Dean Shareski: When You're Not the Smartest Person in the Room

Still in the virtual conference world, this time not blogging but listening, learning, and snapping webinar screen shots of Dean Shareski, Digital Learning Consultant, Prairie South School Division, Moose Jaw, SK, Canada. His presentation, When You’re Not the Smartest Person in the Room: How Network Learning Changes Everything, continues to connect the thoughts by making the case that everyone needs to be a networked learner. Why? Dean answers by asking a pivotal question that is the common denominator to all connected teachers: Who Is Your Teacher?

The PA DEN Leadership Council team is just the most awesome group of people who willingly cross-over from one team to another, just to get the job done, and let me tell you they do it very well! Whether members are officially on the blog or events teams never really matters. We just pull to together to get everything covered. Today we have a number of guest bloggers, and for this Virtual Conference session, we have a new blogger and a great synopsis of Dean Shareski’s presentation.

Guest Blogger Vicki Reed Contact Information
CFF Coach, Technology Specialist
Hempfield High School
200 Stanley Avenue
Landisville, PA 17538
Skype ~ vicki.reed.17
Twitter ~ vreed17

Dean Shareski Contact Information
Twitter ~ @shareski

Dean began with a classroom activity that he sometimes uses, which is yourself in 4 pictures. Can you use 4 pictures to express exactly who you are?

Dean is not the technology wire person; he is the curriculum person for South Prairie School District and also teaches pre-teachers at the University of Regina.

Part 1: Getting Rid of Walls

Extend learning beyond the walls of the classroom to bring in the smart people you know.

Elusive terms Individualized Instruction and Adaptive Dimension (today may have morphed into DI. Early teachers were so isolated and you were on your own. It is hard to figure out what is best for students. Collaboration 21 years ago was not used in education. The whole idea of community was an important part of what we do. People would drop in and just say hi, have coffee and communicate.

Students working alone on a laptop also do not build community. This is not a reflection of an individual thing, but is a part of the institution. Technology is pushing the change for schools. Barn raising ideas are not new, but technology is pushing the idea of community, and that changes exponentially the question of Who’s Your Teacher? Is it an MIT college professor teaching a physics lesson or a 10 year who instructs you on how to use a green screen in Window Movie Maker and then shares out that instruction on YouTube. It’s both. And more.

“The longer we keep up the facade that school is the primary place of the learning, the sooner it becomes irreleven.” We need to teach students to be life-long learners. How do we help students in this direction. If school ends, does learning for our some of students end?

As educators we need to consider ourselves as connectors first and then content experts second – Will Richardson.

Networked learning opens the room to include a diversity of learners and teachers, making the room the smartest person in it because teachers became connectors, networking to connect the thoughts of many. Here is a web site you can use for extracting links from your twitter feeds (

Mentors and connectors teach by using Skype. Cathy Cassidy could not get a local connection, so she asked her PLN on Twitter and someone suggested Dr. Greg from the University of Oregon. She was not able to get into local schools, so she Skyped with a school some distance away and connected. Some examples of how you can connect the thoughts:

The common denominator of the teachers above is about connections.

Part 2 – What assets do you have in your classroom?

The smartest person in the room is the room. We can learn from each other.

The current generation of college student has no memory. This creates a greater discord with students and their education. What should face to face instruction look like? There are times when lecture is necessary, there are times when students do need to work along, but this should not be the dominant classroom structure.

Record instruction in a podcast. Think about differentiating between what you want students to do at school versus what they can do out of school. They can listen to a lecture out of school. How can we use school face-to-face time to maximize what students DO when they are at school? Quoting a student: “It’s amazing how much you can learn as a collective when you get rid of the notion that knowledge must come from the instructor.”

Two questions to answer at the end of the term. How did you contribute to the learning of others? What did you learn from others? Students need to document this at the end of the school year. This can happen through a blog, this is how the teachers finds out what they are really learning. The students need to have these conversations take place, it can be a back channel (it doesn’t have to be technical.) He also uses Ning for more targeted discussions. As an educator, Dean has to resist the temptation to go in and take over the direction of the discussion. If a discussion goes off-track, he has the ability to go in and redirect it.

Transparency isn’t easy. Students do not know how to respond to this system. Students need to feel comfortable making mistakes and building trust. Students are so used to teachers just telling them what they need to know and putting forth the correct answers, they are uncomfortable being wrong.

In conclusion, look outside your classroom and use collective knowledge in your class to determine how you can restructure your classroom.

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  1. RJ Stangherlin said:

    I said it in a email and I’ll say it again–fantastic job. You make our LC great with your strength, talent, and willingness to work, pitching in and covering, doing whatever it takes. THANK YOU so much for your insights.

  2. Pingback: Discovery Educator Network Spring Virtual Conference | Honor Moorman

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