I’ve been really busy of late with all the things that go on in the life of a parent, principal, coach and community member. My senior boys basketball team is showing signs of becoming a real contender – which means that we have to play more – with more nights away. I’ve also been working very hard on getting some of the policies for our school ready – reworking areas that just don’t seem to fit. I’ve been expanding my use of various web2.0 tools including such things as Jing, VoiceThread, Animoto and other tools. Now this is because I’m hoping to do a session at the upcoming Tlt Conference in Saskatoon in May. I am focusing on tools that can help administrators to become more familiar with what is available and begin to use the tools in their own lives. I’m hoping to use Jing to create a Jingcast of some of the tools I hope to use plus add to my admin wiki some of the things that I am learning and working on during this time.
Tonight, after reffing and coaching a bball game, I was able to sit in on Alec Couros university class using Ustream. During this time, one of the participants, nnoakes, asked a really good question about the whole networking idea. George Siemens, who was guest presenting on Connectivism, had just mentioned some of the major educational bloggers in his presentation. The question posed was something like:
How does the network open up for new people as most of the people mentioned refer to one another in their writing and their own network includes one another.
I also wonder this. I recall a commment that once directed me to some advice on becoming more widely read. It included commenting on other bogs, writing regularly, keeping the topics current, referring to what you’ve read and so on. Well, I must say that it’s a lie, as far as I’m concerned. Many of the big names were there at the start and continue to grow their readerships because they were there at the start – and rightly so. Some have done some great work with connecting classrooms and including technology in their teaching and this has grown their readership. Some have interesting comments and make controversial comments which brings them readership. The rest, well, we write on, sometimes having a good post that draws attention from readers or we manage to be noticed by a blogger with a large reader list which brings in readers.
As the number of teachers who enter different networks grows, it will be interesting to see how things pan out. I know that I’ve seen the frustration in a number of bloggers who find it very disappointing that it is so hard to get comments or interaction. Having commented on a number of blogs, I know that it takes a great deal of time to do this. Some say it pays off in attracting readers. I’m not convinced. I’m not convinced that, like all other areas of our society, there won’t be just a few major players whose writing is followed by many while many of rest will continue with a very small readership, occasionally attracting readers because of this or that.
My reasons vary but mostly come down to this: most of the big name bloggers are not full-time teachers or school building administrators and are outside looking in. There, I said it. There is only so much time in a day, there is only so much time to do reading and commenting and many are finding that to be committed to a network requires time that many teachers do not have. So, if you are a well known figure, you can pop in and out of twitter and leave a few posts and then not appear for a day or two and people will respond to you. The rest need to build and nuture our networks – commenting and building, building and discussing, discussing and sharing. Any time away and our network moves on – not really leaving us but not allowing us to just drop in.
Now, we do make some personal connections, especially if we can meet f2f with people from our network. This really adds to the relationships, strengthening the bonds but, like most teachers, the chance of attending a major national conference and meeting these people is, well, not that likely. Those who do get this chance, appear to build and strengthen their network in ways that are different than others. With many of well known names, they meet one another at these conferences to get reaquainted and reconnected. Their conversations have references and such that those not attending cannot share. It may not create an exclusive network but it does affect those who are involved. So for others trying to get involved, it becomes even more difficult as they try to make sense of it all.
Maybe we need to really go out of our way to help those just joining the community and network. Mentor them and introduce them to different educators. Really share ourselves with them instead of allowing them to find their own way. The idea similar to what happens with new teachers. Those who have mentors tend to develop in a much different way than those who learn by trial-by-fire. Education, unfortunately, is know for the latter and not the former. For so long, we have not opened the doors to new people but instead allowed them to make it on their own. Maybe, as we explore these new venues and tools, we need to toss open the doors and do more than just invite them in. We need to meet them at the door and help them find their way. We need to check in on them and see how they are doing and share cool ideas or tools with them. Those of us who have some experience, need to share that with others and maybe go beyond just our blog sharing. Maybe we need to meet them at the door, welcome them and help them with what they are doing. It’s one thing that does work in school.