Last Friday I had the pleasure of Skyping into a school in Singapore to talk about my TEDx Talk I did back in September. The principal showed it to his staff and then invited me in via Skype to answer questions.

I got into a conversation with one teacher about whether I believed that teachers would be replaced by machines. That, according to him, teaching is the second oldest profession in the world behind prostitution and that as long as we have been “human” there have always been teachers and no machine will ever replace that.

I stopped for a moment, smiles, and then said something along these lines:

By Flickr ID: awesomerealm

I agree with you…we’re not going to be replaced by machines, but individual teachers will, I believe, be replaced by communities of learners. In those communities, everyone will be a teacher and everyone will be a learner. We might not even distinguish between them. Once students and schools figure out they can learn, what they want to learn, when they want to learn, in always on, always supporting communities than the day of the stand and teach teacher is over. We’re already seeing kids from these communities. There isn’t a video game created today that does not help support a community around it. In fact, video game makers have the right approach. You create something really difficult…you let people go at it for awhile trying to solve the problem and then you give a “secret hint” or a “cheat”. Which was built into the game to help hold people’s attention and to help the community get stronger. Everyone sharing cheats, secrets, and talking about the game is a learning community. There are teachers, there are learners, but nobody identifies themselves as such because they are learning something they are passionate about and honestly nobody cares what your age is, where you’re from or what level you’re stuck on. They’re just there to help and learn.

Sure not every subject a student takes in school is going to be their passion (although I think we should get there). But that’s not to say that students still would not choose if given the choice, to join the community they want to learn from. Who says that this teacher and this group of kids that you are tied to physically is your group? Is your best learning community? They might be, but that teacher in Beijing, or Iowa, or Germany might be a great person to have in your community as well, and what about that student from Inda who is really passionate about this specific topic….why wouldn’t you want her in your community to learn from and with as well?

We have the tools….it’s the Internet. All we need is a switch. Maybe University of the People is that switch. Once this generation or their kids’ generation figures out that school can be just like that community they have on the Xbox…..then you, the individual teacher will be replaced by a community.

All three of my presentation here at ETC09 continue to hit on the point of creating a PLN you can trust and find ways to use. It’s so powerful…..but it’s hard to explain just how powerful of a learning tool it is without having people really get in there and get their hands dirty.

So today I found a new use for my PLN. Every time I try something this like I’m amazed at the help and response I continue to receive from educators around the world who are willing to jump and help out at the drop of a hat.

So here’s the story of today:

Although Borneo is amazing their Internet connection is…well…should we say inconsistent and slow. It’s up and down, completely unreliable, and frustrating to say the least. The one service that seems to run without fail is Twitter. I’m not sure if it’s the small packet size or what but Twitter continues to run while the rest of the web comes to a screeching halt (I never that we’d see that happen!).

So this morning I’m preparing for my presentation and go to edit the wiki page I had created for my “Digital Tools for Digital Educators” session. The Internet was running really slow and with only two hours to go before my presentation I was getting worried that I wouldn’t have anything preloaded.

So I used the one tool that worked….Twitter. I sent out a call to anyone with a good Internet connection to please go and add a must have tool for educators. An hour later I have enough tools to fill my 90 minute session and then some. Complete with YouTube how-to videos, examples of use in the classroom, and much more.


Now I’m part of this network, and I understand that this is exactly how it’s suppose to work, but it still amazes me! I started my presentation today in a room of 50+ educators by thanking educators around the world who two hours before had just created my presentation. I talked about how this came to be and just how amazing this was going to be that these 50 people were actually being taught by teachers around the world…..I just happened to be the voice for them all.

It was great to see people coming up to a whiteboard that was in the room and writing down the names of those who have twitter accounts here at the conference as they start to build their own network. During one of my sessions yesterday I asked those on Twitter to please write their Twitter handles on the board to help others start their PLN. It was a great example of how a PLN can be used to created content through connections.

In my first session I shared a quote with the group that came from a Vanity Fair article entitled: How the Web was Won. A fantastic look at the history of the Internet.

We thought communities trumped content. ~Steve Case (1985)

How interesting that even before the web as we know it today was created that the founders of what would become The Web already knew that what these connections allowed were communities and in the long run it would be these communities that made The Web so powerful.

I believe that’s what this little story of mine shows. Sure the content is there, but it’s the community that was the important part. And not just any community, but a community of people who live in a “nearly now” space. Which is the true power of Twitter. If I would have posted this on my blog it never would have happened. Without the community I would not have had the content. The connection with people lead to an amazing opportunity for people here on an island in the South Pacific to learn. An opportunity for them to learn from educators around the world. My job was simply to display and point people to the collective resources.

Thank you to everyone who helped me out with this presentation. I hope someday I can return the favor.