The Future of Teaching Is Virtual: An Interview With Bena Kallick

The following is the second part of an interview with Bena Kallick, a private consultant providing services to school districts, state departments of education, professional organizations, and public agencies throughout the United States and abroad.

She and Art Costa have just completed an online course for EduPlanet, a company that is dedicated to Professional Development for Educators using the most contemporary tools and thinking to be successful engaging students as 21st century learners.

Perhaps best known for her work with Art Costa developing the Habits of Mind resources for educators, Dr. Bena Kallick is a respected education leader with diverse experience at the highest levels of learning. Kallick’s most recent endeavor is Eduplanet, a teacher professional development company looking to “revolutionize the education industry using social media as the platform for 21st century learning.”

In a series of emails, I talked with Kallick about learning, specifically teacher development, and the appropriate role of social media in the teacher development process. What follows is part two of our two-part interview (click here for the first part of the interview).

Questions & Answers

Terry Heick: Putting education aside for a moment, how do you personally use social media?

Bena Kallick: I have been using LinkedIn discussions and forums. I also engage with the Institute for Habits of Mind ning and Facebook presence. I pay attention to Curriculum21 and the nings as well as Google plus with that group. I use Google docs with a number of people.

Over the last decade, we’ve seen the internet change in parallel with education, from isolated websites (classrooms), to highly interdependent groups (Professional Learning Communities). Is this a coincidence?
The internet is a learning environment–for better and for worse. It would make sense that education would find ways to participate in this opportunity to think beyond the local while, at the same time, thinking in response to the local.

Social media’s focus on statistics and growth has been stunning to watch. Facebook has become a spectacle in and of itself, recently admitting that it’d like not simply to be a website to share pictures and updates, but to replace the internet entirely. What can education learn from this kind of ambition–or hubris?
Education will have to think more imaginatively about what is possible beyond the brick and mortar conception of a schoolhouse. The innovations seem to focus more on accountability rather than how to respond to new kinds of learners.

In your mind, was there ever a time that “school” responded rationally to the diversity of learners and communities? Is it possible that in 50 years, we might look back at this period as a sort of awakening to the possibilities of learning and learning forms?
I do believe that schools serve society and that our society, as it was becoming industrialized, required a different sort of thinking–worker/manager. Although this did not necessarily support another important social need, building an educated citizenship for a democracy, it did serve the capitalist ventures of that time. Times have changed both in terms of educating citizens and educating for a new work environment.

You mention both citizenship and capitalist ventures. Wendell Berry speaks often of the importance of that which is “local” and authentic. While it might be a stretch to see the Common Core standards as “socialism,” the concept of “alignment” seems institutionally-centered, supporting assessment and norm-referencing, including State-level pursuit of Federal carrots. Do you think a “national curriculum” is a “net gain”?
When I talk about local I mean the community in which you live. When I refer to global, I mean the larger world in which we have all become world citizens. I see the Common Core as an opportunity to develop a common national language for what matters. I believe that each state having its own standards has only confounded the issue as to what is important. I believe that given a national framework such as the Common Core, the local districts might have a greater opportunity to respond to their communities. The state is often an interference, and Federal carrots usually feed the political agenda and often starve the children.

Any thought of applying the Cognitive Coaching model anywhere in the Eduplanet process?
Once influenced by cognitive coaching, it surfaces as an important way of thinking in all that I do. When Art Costa and I developed the Habits of Mind learning path, we used some of the basic ideas about communication such as listening and questioning. When we considered how to develop activities for social learning, we built into these activities a sensitivity to how people would interact with each other–learning how to think interdependently. Since Habits of Mind was the first path developed, all others have been developed with similar influences. Learning how to learn in a virtual environment requires a great deal of sensitivity to one another. Habits of Mind as well as Cognitive Coaching are a foundation for such interactions.

If you could magically build a single brick-and-mortar teaching training facility that was physically (and magically) accessible to all teachers, would you prefer that, or the learning-path-via-social-media? In other words, has Eduplanet created this method of improving teacher capacity by choice or necessity?
It is by choice as I have been enticed by the possibilities that technologies have brought to my way of thinking. I have learned so much about how the uses of technology change the way I think. I want to continue to build the muscle of my mind always and in all ways. I wish that for all people–children and adults. So, a learning path via social media is only the first step in what may be many other paths. What is nice about a path versus a brick and mortar building is that it does not limit the directions that can be taken. There does need to be a GPS so that we do not lose our integrity, social, and moral commitments.

TeachThought would like to thank Bena Kallick and EduPlanet for their time, for collaboratively publishing the interview, and Wendell Berry for being Wendell Berry.