This my response to Jen Wagner’s post on Friendship and 140 Characters
Fascinating conversation. My reaction? OK, once again, I venture into the realm where people write sonnets and I am going to sound all – blah, bub-blah, bub-blah, me-too, bub-blah, me-too.
How do I sort through all the thoughts posted, reconcile the conflicting themes in my heart and head, and tease from the conversation the nuggets of brilliance that resonate with me and mold them into coherent response? Here goes:
1) Sorting The Constant Flow. That is an idea that resonates. Since I started blogging socially 3 years ago and professionally 2 years ago, I think that is a large a part of what has been happening to me. My attention has turned outward to a bigger wider world of ideas that I would not be a part of unless I had taken those steps. It is a cascade of new ideas that I am finding difficult to keep up with, never mind choosing the pieces I need to weave into my professional practice. Recently (maybe in the WoW2 chat room) somebody referred to “gulping from the fire hose of ideas”. Going from reading blogs to actively participating in Twitter is like going from the garden hose to the firehose. In reading blogs I could pick up an idea here, and idea there. With Twitter, it is a constant flow, in real time. Really smart people, talking in real time to other really smart people and posting links about what they are checking out. The pace of new ideas has grown exponentially. I found I had to rethink and redesign my delicious tagging system to help keep track.
2) People Like Me / The Stupidest Guy in the Room. Twitter has provided a view into other professional’s lives. They all do not do exactly the same job as me but as others have tweeted I have found that lots of other tech educators are like me. They have their computers on beyond work hours. They work hard at their jobs in the hours beyond work. They try to balance family and technology. I am not nuts to do what I do. There are people like me out there. Lots of folks are puzzled, confused and trying to make sense of all of this stuff, and working hard outside of school to try new things and work it all out. They are thoughtful, wise, kind, and funny.
In my pond, I am often seen (with respect to technology), as the “guru wizard” who reveals the “magic things” that happen inside the box and out on the web. I am not smarter than anybody else, I am just a teacher who has chosen to get paid for paying closer attention to technology. And yet the blogoshpere and twitterverse have shown me that there is so much more happening with people who are sharper than me, who have wrapped their brains tighter around the salient ideas, and are moving in directions that I never could have imagined. It is as if I have gone from swimming in my pond to stepping into the water at a large lakeside beach. I am in just up to my ankles in the cold water, and there are people doing backflips off the raft. I am standing there wondering how, and if I should walk in up to my waist. I know I am at an exciting place to swim, but will I ever be able to get to the raft? Sometimes it is an exciting, challenging, anxiety provoking thought to realize that you are the stupidest guy in the room.
3) Twitter Manners / Friendship. This is the most intriguing part of Jen’s discussion and replies. It is a social give and take that makes a lot of Web 2.0 all work. It is like a virtual staff room as some have said. That is hard for me. I am terminally shy in real life and perhaps more so in a virtual environment. In my real staff rooms I am the quiet guy reading the paper. I am a listener and lurker in SL and in live chat areas. I read blogs but comment only if I have something really unique to say. I am flattered when folks follow me on Twitter, and I always add folks as followers (on a recent This Week in Tech podcast – Jason Calacanis (Mahalo.com) talked about the value added of web geek, Robert Scoble w/ a following of 6500+ twitters, and who always allows folks to follow him and follows all people who follow him, by saying that he could parlay that into value for anybody who hires him. He has a social roladex he can exploit easily by tweeting about a site he likes and driving web traffic. Essentially saying that social network contacts like Twitter can be monetized).
However after you are following somebody, and a bunch of folks are following you what is the correct behavior for tweeting? Miguel Guhlin said that he looks at Twitter as the ebb and flow of human contact and enjoys the casual updates. He looks to the person’s blog as a way to understand more about them and what they are into. He tends to do the follower/followee by checking to see if the person is an educational blogger to help narrow his focus. That seems reasonable (however, it is cool to follow people like Veronica Belmont, and there are people I only know by tweet that I have come to respect).
Should I then limit my tweets to educational matters? Do you tweet at the personal level, and then blog at an intellectual level? Am I the ultimate bore when I tweet all weekend long about football, or my running, or doing my chores? Is this just my poor social skills that I am throwing myself out there saying – look at me? Look at what I am doing? Anybody?
It is a curious mix in the twitterverse. I agree with most of the folks on friendship. I have been socially blogging long enough to know that electronic “friendships” do come and go. People that I got to “know” a little bit at a personal level stop blogging or stop commenting on my blog (my social blog revolves mostly around cycling and sports).
Is this different at a professional level?
Most likely I will see you at a conference and we will introduce ourselves, or we will have an exchange online that will lead to another exchange, kind of like in real life. If that blossoms, it blossoms. I do not need intimacy to feel that what I learn from you in Twitter/Ning/Blogs/SL is valuable. And maybe that is my social shyness talking. I am not going to Skype/contact you unless I have a reason, and it is ok if you blow me off.
4) Addiction/Distraction. This is bothersome to me as is the whole wired 24/7/365 nature of where we are going. Part of the power of Twitter is its addictive nature. I am not sure of how it is much different than IM, except for this sweet spot in time there is this group of tech ed folks who have gravitated here. Is it just trendy like mySpace giving way to Live Journal to Facebook to Ning? Will it be Twitter to Pounce, to Jaiku to back to Twitter for the edtech community? It was for Leo Laporte’s This Week in Tech Folks.
In the same way my 16 year old has to have her AIM up when she works, I now find that Twitter is up on my laptop all the time when I am at home. Somehow I “need” to see what everybody is saying, is doing. Why is that? Two months ago I did not “need” that. I have had a Twitter account for a while. I did not use it until I caught some of the buzz.
It is a distraction. It is funny as I sit here writing away on this Sunday the “tweets” are flying by about the post and replies. No less than 6 times have I stopped to checkout what others are saying about 140 characters. A couple of times I have almost stopped because I thought somebody had already said what I was currently writing about much better than me. I could never open up Twitter if I had “real” work to get done.
I could never connect to it at work. I have enough trouble keeping up with incoming emails disrupting my workflow. There is an organizational guru who says that you should only check your work email twice a day. Once about 10AM, and another about an hour before you go home. I am seriously thinking that I will adopt that rule for December and just concentrate on the to do list for the day. I can’t imagine if I had Twitter popping up all day.
So I get to the end, without the profundity I desired and probably saying everything that others have said in different words. But, the conversation struck chords in my mind and it is now out of my head and on a page. I believe the writing helped me to put some form to my thoughts and I think I will return to this conversation in my head soon, now with some type of frame to hang it on. Thanks for listening.
Cross Posted in Seriously Wired
There are times in the headlong rush to pronounce that the world flat and our kids are round, that I have a disquieting feeling in the pit of my stomach. We pick up the pace as teachers to engage in all the new tools because the kids are there, and we are behind, and we are sending them into a world of global competition, and if they are not willing to view the world as a 24 hour market place where some kid on the other side of the planet can beat them out of their profit margin if they don’t move at the hyper warp speed, they won’t be ready.
In the vanguard of Education 2.0 are the cries to embrace whole cloth anything that connects, to get our kids there, drop the filters, just teach them responsible practice, advanced practitioners vs. the IT department, rage against the machine, bring down the walls, the world is flat for heaven’s sake!
It gives me great pause. And every once in a while that pause, that disquiet in the pit of my stomach gets a little validation from the people I read and respect. I sense that somewhere lurking back here is a bit of reservation. Can it be that they like me think that we have to introduce our kids to this brave new world, but with a great deal of wonder at where it is all taking us?
Let me explain further by way of a story. I went to my dentist. In catching up with news he and I and the assistant began talking about my job, and kids and Internet safety. He allowed that the was very strict with his kids. To control their access to the computer and the Internet he had some type of lock box device where you literally had to have a parent with a key to allow the kids to use the computer.
Now I know him, and his kids. He and his wife (his partner in the practice) are the absolute salt of the earth. They are the parents you always see volunteering at the school, in the booth, at the concession stand. They have a dental practice in a old mill town. They, for the longest time, held their rates and bent to the insurance company whims to keep with the guidelines so folks with dental insurance would not have to pay out of pocket.
When I coached their kid in Little League they went out of their way to thank me at the end of the season, and a couple of days later there was a card in the mail with two tickets to the local minor league team’s game. I knew them as parents long before I ever knew that they were local dentists.
Their kid was “pulled up” to play major league at age 8 because we were short and my head coach saw her play and wanted to “grab her” so she would be on his team for the next three years (without having to go through the league draft). She was a great kid, tough as nails, but in over her head against 12 year olds. She had such passion. I can still see her in the catcher gear, three sizes too big going behind the plate because nobody else would do it. And I remember when she came back to the bench in tears, because she was so mad at herself that she struck out. I tried my best to tell her what a great player she was that all she had to do was grow up into it. It was with little effect. She did not like striking out, and it upset her that she was not better. She was not being a baby, she was mad, that she could not perform at the level required to succeed.
This child gets little or no Internet access because her father wants it that way. And you know what, I think that’s OK. In fact I think that is great. Far from being fearful that this child will get beat out in the flat world, I am fearful that she will go out and become part of it. I don’t want her out here flitting from one job to the next, and pulling out her Blackberry and iPhone to stay connected to the stock market in Uzbekistan. I want her and her passion and her drive to stay right here in my community. I want her and other kids like her to be just like her Mom and Dad serving the community, filling places on local boards and commissions, or the church council, or running the hospital charity softball tournament. When I am 80, I want to be looking up at her at the other end of the mask and drill, owning her parents practice, replacing the fillings her mother put in and admiring her father’s work in making my crowns 30 years past.
I wonder that if we chase the flat world, we will never be deep with roots that anchor us and our families to the RL community (rather than a virtual community like SL)?
I am reminded of a story I heard about the life of Henry David Thoreau. In his time in New England, to be considered to be a “polished” young gentleman, you had to have traveled to Europe for study and culture. If you didn’t you were looked down upon. When at a party, the poor Thoreau was asked if he had yet “done the continent”, Thoreau supposedly replied, “No, but I have traveled widely in Concord.”
And then I am reminded of an old Stan Rogers song about the demise of Canadian Maritime fishermen and the Atlantic fishing industry –
“So, what’s now this romantic boy,
Who laments what’s done and gone!
There was no romance on cold winter ocean,
And the gales sang an awful song,
But my father’s ship knew of wind and tide
And my blood is Maritime,
I heard an old song on Fisherman’s Wharf,
Can I sing it just one time?
Can I sing it just one time?”
cross posted in Seriously Wired
A analysis of US Dept of Education data by researchers Johns Hopkins for the Associated Press, has caught attention by labeling schools with very high dropout rates as “dropout factories”. Media hype aside (one wonders if the study had not been done FOR Associated Press if the pejorative term would have used) the web posting on te local NBC affiliates site had this telling quote –
“Education researchers said specialized programs such as the ninth-grade academies at Hartford’s high schools have shown promise in reversing dropout rates.
Other initiatives getting good marks include strong mentoring programs, after-school community programs and alternative schools that focus on special topics or practical skills that interest students and make them want to stay enrolled. Several schools also are bolstering their elementary-school reading programs, saying that students who fall behind as preteens may become so frustrated by their freshman year that they give up in disgust and leave.
“One of the indicators we ask schools to look at is the reading level of every third-grader, and to look at that statistic hard and fast,” said Jay Smink, executive director of the National Dropout Prevention Center at Clemson University.
“For every kid that’s not at grade level, you’d better initiate an intervention immediately or you’ll be writing a dropout ticket for them, come ninth grade,” he said.
Here is the link – http://www.nbc30.com/news/14452864/detail.html?dl=headlineclick
Cross posted in Seriously Wired
Caution, rant ahead.
My brethren and sisteran of CECA/CEMA, I cannot tell you how angry I am after attending your conference at the Hartford Convention Center today. I have to vent it all here tonight. Now let me begin by stating that I get it. It is an all volunteer effort. It is in a new venue and it was a marriage of money between the techies and the librarians to get the new Connecticut Convention Center. I did my time on the CECA Board way back, I did my time when CECA did two conferences (Fall in the western half of the state, Spring in the east). This year was a hard one. And yet, when on earth will you get it!
I am sorry. The conference was filled with lots of talk (but very little actual classroom practice) on Web 2.0. Where were the Web 2.0 tools for this conference? Where was the wiki set up? Where were the google docs? What was the common tagging format for the conference? Where were the Flickr photos being uploaded? Your keynote last year was David Warlick for God’s sake! He showed us how to use these tools in his presentation 12 months ago. Did it all fall on deaf ears? Here you have a couple of thousand people in a perfect place to collaborate on line – it was the POINT of your keynote in 2006!
What would have happened if there was a preset open wiki with each presentation having a page? Could we not have all edited and combined our notes into one big wiki that would have been there for everyone? Did anybody put the conference on Warlick’s Hitchhikr? Did the K12 Online conference running these two weeks ever get a mention (except by the one presenter who said it was over)? Nothing on the revised NETS adopted in June 2007? Did anybody Twitter? We are ostensibly the educational technology leaders for the state of Connecticut and you are the leaders of those leaders.
You chose as your keynote, Dr. Henry Lee (more about Henry later) and you put Kathy Schrock in a room that held 30 which crammed into 60, and others walked away because there was no room. You put Will Richardson on for closing remarks in the Ballroom at 4PM. Will Richardson, the godfather of educational blogging and the person everyone on a national level points to as a seminal voice in the educational Web 2.0 movement. Will Richardson delivered his thunder at 4PM before a couple of hundred people slowly dwindling as the hour went by as folks moved out to beat the 5PM traffic jams in Hartford. Henry Lee made snide remarks about tragic deaths in front of 3000. I am sorry. Dr. Henry is a famous CT celebrity and has a national reputation in forensics. He does nothing that informs my practice, or gives me insight. He speaks with a thick accent that I find very hard to understand. He did attempt to be humorous in speaking about he cases he has been involved with. However, if I were the family of Vincent Foster or Shondra Levy I would have been disgusted to know that my relative’s tragic death was being used in a cavalier way in front of a audience of thousands. I tell you truly, I walked out. I know that there were many others who left upset with the graphic photos of the murder scenes. Henry Lee was the wrong choice.
Thank you Kathy for your grace in moving from the theory to practice and the sheer breadth of your knowledge. No matter when I hear you I cannot get over the font of resources you are. I hope to join you in Second Life on Thursday (Estaban Zenovka).
Thank you, Will for your impassioned clarity. You said in your blog a few weeks ago that you were wondering if it was all worth it. Please do not stop with your thunderous message. Judging from what I saw today, there are too many still living with their heads in the sand.
We must change. The world is changing around us. The kids are there, they are not waiting. The tools exist, they are free for the taking. When will CECA and the librarians in CEMA stop talking the talk and start walking the walk?
The clueless question of the day, after sitting through 35 minutes of a 45 minute presentation – “So, I am not sure I know where to find this Web 2.0. I don’t know how to connect to it. When I find it, will all these things you have talked about be listed on one page?” Heaven help us…….
This case from my state was percolating in the news at the end of last school year. I will direct you to the article from the Hartford Courant for the current state of affairs. The short version is that the student was active in school affairs and a popular spring activity was canceled because of some kind of screw up by the adults at the district level. The girl reacted in her blog and wrote the above slur about her Supt. School found out, she had to have her mother come in, had to apologize, had to pull down the post(s) and was not allowed to run for class secretary. Banning her from running from office was the last straw. She protested and went to court. Case raised all kinds of on campus /off campus free speech issues that the judge has to sort through.
My take? As I wrote last spring, adults have to step up and not be thin skinned. It was an educational opportunity that the student certainly seized and is learning from. And I hereby declare that as a teacher I have at times been a douche-bag, the principals I work for at times have been douche-bags, and my central office staff have been douche-bags. And we will be again. I only hope the folks in her school district learn as much as she will from this case.
I purposefully stayed away from the keys over the late summer. I wanted a break and I wanted to see if after a couple of years of social and professional blogging what would happen if I stopped. Would I want to continue? Would I miss the daily checking of others blogs and posting my ill formed and half baked thoughts.
Obviously, I am back. I found that the structure of the school year settled my daily routine and I was again curling up with the laptop in as part of my evening routine. I still don’t know if what i have to say is professionally y relevant to anybody, but I enjoy reading the more powerful voices and I like pointing out some things of professional to me interest here.
I have some goals for incorporating Web 2.0 this year that are already being crowded out by the drumbeat of daily demands. I hope to have more here as I go along. Last week looked sooooo, promising, for implementing new ideaS and then all of a sudden, this week exploded.
However, I will get back to visiting Second Life and I am determined to continue my fledging work with Classroom Blogs and Wikis. More when I know it….
Scot McLeod wrote about the countdown mentality and what it means for schools. kids, teachers and learning.
(Dangerously Irrelevant: The countdown mentality). I too have been always struck by this phenomenon. It has been a curiosity from my earliest days of teaching where my colleague literally had a calendar by her desk and "X’ed" off each day starting with our first day inSeptember, to now where I work in a school system that has "added" extra days and hours to the school calendar (183 days for kids/186 for teachers) so that with an average set of school closings because of New England snow my last official day is Monday June 25 (one of several reasons I will not be at NECC07 in Atlanta). One of the interesting quirks is that we have our last professional development day on the last teacher day. So, our kids leave on Friday, and we all get to come back for one more day – Monday. Quality PD time – you bet!
Now I am also one of the chosen few who have extra days added to my calendar and I work 10 days during the summer. Let’s make that – I get paid for 10 summer days, the work is often longer than that. And it is all valuable work for teachers and kids. I will coordinate several new initiatives that will come on line in September. A bunch of Smartboard classrooms, wireless in new places, a piece of the town wide VOIP phone system, a new Filemaker and web available report card and student info system, plus our normal summer computer purchases and set up. The VOIP will require that I have a much tighter map of the physical data network in three buildings. Did I mention that my colleague and buddy took the job of Town -wide IT director job and has the charge of molding us all into a new department, and step one is to hire his replacement by early July? As other folks "X" off the days and talk about heading to the beach, or the mountains, I just look at work and rather than counting down to June, I start counting down to August 27.
One of the things that I have noticed as this crowded summer schedule has grown, is that my body, my family life, and my spiritual being is much better when I have time to stop, let the batteries drain to zero, and recharge. Last July I was greatly energized by NECC06 and all the things I did in San Diego, however the most important part of the trip was the week after in the high desert of eastern Oregon, where I allowed myself to do nothing. To visit my friends, to wake early, read at dawn, run, take a hike, sightsee, and unplug. Making my mind think about things not normally part of its daily existence, taking time to read novels and the local papers rather than blogs and manuals did wonders for my spirit and energy. I do not know if this is just a by-product of running too hard, or if this type of break makes me better in my job, but I do know that it feels good. When I carve out these chunks where I disengage from my so called life and force myself to "be away" for a while, I gain perspective, ideas bubble up from somewhere deeper in my brain, and I am better for it.
That is one of the reasons I try to be objective and hold the wired world of Web 2.0 and blogging after work, and Skyping around the globe, and Twittering and heading off to Second Life after a full day in Real Life a full arm’s length away. Being always available and always connected and always participating is at variance with what I have found necessary for my best efforts, and mental and physical health.
I do enjoy being unplugged and more and more I design time where I need to be far enough away from the people I work for so that they cannot find me for a while, and more importantly i cannot find them. I wonder if the new Nextel Crackberry on my belt will get Push-To-Talk service in Hell’s Canyon?
Rick Green’s take in today’s Courant