Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Power of the Network....or yelling into the void?

When I first joined Twitter, it was a fledgling enterprise.  I joined in May of 2007, just a little over a year after the launch of the site.  It was just starting to get recognition in the ed tech community.

And it was a powerful thing.

I would do presentations and ask for a shout out from my Twitter Network, and boy would they come through for me!  They would immediately start saying "hi" from wherever they were located.  It amazed the educators for whom I was presenting and really showed the usefulness of such a device.

More than that, though, if I had a question, I knew that I could go to my network and have an answer - or a collection of answers - in a matter of minutes.

Things have changed since then.  Now there are hashtags and lists.  People that used to follow me are now followed by thousands.  I think it's amazing how fast it has grown. I can't wait to see what the next big thing will be.


There's almost too much information out there now. I know that I can't keep up with all of the tweets. I certainly don't read them all. Who could?  And thus is the problem.  Today, I was asked to make a dream list of things I would want in my classroom. If money was no object, what technology would I get?  Now, I've worked in education long enough that I have made many of those lists and never seen anything.  But, with what little hope I have left, I am determined to make a comprehensive list just in case I can get even one thing.

But what to get?  1:1 technology, obviously. An interactive whiteboard would be nice. Good headsets so that I don't hear the kids recording and listening to their dialogues.  But what else?

So I turned to my network. My trust PLN will certainly help me, right?

Not one response. I even posted it a few times, just in case it was getting lost in the shuffle.  Nothing.

It reminds me of a song from a marginalized band from the 90's, Burlap to Cashmere:
Whoa....is there anybody out there?
Does anybody care?
Are the people really there?
Whoa....is there anybody seeking?
Does anybody see?
Or are they deaf and dumb like me?
Is there anyone out there anymore?  When the Twitterverse was young, people used it as a means for a brief conversation. A way to get quick answers or to end up in discussions.  But now....do we just use it as a platform to tell other people what we think?

I've been doing a lot of soul searching since my mom passed, and I've come to realize that I do far too much talking. I'm working on being a better listener - both as a teacher and as a person.  I absolutely still voice my opinion, but I try to listen to others before saying anything.  And I am learning so much.

The power of the network was one of the most awe-inspiring things I've ever seen. But now?  I wonder if it isn't just down to a few select people who are "special" enough to be heard.

So I urge you - retweet things (use the hashtag #celebratewisdom), engage in conversations. We are not alone. We are not in this alone. We are not competing for attention. Everyone - no matter how few followers they have - should feel like they are a part of the conversation and that people are there for them to answer questions, too. Imagine on how much wisdom we could be missing out on. Our PLNs don't seem to be what they used to.  How can we get them back?


Jamey Boelhower said...

I enjoyed your thoughts and am sorry for your loss.
I agree. The everydayness of Twitter has changed. I could find myself in random conversations with people at any time. Now, with Twitter Chats, it seems my feed is filled with 140 character quotes or links to how to get more followers. The Twitter Chats are powerful, no doubt. But I don't enjoy Twitter as much as I use to. I do crave deeper discussions about the links or videos people share. I do read / watch many of the things people share but have no serious format to engage with them about the information.

Susan said...

That's actually why I took a hiatus a few years ago. I saw the shift happening and I didn't find myself engaging as readily. It used to be a place where real, authentic learning took place (at least for me).

I came back to Twitter because I felt so disconnected. I was the lone teacher on my island. I don't know that I feel more connected now, but I don't feel quite as disconnected.

My thoughts must be resonating among a lot of people, as I am getting quite a few views/comments/RT's, etc. So if this is what many are feeling...how do we change that?

Jamey Boelhower said...

The first step is to spend time in our connections. Time is the most powerful way to build any relationship. Even if it is just 140 characters, we can spend more than a few seconds glazing over our connections. There is a cost, though. We don't have time to build serious connections with everyone, and we have to be OK with that. We also have to be OK with the ebb and flow of digital connections. Life gets crazy outside our screens. Like your example, taking some time away from Twitter. We can find great connections through digital means... if we take the time.