’m sure, but something that needs to be overcome is the sense of proprietorship that competes with the theory of abundance.

    The pooling of shared knowledge and expertise is something that I have come to value and trust with our PLN. I believe that for everything that I ‘take’ from the PLN, I should make an attempt to give something back. I feel that for everything that I borrow, if I can ‘return’ it with things that I might have added to it, then I have helped to better our profession. I have seen this constantly from our PLN, and it is admirable. I believe that this is more along the lines of the theory of abundance.

    Some people are concerned with who “owns” lessons, units, tests, or ideas in education, and I think that this is sad. If everyone contributes to the collective, many hands make light work, and I think we are all the better for it.

    I think we all hope that the more that educators use the internet and social media to learn, the more they will be the “producers” that you describe.

    1. Cale, I couldn’t agree more. I can’t get over the “this is mine, that is yours” mentalities that I sometimes encounter in schools. When teachers claim ownership of certain projects or lessons or book titles or methods, it is incredibly frustrating. This is especially true when their work is of such great value that I know it would benefit other students if they only shared their ideas with others! The smartest person in the room is the room… Thanks so much for your comments!

  5. Hi Lyn,
    Reading your post reminds me why a shift in our practice is so important. What portion of our formal learning experience has been “done” to us? As teachers, how often have we attended workshops or presentations to get “Pro-D’ed”? Its time to shift away from a consumer approach to learning. Engaged learners are active producers of knowledge and content. Traditional approaches to pro d have allowed us to become passive consumers (and too often critics). In most schools, pro d is the thankless work of a dedicated few, charged with the near impossible task of meeting the needs of many who need only to show up. Collaborative models which value sharing and place greater responsibility on the learner are a step towards building stronger learning communities.
    Appreciate your sharing, Terry

    1. Terry, I am in total agreement. I’m definitely starting to develop more of an awareness of how I ask teachers to spend their time and the types of learning experiences we design for them. We had great success with our “Fed Ex” day, and I know my teachers appreciated the autonomy they were granted. It’s fantastic watching teams of teachers rally together around a common purpose and put plans into action to make things happen for kids. My teachers are definitely sick of having PD done “to” them. It should be designed “for” them. Exactly like the learning opportunities we bring to kids in the classroom. Thanks for your comments, Terry!

  6. Hi again,
    Yes, I enjoyed reading about your “Fed Ex” day. Great model! Interesting how the best learning designs apply to students and teachers.

  7. During the first part of my 8 years in the Prof Development dept in our district, we spent a lot of time teaching teachers and staff how to use technology to teach or manage themselves- but it was all mostly teacher-centered technology tools.

    In the last 3 years in that department, we started writing more classes and sharing more with teachers about how to help their students become producers instead of consumers. One class was even titled: From Student Consumers to Student Producers.

    The biggest obstacle was helping teachers to realize that they didn’t need the experts in knowing how to use EVERY tech or web tool themselves. Allow the students some choice in producing – they would surprise the teachers with what they could create. Because I returned to the classroom, I don’t know how well that class or way of thinking is going other than in my own building now. It’s still a shift for a lot of people. We just need to keep modeling and encouraging! 🙂

    1. Michelle, I think you’re right that we need to keep modeling and encouraging and help our teachers realize that they don’t have to be experts in knowing how to use the tools. They do need to recognize the justification for using them and how the use will positively impact learning, but given the choice and opportunity, students will shine with the products they create!! Thanks for adding to the discussion!

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