Goal: Cause a Ripple

Part of the Goals 2010 Challenge Series, Goal 14

Touch the SkyWhile studying in college, I came across the Ripple Effect Theory. I was so enthused about the theory, I adopted it as a life motto. When we’re young we do that. Recently, I discovered that this theory has been applied to education. According, to Wise Geek, Jacob Kounin coined this term in 1970 in reference to classroom management. As Wise Geek describes,
“When you throw a pebble into a pond, you’ll see a splash and hear the resounding plunk of the pebble. You might notice concentric circles rippling out from the locus point of where the pebble hit the water. The thrown pebble might also have other effects… You are connected to the pebble, the water and the effects of throwing by the ripples… You have caused change through a single and simple act.”
I believe the ripple effect can be applied to the current movement occurring in education through social media networks. I believe that educators are being inspired by their Personal Learning Networks (PLN) to cause ripples in their schools and local communities. Steve Moore’s post, Is Twitter Just Window Dressing?, made me reflect on this ripple effect theory. Here’s my response:
I think because the numbers are there people will naturally look at them. However, every field has its community builders and with community building comes numbers. If every member is actively participating then real change is inspired. That is what we need in education. We need each educator to go into their schools and cause a ripple. Even a small ripple makes such a lasting impact with a student, parent, educator, or administrator who in turns sends a ripple. I love that about social media. I believe PLNs inspire educators to cause ripples that are making a difference in a field that has been bombarded with bad policies and overrun by politicians who never were educators, do not have their own children in public schools, nor have spent enough time at at-risk schools trying to figure out why there’s such an enormous achievement gap that hasn’t closed for decades.

Preventing a Ripple

Ironically, the original intent of the theory by Jacob Kounin was preventative. Kounin believed teachers should deal with negative behavior at the onset to prevent a ripple effect of this behavior. In a recent Skype conversation with Tom Whitby and Steve Anderson we discussed why lecturing is still heavily used in many schools and why many teachers cling to ineffective instructional methods. One aspect is that student teachers who are getting into the field are trained by those who use traditional methods. Tom Whitby will be discussing more of these topics in his new blog, which should be coming today! Tom discussed how getting new teachers the right type of mentors would encourage them to use effective instructional strategies.
Considering this information, I want to make a long-term goal of causing positive ripples and preventing negative ripples. Everyday is an opportunity to stir the water, but are we actually making conscious efforts to do this? Do we really reflect on the consequences of all our actions before we make a move? I don’t, but this year I plan to reflect before I act.
Challenge: Teach your students about causing positive ripples in their community! Help them develop a PLN, start a club, volunteer, and so forth.

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What are your thoughts? How can we cause and prevent ripples?