Now don’t take this the wrong way….

Tonight an interaction between two tweeters has me wondering about the whole educational administration thing. See, right now I’m working in two different buildings, just finished a stint of 2 plus weeks of full-time teaching and am in the middle of sorting out some pretty interesting things that have been going on in different aspects of the two schools. When I signed on to be an administrator, none of the people I had seen as administrators had done anything of the sort. In fact, in my short 20 years in education, I’ve been somewhat disappointed by administrators.

Today, according to what I have read on many different sites, all you have to do is blog, tweet and be connected and you’re a great administrator. I read about how important it is to connect to bring ideas to the school, about how great it is when we bring our parents in and collaborate and we need to share the vision of education. Really? Then I’ve been connected for too long or I’m in the wrong place. In fact, then I’ve been in the wrong place most of my career.

Parents aren’t easy to engage

It’s hard to get parents engaged in schools. I’ve been leading School Community Council (SCC) workshops at the division and talking about them at the provincial level for a few years and it’s hard work getting parents engaged, to get them to discuss school improvement and work at bettering what is happening at schools. If you have parents that do that, you are blessed/lucky. My experience, in a number of settings beyond just one school, is that is not the case and it’s not from lack of trying. It’s partly that parents are busy and doing other things. It’s partly they don’t really believe that they’re voices will be listened to and taken seriously. It’s partly because they don’t know what they really want. That’s my experience from working with hundreds of parents. It may not be your experience and I could have it all wrong.

Being connected is not teaching.

Being connected, blogging and twittering will not make you a great administrator just as it won’t make you great teacher. No amount of online connectiveness will give you that initial caring that drives teachers to help students. And really, I don’t check to see if my teachers blog or twitter or whatever. I check to make sure they are engaged in the process of learning. Are they using the tools they have to engage the children in their classrooms in learning. See, not all teachers have access to tech tools. In fact, not all teachers have whiteboards. It’s not about that at all but about engaging the learners in the process of learning.


See, for one hour every day, I enter the classroom and try to engage grade 12 students in learning Canadian History. We have one computer lab which, often times, is booked so some of the tools that I’ve relied upon, like the wiki I use to share videos and other materials, isn’t available all the time. Blogging would be nice but…… there are a number of students who still have dialup so even assigning it to do at home isn’t an option. We have wifi but, well, it’s flakey and not reliable. I could have them use their phones, and have on occasion, but many don’t have data plans. My whiteboard is a smaller variety so I rely on storytelling, group jigsaw assignments so we can use the 6 library computers and other information in our library and a number of other methods to engage these students, right after lunch, in the history of our country. I connect it to the BHP buyout discussion taking place in the news, to items I find in the paper, to articles I read in magazines and any other means I can to engage them in thinking about the role of history in their lives. I just chuckle when I read about how we need to “use the tools our students are using to engage them….” since many of my students would rather be out hunting or quadding. When was the last time you were asked to go deer hunting by your students?

Too much window dressing…..

I rarely get time to do any writing lately – I was going to list what I have been doing lately but that’s whining. I do this because I believe that it’s important, that the students in these two schools deserve the best education we can deliver and, without a doubt, I’m one of the few people who could actually do this job. Why? Because without having someone else tell me that what I do is important, I know it is. Because I am willing to do what many others won’t do, make tough decisions about learning, curricula and teaching. Because I get the importance of inclusion, DI and the supports that are needed to make it work. Because many other administrators talk but have so little experience in actually bringing about lasting change in the learning and lives of the students in their schools. From my experience, if you can sum up your contributions to the school and learning in quaint little anecdotes, little stories about touching tales and quips about snippets of days, then you really don’t get it. See, for the most part, I can’t share what happens in my days because it’s confidential, too difficult to describe and, really, there’s no quaint way to tell the story. It’s about the lives, spirits and souls of the people in the two buildings as we begin to forge a new direction and the interconnectedness here.

Sharing my stories

I guess I find that many of the things that others write about to be, well, common sense and something that is within my realm of experience for too long to be thought of as actually unusual. Whether it’s talking with parents about a student with learning needs, helping parents with students with special needs, creating learning spaces for students, finding supplies and supports for teachers who need them or questioning people in positions of responsibility about programming and support, it’s what an administrator does because it’s what’s best for children. And I believe that is what defines my job – doing what’s best for children.

I’m not always popular

I’ve been bashed a number of times. Even have had my house egged on several occasions. Had my own children feel the wrath of people because I did what I believed was best for children. I don’t apologize for doing it but I also know that I’ll be bashed. What’s right isn’t always what’s popular.


  1. Jen


    I appreciate the time you took to compose this post. Most of the work I do is untweetable and unbloggable. Transparency has its place, but no one should be condemned for not being connected. There are plenty of examples of social media amplifying poor teaching and admin practices. Good for you for speaking up!

    • Reply

      Thanks for the comment Jen. I really find it hard to believe that some of the things being blogged are “revolutionary” and “unique” when, for the most part, they seem to be things that are just what should be done in schools where students are the first priority and their learning is the foundation for what is done. I don’t write much partly because I am way to busy but partly because the trend in admin blogging is so much window dressing. Changing a school culture and bringing parents into the fold as partners are two very difficult things that take time, persistence and patience. Transparency isn’t always the right thing and neither is trivializing the very difficult work that so many people do into media sound bites. Thanks for the comment

  2. Reply

    After the end of a very long day, which is not really done, reading this made me smile and nod my head. You say it well… Thanks….

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  4. Reply

    To think being a great administrator is about leveraging social media is an insult to the profession, to the learning community we serve, and to social media itself.

    I’m with you. Right now, there are cries that administrators must blog, tweet, creak, peak, and social network freak in order to be anything. The breadth and depth of school leadership goes well beyond being a social media whiz – though this is obviously one way to become a highly sought after speaker if that is what you’re after as an administrator.

    Very nice thoughts across the board here.

  5. Reply

    So the ironic part is that you’ve taken time to say that sharing is not always possible or perhaps even useful. I agree. You raise some important issues.

    However, I would say that the pendulum for the most part is much more on the “undersharing” side. I would be thrilled if even a quarter of the admin that I work with were sharing online in some fashion. I care about their schools and kids and I care even if they share seemingly common sense happenings. Sharing is such a multi-faceted thing. Many times we get it in our heads that sharing is confined to a blog post like this where I know you spent a long time writing this. That’s great and I appreciate the time you spent crafting this because there are some really important ideas here worth discussing and exploring. But I also think we can use social media to share that our students are having fun at an assembly or a photo of a project that was just completed. Even a simple status update that says I’m having a bad day. All of those various ways help build community, trust and connection.

    So while all of those things by themselves won’t make you a better teacher or administrator and there are many wonderful teachers and administrators who might never connect with another person outside their building, the ability and opportunity to connect, combined with their good practice and intent WILL make them better at what they do and provide another level of support. People are free to opt out, I just can’t think of a good reason why.

  6. Reply

    (Warning, what started as a response has turned into a rant)

    I can – litigation. One great reason for opting out. But, since that rarely happens, I guess we need to look at the reason for doing what we do.

    Time – which is at a premium in our teachers’ lives but advocates, such as yourself, seem to dismiss that as an invalid reason.

    Demands – the number of demands that teachers have placed on them by all areas of society is phenomenal. Not only do they have to deal with technology but they are also dealing with health and fitness, socialization, growth, sexuality and the whole process of children becoming adolescents becoming young adults. But, as I’ve seen stated by others, we can’t use that as a reason either since if we want our students to have 21st century skills, we need to be 21st century teachers.

    Really, it wouldn’t matter what was said, it would be dismissed as being trivial or whining or worse. But because I continue to argue that there is more to teaching than social media and technology I’ll try this:

    I’m not sure there is a good reason to opt out – but then again I plurk while so many others don’t and I can’t think of a good reason why you wouldn’t do that either except I’ve been told it will take too much time to build up a PLN and the platform is unfamiliar and it isn’t as popular as twitter and because all the superstars use twitter and no one will respond when I do try it so it mustn’t be very good. Yet it happens – ALL THE TIME – people who tell me that it’s easy. On one level, it does sound so easy, just post, tweet, upload and voila, your teaching/admin will improve/ you’ll be a superstar. (Another paraphrased quote that I’ve read more than once). These quaint little ditties trivialize what teachers do to a level that is – I actually can’t think of anything that fits here. Really, it’s that easy?

    I’ll state again that, for the most part, those who continue to make the greatest noise are technology-savvy people who, for a large percentage, aren’t in the classroom but are tech coordinators, administrators who were involved in tech or who have tech related jobs. I will continue to argue that the technology intelligence, like other intelligences, has some people able to adapt and use technology while other struggle, much like many of the other intelligences require teachers to design learning to allow for them.

    As an administrator, I want teachers to focus on creating a better learning environment and spending time enhancing the learning experience of their students. Now, granted, some amount of sharing pictures and stories may indeed enhance that but, for the nitty-gritty, differentiated learning environment, I’m not sure that posting pictures or sharing activities is really a good use of time and telling the world “I’m having a bad day” in the middle of a bad lesson really isn’t appropriate – from my perspective. You see, it all comes down to making choices and time. Deciding if I have time to spend blogging or should I be working on my Before, During and After, Preassessment, Differentiation, Learning Plan and then reflecting on the learning that took place. It’s about deciding which is a better use of my time – uploading photos to flickr or deciding which photos I use for student portfolios (new K curriculum) and commenting on the learning that is taking place. You see, with new curricula in all subject areas from K – 9, I really need to assess on how I use that precious amount of time I have to best facilitate student learning.

    My next question is, when you are building community with the rest of the world, are you building community within the school or the community where you reside? I get the whole PLN and PLC concept and have been participating in global communities before twitter and blogging so I understand the professional development and community building on that level. But, in the whole time I’ve been doing this, I’m not sure I can say that it transformed my classroom practice through sharing since, to be honest, sharing photos of students is something I’d rather leave to the parents or on our school site not on my personal blog or flickr even if it is one dedicated to my classroom activities. And, just having gone through an issue with student privacy, I’m less inclined to go there. I may have reflected here but, the greatest growth has been:1. Discussing with teachers in the building 2. Discussing with administrators in my area. 3. Reflecting over time on specific items that cannot be put up for public consumption. 4. Talking with a trusted friend.

    But, you see, maybe I’m just that one unfortunate soul who has had things I’ve said taken out of context on a social media site and used against me, professionally, had to deal with a serious privacy issue, had to revamp my complete unit because of bandwidth issues and a few other things. I’m not saying that sharing doesn’t have it’s place but, really, it won’t make you a better teacher. Sharing alone, as you state, is an act and doesn’t lead to change. It has the potential to provide an opportunity but it’s just potential.

    Unfortunately, as I watch the tremendous task that teachers undertake each day and partake in that act myself, I question how sharing “I’m having a bad day” will do anything since, really, unless you spend an enormous amount of time to get connected, it will go unheard in the social media void. I hate to state this, but, for the regular teacher who doesn’t have the time to dedicate to hours of online social media development, sharing can seem to be a solitary act and finding someone within the building to share and building your school community for the students in the building are far more rewarding acts.

    As an aside, you quote Dan Meyers in one of your last blogs about the great impact that blogging had on his teaching. Is he not out of teaching? In fact, did he stay in teaching 5 years? Isn’t he now a consultant with the Dept of Ed or something? From my perspective, too much of what I see lately by many of the “hot tweeters and bloggers” isn’t about creating better schools, it’s about name creation and following many others out of the classroom to “other jobs”. Too many people who are telling people how to teach don’t teach. As an administrator who does and has spent countless hours helping teachers become better in their classrooms and building school cultures that haven’t been very good, global sharing isn’t a high priority, building the school, culture, community and developing relationships with the people HERE is a priority. And, for the most part, I am ignored when I share “I’m having a lousy day” while I watch other people who are in my “friend” list discuss their upcoming conferences. After awhile, it’s a turnoff because, just like in the face-to-face world, if you aren’t with the “in crowd”, you’re ignored. I’ve better things to do.

    Like another fairly prominent blogger told me, he’s spending much less time tweeting and sharing and much more time with family, living and laughing. Say what you want, face to face is still the essential component to building great relationships and the those relationships we have with the people near us and in our lives should be our first priority. And really, how many hours of video can you watch in your life? And is that how you want to spend it? I don’t. I want to be living it not watching someone else live it.

    It’s about balance. If you have to dedicate so much time to build a network, what will be lost? And maybe it’s just me but I seem to see a lot less of many of the prominent advocates posting on twitter and broadcasting their lives of late while I see many who seem to want to make a name for themselves working hard to get their message out. I’m past that stage myself and there are other things much more important, like the people in my life, than posting snippets. I agree with my kids, twitter is for old people who want to let the world know – so now I text with the people in my life much more than I spend time twittering to those who, really, rarely seem to care. Unless you’re a “Rah, rah, rah” and carry the party line of social media advocacy, you’re ignored and, probably after this response, shunned because you don’t agree. But then again, I’m not looking for speaking engagements.

    I’ll spend much more time working for the students in my building and in my sphere of influence. It’s a conscious choice since much of what I read lately isn’t connected with what I witness as the reality of teaching each day. What I see is messy, hard work, difficult, heartwrenching and ever changing with no one way or method or tool that will save the day. It’s about teachers who work hard, give extra and are inundated with an overwhelming amount of demands. Some demands, like the ones that come from our ministry of education and from the division are non-negotiable and require a great amount of work. Others, coming from advocates who want everything from more technology use to more physical activity, to better quality foods in the schools, to community groups and health region personnel who want time, to other speakers who want to talk about almost any subject and the list goes on but all come from people who aren’t in the classroom but think they have what it takes to change education.

    What do you mean by “there are many wonderful teachers and administrators who might never connect with another person outside their building”? Do you really think that there are teachers/admin who live at school and don’t leave? Or do you mean who aren’t tech savvy enough? Or, who have different priorities than those who do online connecting? Because I don’t know one teacher who doesn’t connect outside the building in some way – although not always with other educators but with other people? What do you mean by connect? Are you not limiting these people to a specific type of connectedness? It’s like those who use only twitter but nothing else – they limit their interactions and the people they can meet. (That always makes me chuckle – technology advocates but won’t take the time to grow a new group of friends because it takes too much time – I believe that is what I was told was the reason people didn’t want to try any new social media formats – too much time to build a network – ironic not?)

    You make it sound so simple but it’s not. I can think of at least 8 good reasons to opt out and not one has to do with my job. Teaching is one of the hardest jobs I can imagine doing and I’ve done a few. Too many advocates try to tie it up with a cute comparisons, like the doctor one about using 19th century medicine, but they are superficial and, from my perspective, insulting to the tremendously complicated process of helping another person learn. And learn, not as an adult but as a child who is discovering the world and searching for themselves while at the same time they are socializing and learning other incredibly important social cues and norms all in the context of this thing we call school.

    We need to be careful with what we share – as we’ve watched some very prominent and star people share many improper things which have tarnished great careers – and we know how something we think is funny can be taken in another way by someone who isn’t in the same space as us or can be taken the wrong way, especially if you don’t agree with them and they think they are important. It isn’t simple, can have dire consequences and needs to be combined with a whole lot of other factors before it will make a person better at what they do, especially teaching and there is no guarantee it will provide any type of support.

    At the end, I may look back and decide maybe I shouldn’t have taken the time to share this, that my time would have been better spent sleeping. It will probably not get me invited to any speaking engagements but most likely won’t be read by anyone but you, Dean. And that is the fact that many who jump on the social-media bandwagon soon find out. It’s not simple, it’s hard work to grow a PLN and, really, if all the teachers and admin you worked with shared and posted, would you have the time to do what you do? What would you give up? Why don’t you plurk?

    • Reply

      Wow! I’ve never had anyone write so much in response to a comment. I’m impressed. I also apologize for not seeing this till today, not sure why the notification didn’t work.

      I won’t try and respond to all your points but will say you continue to be a passionate educator and believe me, at no point would I ever criticize your work. I’ve been impressed by what you’ve shared over the years and hope I didn’t offend but I fear I may have.

      The time issue is not one I take lightly. I realize teaching is a full-time job plus more. But I guess my latest realization and idea revolves around the fact that every teacher is a beneficiary of sharing. They benefit because a colleague shares ideas, lessons, etc. They benefit because people post great stuff online. I don’t think it’s essential everyone shares everything all the time but small gifts of sharing can be helpful to many. A link, a helpful tip are small things that take zero time. These are valuable too. In the end, time is a limited resource and like money, we all choose how we spend it. Like money, if all we do is spend on ourselves, I’d question that approach. If we don’t at least see some obligation to use some of our time to share, I also question that.

      I’ve never thought of any of your ideas as trivial. Somehow I’ve given you a bad impression that I think technology and social media are the only thing that matters. If I did that, my apologies. If you want to attend any of our curriculum meeting, you’d hear me being the first person to advocate for more emphasis on health and the arts.

      I’m not sure why you keep bringing up speaking engagements? Again, I’m not sure what I’ve done to warrant this criticism but you’re welcome to attack.

      I can see you really have a dislike for anyone who’s not in the classroom everyday. I think my 15 years as a classroom teacher and continued work as a teacher, albeit at post-secondary, gives me some credibility. I’m certainly in a different role now and I am the first person to acknowledge and advocate for teachers.

      When I talk about connected, I mean having the ability and wherewithal to find people when you need them and access their content, ideas. Sure this can be done locally and it’s critical that it is but when I see schools in rural Saskatchewan where you live 30 miles from another school and you’re then only teacher at your grade(s) level, meeting 3 times a year hardly is suitable for establishing relationships. I advocate sharing because I care about people and know it will make them better and be better for them. I’m not sure I conveyed that very well. You seem to think quite little of me and I apologize again because somehow I’ve offended you.

      The fear you express about sharing something improper suggests you have a very narrow idea about sharing. I’d be happy if teaches opened up a delicious account and shared that. They don’t need to write the kind of reflections you do, which I appreciate but everyone needs to figure out what they are comfortable with. I just think teachers for the most part, don’t think they have much to share. Which is what I try and convince them otherwise.

      Listen, everyone can feel free to opt out. Don’t share, don’t connect online. I just think that’s a mistake. You don’t but that’s okay. YOu seem to be suffering from social media burn out. That’s too bad. You seem to be resentful about something, not sure what that is.

      As for your last questions, I don’t really understand what your asking except that as far as Plurk, did I ever say you should do everything? I just am trying to encourage a culture of sharing that I don’t think currently exists in a way that could best help students and teachers. That I will not apologize for.

      • Reply


        In part, I think you’re trying to say this:


        In part, I think you’re trying to say this:

        If so, then honestly, I think you’re both right.

        Because you share, I appreciate being able to learn from and with you. That appreciation is compounded by the fact that I know you’re both busy individuals with important and great things happening in your parts of the world; and because it’s extremely helpful for me to get a perspective on education (and life) from your respective cultures and points of view. The world is getting smaller, whether we like it or not, and I think we owe it to the students we work with to help ease them into that fact.

        At the same time, I think it’s safe to say that blogging and social media can get a little sticky because we’re all coming at this from such different angles, we all have different personal and professional priorities, and we all have different values ofttimes skewing our judgement in participation.

        That said, I know I’ve enjoyed the ride – and hope the two of you continue to ride along for many years to come.


        • Reply

          Thanks Darren – that was just what I needed! 😉 Never good to take one self too seriously or you begin to believe all that you say!

          I’ll definitely be here for some time. I tend to drift in and out of being able to participate here , kind of like when I’m watching a chic-flick movie with my wife.

          I know the world is getting smaller, kinda. I guess it’s perspective. I see the world being more fragmented and disjointed as we focus time on things “away from our sphere of influence” and not on what is around us. Is technology going to be an integral part of the future, yes, we think. Does that mean we’ll be more connected or does it mean we’ll be more linked and less connected? What do we mean by connected?

          See, it’s wrestling with questions such as these within the context of the learning environment and grappling with their impact that is the great part of the being part of the social media exchange. Some of the comments that have come along are what I constitute to be the shrapnel of social media, exploding, hurting and maiming but doing absolutely no good besides causing more shelling.

          Thanks for the comment Darren – as always, it’s appreciated and it just adds to the evolution of this thing called school.

      • Reply

        Dean, I’ll work from the bottom to the top so as not to miss out on anything. I didn’t say that said we had to try everything, I just use it as an example that we all have our own favourites when it comes to sharing and, as was noted, it is very difficult to develop a PLN in which you can engage a variety of levels of discussion and discourse. Meaningful dialogue takes time to develop and doesn’t just happen. Joining a social media site and having meaningful dialogue takes time to develop and, as you point out in an earlier part, time is limited. As teachers are under an incredible amount of time-bound stress, taking time within our job to throw out a tweet isn’t good use of time. Outside of work, if a person wants to take that time to develop their PLN, then eventually it will pay off but it doesn’t happen overnight.

        As a matter of fact, I have a pretty good idea of sharing – I use Diigo instead of delicious because of the educational advantages and have introduced two school divisions to its use, shared an enormous amount of information and been part of all sorts of sharing initiatives. I’m still not as comfortable with sharing school photos of students on twitter as you seem to be advocating. As I’ve indicated with a few other responses, I truly enjoy the fact that people are wanting to discuss their opinions, that’s what learning is all about. Being connected in this manner helps us to deepen our own learning and our makes us reflect on what we believe and where we stand. I’m all for connections that promote and assist teachers in developing and becoming better at what they are doing.

        Burned out, you are perceptive. But it’s not from social media. It’s from the promotion of social media as the way to save education. Just as you won’t, and shouldn’t apologize, for wanting to encourage a culture of sharing, I won’t apologize for saying that to developing a network of sharing demands a great deal of time, that sharing doesn’t make one a better teacher and that some sharing should not be done. I do believe we need to encourage teachers to share and because I work in one of those rural schools, and have for the past 10 years or so, developing a network of sharing is important but it doesn’t happen over night and, unless there is time allocated to enhancing that sharing so that it becomes an integral part of the learning culture, it often does not develop. It needs to be a purposeful sharing – it requires a professional focus. Because, that is what we are discussing, the development of a professional culture of sharing focused on improving the learning of all students in our classes. As for sharing something improper suggesting I have a narrow idea of sharing, I guess it’s depends on the life experiences one has had and can draw upon that determines the narrowness. My experiences involve the law and some of the implications. Do you have those experiences? If you do, what were your reactions? How did you handle the parental discussions? Implications for school policy?

        “You seem to think quite little of me” which could not be farther from the truth. Now, I could follow with a similar type of statement but that wouldn’t be productive. I agree with many of the things you point out but I also disagree with some of them. Disagreeing with you doesn’t mean I don’t think highly of you but it means that I happen to have a different perspective than you. If I can’t disagree with you on different levels, what’s the point?

        “I’m not sure why you keep bringing up speaking engagements? Again, I’m not sure what I’ve done to warrant this criticism but you’re welcome to attack.” I didn’t mention you did I? From rereading my post, I don’t name you at all, I just mention that there are a great many people who are tweeting about conferences. I guess you can read whatever you want into what I write. There was no attack intended – just an observation from someone who has been using social media for a number of years, writing for a number of years and still doesn’t get it.

        I like your analogy of money and time – so when I spend my money on others, it’s on those who need the help the most – the students in my school, the parents in the community, the teachers in the school – giving them the time at rehearsals, meetings, practices, SCC meetings, planning, marking, coordinating outside services for students who need it, …. You are bang on – it can’t be spent only on ourselves. Because it’s limited and finite and unlike billionaires, we need to be good stewards of it and not hoard it, not waste it, not squander it but use it to enhance the learning of our students. Focused use of social media can do that, especially if informs our practice and enhances our ability to guide and assist our students. A link might do that. But, as you state, there are better social media options for busy teachers which will maximize their use of time – Evernote, diigo, delicious, a wiki, maybe a flickr account, voicethread type of options, online creation options (especially if shared through something like LiveBinder) – and creates a culture where the professional sharing begins to reach into areas that were untouched before. That’s powerful development. Is that what you are talking about? The development of learning communities devoted to bettering the learning in their schools through the productive and specific sharing of tools and ideas in order to better assist each of the students in their classrooms to learn? The sharing of timely data to help pinpoint areas of need so that teachers can access learning strategies that will help a student or group of students? If that’s what you are talking about, then we’re on the same page. That’s not what I got. I keep hearing the message, blog/tweet and you will be a better teacher.

        “I’ve given you a bad impression that I think technology and social media are the only thing that matters. If I did that, my apologies. If you want to attend any of our curriculum meeting, you’d hear me being the first person to advocate for more emphasis on health and the arts.” Actually, sometimes that is the impression you give. Just like, sometimes, I give the impression, according to some of the comments on this post, that I’m a 19th century luddite or, worse yet, not even a Neanderthal caveman who doesn’t understand the importance of social interaction and the need for society to develop through our socialization. Very amusing how things have evolved here because, if people were to actually see the schools in which I have worked, they would know that the use of social technology for learning is something that I advocate, having been using it to enhancing the learning for students who would have been without educational options for years, having completed several online courses through several different universities and a partaken in a number of international online events. And I know that health and the Arts matter but what matters most, for me, is the students within the buildings in which I work and administrate and providing them with the best learning experiences. Does that mean that there is the use of technology and social media within the learning environment? Absolutely. Does that mean that teachers need to blog and use other social media? Nope. They are not synonymous. Being a good teacher does not mean you have to blog and being a blogger does not mean you are a good teacher.

        “I can see you really have a dislike for anyone who’s not in the classroom everyday. I think my 15 years as a classroom teacher and continued work as a teacher, albeit at post-secondary, gives me some credibility. I’m certainly in a different role now and I am the first person to acknowledge and advocate for teachers” You have credibility. I just wonder if you fully understand the implications of the new assessment, curricula, planning and reporting and the day-to-day impact that has on teachers’ lives? I’ve heard it from many teachers who have said that students today are not the same as they were 5 years ago. Do you have planning, implementing, teaching and classroom experience that is current? A superintendent and I once discussed a consultant position that came along. One of the comments that passed during our conversation kind of struck me strange “Once you are out of the classroom you soon forget the immediacy of the classroom” I inquired what that meant. The response was something like this: once you take on a different role, you begin to acquire a new set of skills. After time, you believe that transferring these skills to the day-to-day work of teaching will be easy when, in fact, it isn’t because you don’t see the nuances of using these skills in relation to the other demands that teaching requires. I’ve not experienced that since I’ve always taught but, having talked to a few people who were in consultant roles, the transition back to the classroom wasn’t as fluid as they thought. I don’t have a “hate on” but I do take what people who aren’t in the classroom say as just that, not being in the classroom. Does what you say have validity and does it add value to the discussion on improving education? Absolutely. Do I listen to what you have to say each time I listen to you speak or each time I read your blog? Absolutely. Does that mean I agree? No. Because I have a different perspective from where you come from. Will my perspective change if I ever move out of being directly involved in the day-to-day work of being a teacher, it might. I might have to eat crow. But for now, I take what people who aren’t teachers say as exactly what it is, something said by someone not a teacher. The further you are away from the flame, the more you describe the flame and not the heat.

        As I indicated, response I ended up posting was a rant – which, from my experience reading blogs, aren’t necessarily directed at any one person but at a situation or are a response to a perceived imbalance. So, the reply was not directed at you, Dean but at a number of things. I did directly mention a few things that you had said – like the quote and the blogging and sharing – because I am passionate that developing a PLN isn’t easy and isn’t something done overnight and it doesn’t happen without a great deal of time and effort and it won’t have the same impact on everyone. That developing a culture of sharing and professional development as teachers is much more than a tweet or picture and that as professionals we need can’t take what we share lightly. That, as professionals, we aren’t just consumers of social media in the same manner as people sharing about their moments in a lineup or waiting for a movie. There are obligations and responsibilities that we have to our students, parents and community that are part of being a professional. If a person, such as myself, decides to put time and effort into developing an online PLN and to enhance what we do through various online interactions, that is great but to deem it as one of the only ways to be a better teacher isn’t true. There are as many ways to improve as a teacher as there are teachers. And as we develop classrooms where DI is the norm, sharing is the culture, not just of the teachers but of the students, within the school, where parents and community members are integral members of the learning community, we must be prepared to listen. And listen. And listen. In my role as an administrator, the hat which I currently wear, I do see things a bit differently than you, Dean. I appreciate what you have to say. I guess that sometimes I feel that because this is my blog I should be able to have a rant about how I feel without it being extrapolated to be a personal attack which you obviously felt it was and, from your comments, took offense. It wasn’t aimed at “you”. It was a response to a number of things I have read these past few months which, I feel, trivialize the incredible importance of developing a culture of professional sharing that is grounded, not in personal preferences, but in using the tools and technology to broaden the learning of teachers and students in substantial ways through the sharing of ideas and resources not quips and tidbits. Those might have a place for some but, for someone like myself who, if you have read through some of the replies I have made, happens to have an incredible number of things going on at the school and professional level. I take the responsibility of which I have been tasked, to help develop a new learning culture in a new school very, very seriously. I’ve not run across too many public school administrators who have had such an incredible privilege. I am passionate about learning – of teachers and students sometimes to a fault. I’ve learned that when you are passionate and you put yourself out there, you will get criticism and there will be some pretty interesting things said. But, really, it’s all outside my realm of influence. What is within my realm is to convey that, unfortunately, my rant, as I thought might happen, was taken by you as being personal. Although your comment did precipitate the response, it was not at you. As you keenly observed, there are some frustrations within my sphere at this moment. I guess I took the liberty to express them without clearly articulating that, besides the reference to the quote, there are some things with which, as an administrator and teacher, I don’t agree or which I used to illustrate that it is not as easy as it is presented to build a PLN and, given the current stresses that teachers are feeling, maybe time might be better spent through sharing and networking in ways that will help the teachers as they struggle with the ever-increasing demands. I’m not against sharing but there needs to be an added-value to that sharing. Will that take place over something like twitter? Again, from my experience and the experience of some others, no. I know there are a number of people who can personally counter that statement. Again, it’s somewhat of a personal preference and teachers need to be given a wider set of options which, from my perspective and my experience, will have a greater impact on the learning of students than what I’ve seen suggested.

        • Reply

          Darren, I think reflection is vital if a professional is to learn, develop and grow. I am not against blogging as a form of reflection nor am I against finding support through different media. What I shrink from is all-or-nothing declarations about a way of doing something. Just as I am constantly looking for ways to help students demonstrate their learning, I am also open to teachers using different formats for reflection. I encourage teachers to reflect on their planning and teaching, making notes about what worked well, what they might do differently, what was really exciting, how they might do things differently with the learning environment and much more. That type of reflection, which I believe is vital to growth as a teacher, is different than the reflection one might have about PD development, PD opportunities or one’s own practice as you search to improve your knowledge and understanding.

          As an administrator, I reflect on a personal level, using Evernote, to document my days and how things have worked, what I was thinking, how things have turned out, reflecting on conversations I’ve had or ones I need to have. These are crucial for me and really document how I’ve grown as an educator, professional and administrator. It also has shown me some consistent patterns that I am working to overcome and change.

          I tend to use my blog to reflect on more general educational topics that have a more global impact. These aren’t the “close to home” things that are happening and sometimes, as in the recent past, there hasn’t been much time for the latter as I’ve been chin deep in my day-to-day operations of getting ready to move 2 schools into one, bring together 2 staffs, work at building a new culture, etc. I spend time reflecting on the immediate as I ponder how things are going and, on some days, just keeping my focus – Doing what’s best for students.

          That’s how I view reflection as professional development.

  7. Reply

    Hi Kelly,
    I read this a week or two ago and thought to respond, but didn’t. This morning I read it again and here I am. (I have to start getting ready for work in a few minutes, sorry if I move to point form.)
    I go through waves of use and non-use of my PLN, recently tweeting very irregularly but putting time into my blog… but I love being there and I love sharing. I tried plurk, it isn’t that it’s not popular or that ‘all the big guys’ are on twitter, (most of the big guys don’t follow me anyway, I still learn from them and I have a great PLN and don’t need them to follow me). Plurk was hard for me because I had to click to to read information, Tweetdeck puts it out there for me. I’m not tech savvy, I just don’t require a lot of sleep and as much as I love my job, I wasn’t about to start work at 4:30 this morning when I got up. So, I went to Google Reader. But this morning, I only tweeted once, and this is the only comment I’m sharing.
    • Creating a good PLN is hard work, but they have given me back more than I’ve given… it keeps me thankful and wanting to share.
    • Sometimes I spend too much time on my computer. Before that I sometimes used to spend too much time in front of the TV
    • I want my teachers to integrate tech, I’ve provided them with the tools, but not enough of the know-how. Why not? Because setting up a library in a new school building, learning about ‘learning verbs’ and ‘Effective use of TA’s and support’ and ‘supporting ESL students’ has taken most of my pro-d time that I’ve had with them. These things matter more to students in our building right now.
    • I wrote this after making a tough decision that turned someones life upside-down. Writing it helped me feel better about doing what I think was best for my school. I wasn’t sharing for a pat on the back, I wasn’t sharing too much personal information and if it’s read by people at my school, they’ll understand me a bit more… I hope (I never plug myself at my school although I probably do it too much in my PLN:-)
    • Sharing is cathartic, it is enlightening, it is a part of who I’ve become as an educator and a learner. Will it make every educator better? Probably not, but I think our model is OLD and still puts ‘professionals’ in rooms to ‘practice’ their art in isolation… and I believe that a sharing culture needs to infect our schools. Technology is just a means to make that happen faster.
    • Is there a lot of ‘fluff’ that happens too. Yes. So what? I’ve paid money out of my own pocket to go to a fixed time and place for professional development to watch a presenter offer fluff. Meanwhile I can go to my Google reader any time, and learn from my friends, (like Kelly whom I’ve never met and consider at many times a mentor, and that I have followed and admired first as a teacher then when I became an administrator). I owe thanks to my PLN for what they have offered me.
    • I get where you are coming from here, but I think you are looking at this in a very one-sided way and just like the use of technology… we need to find balance.

    • Reply

      Dave, good to hear from you. I would not take what you add to this discussion in any other way than providing yet another view. I would agree that I am looking at this from one side like so many others are looking at this from another way and perspective is part of how we shape the world around us. To enhance the perspective from which I view this, here is the the partial view from my sandbox: I am working to bring two schools, a K – 6 and a 7 – 12 together into one new school. We were suppose to be in the new school in September but we have yet to be given a date for our move (it is now December). My role is to build help build a new culture within this new school, one that values high levels of learning, is student-centered, embraces multiple learning technologies, promotes Differentiated Instruction plus a few other things. At this same time, our province has introduced new curricula at the elementary and middle years across all subjects, the division is using the UbD model in incorporating DI and the new curricula in classrooms. This has meant that teachers are receiving 2 or 3 inservice days this year as they develop planning that will enhance the learning of all students within their classrooms. During the past month, I’ve had to take on fulltime teaching due to unforeseen circumstances and encountered a number of unforeseen challenges that have come to light and only recently have been able to return to having administrative time. At this time, I am still doing assessment that was not completed so that we can issue marks for a few classes. And that is just portion of the professional world which I inhabit each day. It doesn’t touch the other parts of life or the implications of moving or having a child leave home to begin a new stage in life or…..

      Through this all, the focus is on what’s best for the students? What will enhance the learning of these students each day? What will help the teachers within the school deal with all the myriad of things that are going on so that they can focus on creating the best possible learning opportunities for their students? For me, it’s more important to work at developing relationships within the building and fostering relationships among the people within my immediate realm of influence.

      Right now, there’s little time for “fluff” at the professional level – the only fluff I want to encounter is with my own children within my family. We discuss the ability to select the information that influences our professional lives yet there is more talk about “branding schools”, “connecting” with others without any discussion about how that connection is impacting learning. With a critical eye on many of the discussions that are taking place, very little involves moving students from their zone of proxziminal development through the introduction of dissonant information and helping them to develop new ideas based on what they are encountering. Where are the deep discussions about how DI and RTI can profoundly enhance the learning of each and every child through the planned and integrated use of particular technologies which focus on specific learning outcomes (which we are mandated to teach and which, if you don’t, makes me wonder if you truly are a professional) while also enhancing the broader learning sphere of the student with specific assessment outcomes (which is also part of our professional obligation) that students know, understand and work toward demonstrating through a mode, or modes, of presentation.

      Sharing can be cathartic. I’ve also come to realize that there is a fine line between sharing and complaining and unless you focus on a solution as part of the sharing, it quickly moves to the latter.

      I don’t think that simple sharing makes anyone better at teaching nor does it connect people until there is more to their interaction than the simple sharing. I use flickr often for pictures and many people share them and we’re not connected. I have read many tweets but, really, I’m not part of the “inside discussion” so it doesn’t connect me to those people.

      Because my PLN’s are wide and varied, it’s hard to say that one is better than another. I find that each fulfill a particular niche and look to them for different things. Like here, I look for people who will not necessarily agree with what I say but instead push me to expand my zone of proximinal development, like you Dave.

  8. Reply

    Thanks for your insightful comments on the ups and downs of teaching! It feels as if the entire world is connected, but that should not interfere with the actual task of teaching.

    • Reply


      Now, having done a bit of looking, I know you’re not an educator and specialize in online media strategies so maybe we don’t see the whole being connected/learning paradigm the same. I know that being “connected” is important for growing one’s business or developing one’s following, etc, that branding is especially important as the competition in the social media market grows and our connected lives seem to be synonymous with our real lives. But, really, you feel like the world is connected?

      I guess I don’t see people as connected but as linked through a variety of social media but that may be because I don’t see that sharing a photo makes me connected with other people who view that photo or who read my snippets here. I am connected with the people in my school, the students I teach, the parents with whom I interact, the people in my community because we have a commonality in our purpose. I feel some connection with other teachers who are working in education and administrators but not in the same way or at the same level that I do with those within my sphere of influence. Sharing a photo or watching a video doesn’t connect me in the same way and neither does the work I have done at the provincial, national and international level. I have a common goal and I have a greater awareness of the world around me but connected….not in the same sense I have with those with whom I share my day-to-day life. So, I guess, the world is connected in that I can communicate and interact with people all over the globe and I can see what they are doing and work with them on different projects but my connectedness is with the people in the room – being present with those around and with whom I share life.

      As for teaching, depends what you mean but being connected doesn’t mean that there is learning going on. In fact, having taken part in a few cross-cultural learning experiences, the before and after portions of the learning are more critical than the during portion as the learning that takes place needs to be connected to the lives of the students involved – in the day-to-day decisions and interactions that they have with the people in their immediate realm of influence. And, since “teaching” isn’t necessarily a “task” or “activity”, but a process of assisting our students to move beyond their zone of proximinal development and construct meaning from the dissonance that occurs between their present knowledge and what they encounter with someone guiding and questioning and presenting alternatives, connectedness has a multitude of meaning and layers. As we, as educators, become more adept at differentiating our instruction for students and building an inquiry based model of learning with a multitude of entrance and exit points that have students engaging at different levels, our connectedness with our students in the classroom will become even more critical to being able to provide the learning opportunities they deserve with a growing need to build connections with the other adults who are within the child’s sphere of influence within the learning configuration which, at this present time and in the near future, will be the school building. So, although “being connected” might be a great way to enhance a person’s PD and grow, it will be even more essential for us as professionals to develop strong connections within our buildings with the other adults with whom the student is connected. This connection may include other immediate connections, such as parents, guardians, social workers, medical and law personnel and other adults of influence, the “entire world” connectedness will not be nearly as important as the connectedness of the significant individuals within each child’s sphere of immediate influence. Connectedness is not in any way congruent with learning which, from the tone of your response, would seem to indicate.

      Being the parent of 8 children, one who has a learning disability, one who has attention difficulties, one who is in college and one who is not yet 2, I do have some experience in the learning/connectedness realm and being globally connected does not equate to learning. Sharing yes, learning, no. It might involve learning, depending on the situation but being connected at a global level to share tidbits of information isn’t a prerequisite to learning. Being connected can enhance the learning process but only through the quality of the connection and what takes place outside of that connection.

      • Jennifer Mitchell


        I’m an Australian educator, relatively new (five years) to teaching young adults beyond highschool. I don’t get many opportunities to discuss teaching, classroom experiences, and curriculum with my colleagues, because not many of them are interested, or available. I had to learn a lot about the institution I work in the hard way, which would have been easier if other staff were willing to share their insights – face to face. They don’t want to share online either – though I set up a staff Wiki to enable it. I’ll see how it goes. But I have learned a tremendous amount from being on Twitter – reading insights such as all those here from experienced, reflective teachers who actually care about what they do. When I mention Twitter, and blogs to some colleagues, they usually scoff. I don’t care about, or know who the “stars” are – I follow people who direct me to useful, balanced, valuable things which meet my interests. I ignore things which aren’t relevant.

        As someone who wants to learn from my immediate colleagues, but can’t, because they don’t have time or energy, I value, but sometimes also scorn, this strange, connected – disconnected – real – virtual place. I like a teacher I follow to occasionally post a funny picture of their dog, or their beloved child getting an award. It make them like me – human, real – and the divide between real and virtual is different for different people. If someone really needs virtual connection, is IS real – for them.

        As for how this translates into providing better learning for students – it is not a prerequisite, ever, but maybe some potential value lies in the realm of modelling to our students the kinds of peer collaboration, and peer review – within the classroom – which might just assist a proportion of students to see their experience as learners as less isolated – their contributions as worthwhile. Twitter has helped me to feel less isolated, but also given me the desire to agitate for face to face connections with my colleagues. This has got me a reputation at my college as a bit of a botherer, I gather from anecdotal evidence. I’m kind of proud of that!

        • Reply


          I feel truly sorry that the people within your building aren’t willing to share and work with you. I do know that for you, the interactions you get via social media must be tremendous and fill a void. But can you imagine if, through your work, you begin to develop a dialogue and discussion amongst the staff that focuses on the learning of the students, of building a culture where the learning of students in each and everyone’s top priority and where the sharing of information and dialoguing about learning takes place regardless if the person is a teacher or an EA or a ….. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Wouldn’t that be worth working towards and developing? As an administrator who has these goals, who wants to encourage dialogue within the building, to look at what our current practices are and to improve them, where is my time best spent? What are the best methods for developing these? From my experience it’s not on twitter or through blogging but through interacting, first at the fact-to-face level with each person on staff and, then, through specific and managed guidance, the introduction of different tools that will enhance the sharing and the discussions. Does that mean I don’t introduce teachers on my staff who might be interested in twitter or blogging to these tools? Nope, I will even spend time working with them but I will continue to say that these tools alone will not make a better teacher. They will not make teachers better in their classrooms.

          Do you ever go to SecondLife? I do, not as often as I use to but I do visit and take in the odd talk. I’ve introduced a few teachers to it but only one has ever really taken to it. That one teacher has gotten more out of it than I have and has developed a great PLN through those interactions – but it also meant that there were other things that had to give. I get that online interactions, for those who are in isolation and working where there is little sharing and development is a lifeline. As an administrator, I would prefer to spend my time developing the culture within the school that I work, encouraging and sowing seeds. Why? Because it has direct impact on the learning of the students in my building. Trust me, when I first began delving into this online world, I was so encouraged by what was taking place. However, since then, my career path has changed and I now look at things a bit differently. I have a bit of experience with these technologies and with the time involved in using different tools so I judge things, not by the cool factor but by the impact on student learning factor. As I’ve said in other replies, I don’t dismiss the use of tools and online social media to develop and share I just don’t narrow it down to blogs and tools like twitter which, for staff developing and the development of learning communities and sharing of learning resources within the context of which I am talking, are not the most practical nor most effective. For you, in your circumstances, I can see how they would be great but that doesn’t mean that, in all situations, they are.

          I commend you on taking the initiative to develop a wiki and encourage staff. I also was somewhat of a bother at times when I was teaching and pushing for development and advancement. I ended up being an administrator because of it!

  9. Reply

    I have to respond here from a parent’s perspective and an ed-tech developer’s perspective who’s been keeping an eye on the big picture (not from education – I humbly submit before those who work in the trenches – I am very grateful for all that you do for children, mine included.)

    This issue of sharing and digital citizenship is going to impact REGARDLESS of whether – we don’t have any choice. Google was invented 12 years ago. How many children today don’t instinctively use Google to find things that are shared on the web (regardless of their pedagogical value.) Wikipedia was launched 9 years ago. YouTube was invented 5 years ago. An entire social platform that’s pivoted sharing of material, from the mundane, the academic to the sublime. The technology barriers for social discourse have crept closer to $0 for everyone. And that’s why we have huge problems like cyber-bullying and sexting, because our education system and well as our parental knowledge have not kept you.

    If we (parents and educators) want to bring up children to be responsible, thoughtful people of the 21st century, we HAVE to grapple with these notions of what it means to be a digital citizen. Our children will never know of an alternative because it’s enmesh into the fabric of their lives. Any teen naturally gravitates towards Facebook, or Twitter even though for us older adults (I’m 43) – they’ve barely been a blip in our lives.

    If we want to give our children the tools and ways to think through how to navigate life beyond school, we have to be doing it some way AT school – that means that educators and parents need to be modelling good skills right now. Tomorrow is probably too late.

    That’s not an answer for the how to do it, but I hope it gives you a different perspective on WHY we need to do it.

    All the best,

    – Ian Chia

    • Reply

      I absolutely agree that we need to be help our children navigate. I have, however, come to realize that, as a parent, I cannot live the future so I had better stay firmly rooted in the present. There is no one who could have predicted the explosion of technology over the past 5 or so years. And, as much as we want to try, we cannot predict what will happen in the next five. In that time, I will have 4 children leave home and 4 more move into the teen years so, as a parent, I am very aware of the impact that technology has and being that we have more technology than most families, it is all around, all day. So, my role as a parent is to assist my children in preparing so that they can leave me and become productive members of society. The schools have a part, true enough, but that is my responsibility. And it’s not just our children that need to understand what it means to be a productive and effective member of 21 century society – it’s all of us. I get the why – everyday. And although teens gravitate to Facebook, there are many of us who’s lives have become enmeshed with these tools. Until we truly get past the “WOW” factor, and see them as just part of our lives, like toasters, pens, crayons, hammers, nailguns, sprayguns and other tools, we won’t be able to move to that next step of grappling with how they fit in the society – now or later. My children and I may sometimes use the tools for different reasons but, on many occasions, we use them for the exact same reasons. So as we grapple with being digital citizens, I put forth that just because you blog or twitter, doesn’t make you a better ____________________. That to have such a limited view of what it takes to be ___________________________ that it can be reduced to a single action or two doesn’t reflect the complexity that we face in our families and schools today. It may, given certain other conditions but those acts alone are not a guarantee, in my opinion.

  10. Reply

    Sorry – meant to say “Kept up”, not “kept you”. It’s wasn’t intended as something Freudian. Sincere apologies.

    – Ian

  11. Reply

    I won’t engage this entire debate, but simply raise a single issue: If all we depend on is face-to-face communication, and all we depend on for information transmission is talking and text, we will be isolated and ignorant.

    As I have pointed out often, the very first time a Neanderthal drew a hunt on a cave wall, he/she was wasting time – taking time away from community face-to-face relationships – in order to create a social media experience for others. The first time another human looked at that painting asynchronously, he/she was wasting time engaging in someone else’s experience. Some of that engagement might have been “essential” – I don’t know – but other elements, maybe the colouring of the horse, could easily be deemed trivial.

    Except it is not. Unlike during the Gutenberg Era I not only read the words of those I learn from, I learn them, and that is important. I know who Dean Shareski roots for in sport, I know something of his children, his world, his food and travel preferences. All of that helps me to build a portrait of this “teacher” which improves my understanding of him, his world view, and his thinking process.

    That is all possible because I know how to navigate a wide range of Social Media tools, tools which enable us today to reach back to the best things about “Pre-Gutenberg” human communications, without losing the depth of recorded knowledge Gutenberg gave us.

    Connected humans are the essence of society. And we connect, as humans, in many ways. Those connection methods and how we use them define our society, enrich our society, and make advancement possible.

    I think my biggest issue with what kwhobbes has written lies in his assumptions of the supposed “naturalness” of his 19th Century preferences. Those 19th Century norms of school, of the classroom, of the learning process were deliberately invented for reasons ranging from the technologies of those times (the steam-powered rotary press, the chalk-board), to the politics of Protestant Capitalism (the time schedule, age-based grades, the bell curve, the notion of learning as “hard work”), to nationalist desires for indoctrinated citizens, to Social Darwinist beliefs. They may be good or bad, but they are neither natural nor based in any “proof of success.”

    • Reply

      What can I say to this (after I stop laughing and pick myself up.) I did drop by your blog. Interesting. Several unflattering things come to mind but, really, what’s the point. You demonstrate, in your response, all that I find wrong with participating in social media and if I were in any way insecure, I’d probably be offended. I take solace in knowing that there is no way you could ever do what I do everyday. You talk it, I walk it but I’m not trying to start a revolution – just change things for the lives of the students who walk through the doors each day. I’ll continue to spend most of my time with parents, students, community members and staff doing whatever it take to improve the learning that takes place here. Yes, there are things that need changing but I’ve learned that theory and reality are usually very far apart and it takes the muckers and grinders to make the two come together. Eloquent hyperbole and sarcasm aren’t really going to improve learning. So, you continue to do what you do and I’ll continue to muck and grind.

      • Reply

        “What can I say to this (after I stop laughing and pick myself up.) I did drop by your blog. Interesting. Several unflattering things come to mind but, really, what’s the point. You demonstrate, in your response, all that I find wrong with participating in social media and if I were in any way insecure, I’d probably be offended. I take solace in knowing that there is no way you could ever do what I do everyday. You talk it, I walk it but I’m not trying to start a revolution – just change things for the lives of the students who walk through the doors each day.”

        Ah the snide dismissal of reality by one who who views there position as an educational success as proof of their superiority. Well, ok, I too spend everyday with students trying to change their lives, but I do that by meeting them in their century, in their world, and with the human tools which give them opportunities to break through the limitations those in educational “power” impose on them. So no, I could not spend my day imposing 19th century Protestant norms on children, rather, I try to broker healthier, more supportive environments. Your laughter is your problem, as is your apparent ignorance of history.

        You see, not everyone on this planet finds the schools we have built to be the wondrous engines of “change” you suggest. Many of us find them brutal places which, in the colonialist desire to normalise, sort and divide rather than educate and support. And if the walls of your classroom, or community, or nation are not the comfortable personal definers a student seeks, they become straightjackets and prison walls. Thus, as human history suggests, the more we reach out, the more paths to understanding and discovery we offer, the greater the range of those who have the chance to succeed.

        While you have been laughing, the world has moved beyond Gutenberg’s limits, and beyond the limits of Calvin’s “fixed text,” and beyond the human limitations of any individual classroom teacher. So whether this is Virginia third graders debating simple machines with scientists around the world or Scottish fifth year students discussing space and gravity with a museum in New York or North Carolina tenth graders listening to a Scots Gaelic weather report as preparation for Macbeth, we use these information and communication technologies to expand learning opportunities.

        I am going to assume that you work quite hard on behalf of your students, I just hope you are not undercutting your own effort by failing to keep them joined to their world.

        • Reply

          Yep, ignorant and blissful. But I’m Catholic although I was Protestant. I really don’t follow Gutenberg but Calvin is one of my favourite cartoon characters. Obviously you’ve figured me all out. Thanks. As I said earlier, you’ve no clue but continue on as it’s quite amusing to read your lamentations. Fine job.

    • Reply

      I wonder what pats of this amuse you as an educator? That students and teachers might have authentic conversations about objects of learning with others? That knowledge is expanded? That students with diverse interests and preferences are engaged? That students with differing abilities have different paths open to them?

      Or is what you are laughing at what you are actually afraid of – that you will no longer be the single authority, the know it all, and the controller of all information?

      Is what this era’s information systems encourage a threat to learning or a threat to your status and self image?

      • Reply

        The fact that is amusing is that while all the other discussions are actually part of conversations, yours are rants and bashings which, if you were to go back to the original discussion stem not from expanding students knowledge and pushing the edge but from disagreeing that blogging and tweeting make teachers better. From the questions you pose here, not only do you know nothing about me or what I do but, it seems, your whole reason for being here is to argue and name call, to try to draw out some sort of argument which, from the tweet, seems to something you really like to do, even take pride in creating. Your purpose is not to expand the knowledge or enter into a discussion but to name call and use this as a platform to rant against the Protestant colonial establishment. Just as I won’t argue with anyone whose sole purpose is the revel in the argument, I won’t here. Please, take your name calling and all the rest and go home. It’s not welcome here as it doesn’t add to the dialogue which everyone else seems to partaking. Your sarcastic and misinformed comments are, as I said early, one of the biggest problems in using social media but you have provided me with more than enough examples of how not to comment and how not to act in a public forum which I will share with my students since they need to learn how to have a discussion that doesn’t degenerate into a personal attack, something you don’t seem to have learned yet.

    • Reply

      Teachers become better teachers when they fully understand the world in which their students function, and when they do their best to understand the worlds which await their students during the course of those students lives. They become better teachers when they engage the world in the widest possible way… as they can then help their students do.

      Of course teachers also become “better” when they demonstrate the ability to engage and work through disagreement – an essential component of both face-to-face and online engagement which was “less possible” in the Gutenberg Era (arguing with a printed book or magazine article, or even a lecture, being more problematic). I think this exchange provides ample evidence that we both need to work on that component – having escalated a historical dispute into something much less illuminating.

      And with that, I will leave you alone, apologising for any personal attacks. We meet many online. And find close collaborators and worthy opponents both. Sometimes one becomes the other – often actually as issues change. But there must be a willingness on both sides for that interplay to operate.

  12. Reply

    Kelly: your comment to Dean is right on. Social media, social networking and its role in improving education is highly over-rated. Its use guarantees nothing. And time spent rolling up your sleeves with your colleagues is time always better spent with regards to improving schools. Many using Twitter and other social media platforms are doing exactly what you say-building name recognition to become the next big time speaker/consultant. Why these people have their place, and I have done my share of that, the true change agents are people who commit and dedicate their lives, efforts, and energy working within their school. I suspect that there will be more feelings like yours put out there, as I believe their is a growing dislike for the trivialization of the hard work teachers do. PLN? Please. Go establish relationships with the people in your hallway, they have buy-in. Thanks for having the courage to say what you have said, it is deeply appreciated.


    • Reply

      David, in all the exchanges, I missed this and I’d like to thank you for your reply. I know that you have done a great deal of work in the area of building school culture and promoting professional reflection. Thank you for the comments and the positive feedback. It’s always welcome – even we principals like it sometime;)

  13. Reply

    Connected humans are the essence of society. And we connect, as humans, in many ways. Those connection methods and how we use them define our society, enrich our society, and make advancement possible.

    I absolutely agree – and if we as responsible adults invested in the upbringing of children work together to find better ways of doing this, then wonderful things can and will happen. Sir Ken Robinson's views lay it out pretty plainly – as we move from an post-industrialized culture to an information based culture, there many, many questions that we're looking to solve. We're not going to find them without collaborating and seeking answers together by pooling our collective resources, and it seems irresponsible to reject newer technology when it can help us work towards answers.

    • Reply

      Somehow, it seems that I’m rejecting newer technology and collaboration, which I’m not. In fact, I encourage the use of all sorts of sharing, collaboration, technology, various teaching strategies and assessment for/at/of learning to better assist students in their learning endeavours. What I have said, and will continue to say is that to continue to, as I see, trivialize things through snippets and quaint anecdotes isn’t building the cultures in the schools that I believe we need to build in order to help our students and do what is best for them. David Jakes does a good job of summing things up. Thanks Dave. Jen, whom I’ve long followed and had many a great discussion, also does a superb job of outlining many of the ideas being discussed.

      I agree that connected humans are the essence of society. I just wonder if we confuse being linked with someone as being connected – the two are not the same for me. Sir Ken Robinson does a great job and provides us with a vision. But it will be our collective efforts, working through a great deal of adversity, that will determine if that vision will be a reality. So, as I’ve stated, I don’t reject technology at all or the gains it can give us. But if we just rush blindly forth, I’m not sure we’ll get to realizing that vision.

  14. Reply

    Again, I appreciate the time you took to put into these comments, and the discussion that followed. Maybe I’m not reading things the same way as others, or maybe I’m just with you on another planet, but this is what I get from your words:

    1. We all have to prioritize our lives, and our social media engagement will ebb and flow accordingly.

    2. Good teaching involves many complexities and it’s important not to heavily tip the balance of your personal professional development in favor of activities that simply make you feel like you are not alone, but do not lead to better teaching and learning.

    3. There is dangerous precedent in commoditizing our digital identities, where our presence is more valuable than our actual work and influence for good.

    4. There are good teachers who have much to share who lack the capacity to be successful in social media, not necessarily because of lack of time, interest, or ability to learn the technology.

    5. A community where only the ideas of the majority are valued and respected is not a productive or safe environment for growth and development.

    I don’t see anything you’ve said as an either/or. My takeaway is that we all have the responsibility to explore and learn as much as we can about new media, so we can make informed choices that best impact our own personal and professional practices.

    That said, I fully expect to get pushback on my comments, because I’ve been saying the same thing for years. Every time I do, I’m told I’m too sensitive, or I’m trying to prevent others from engaging in something. I’m told I’m a reductionist, depressed, or angry. It’s okay. I still love the people, and I’ll still participate at the level that’s comfortable for me. (Now I’ll be accused of being too lazy to leave my comfort zone 🙂 )

    You are the only one who can set your priorities. Because you have invested the time to explore these technologies from multiple angles, I don’t know how anyone could fault you for choosing your own path. I hope we continue to cross paths when it works out for us both.


    • Reply

      I’m glad to see you in here, Jen. This whole discussion takes me back to the sparrings you used to have with Steve Hargadon regarding the Web 2.0 and its potential as the “future of education.”

      I think you’ve summed things up well:

      I don’t see anything you’ve said as an either/or. My takeaway is that we all have the responsibility to explore and learn as much as we can about new media, so we can make informed choices that best impact our own personal and professional practices.

    • Reply

      Thank you, Jen. I wish I’d just let you’d say it like that the first time. I know that both you and I have been through many a discussion about various technologies and trends over these past years. Like you, I expect the pushback – it’s part of being comfortable with who we are and not being at all afraid to question things. Learning is all about the questioning. I don’t think you’re depressed or angry and I’m not sure what a reductionist is but I’m sure you’re not that either.

      Thanks for taking the time to drop by and add to the discussion. I appreciate that you took time to do that. Take care and I look forward to our paths crossing again, hopefully in the not-to-distant future.

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  16. Reply

    If you think of the number of minutes/hours that have been spent by people writing and commenting on this post alone, let alone those who read it but didn’t comment, you have generated quite a pool of knowledge that could be very useful to a large number of people. No matter what perspective or angle you take, and there are many here, this post represents enormous potential that yes, can be useful and integral for learning.

    What if this discussion was directly about learning? What if it was written by another student?

    The point is that by taking the time to write an initial thought you’ve had people from all over the world chime in and stimulate high level discussion. That’s not only impressive but also quite amazing.

    If a teachers and students could do the same for the things that matter to them, would that make school and learning better? Can they do this same thing at school with the same diversity?

    Will this discussion make me a better educator? I say yes. The understanding and diverse views are things I think about deeply. I’m better off for having the conversation. It’s not simply about me stating my opinion but listening to others as well. I’m grateful to know that all these ideas help shape the work I do with teachers and students.

    If technology is some way does not provide us with the ability to connect with others, then it’s simply computing which isn’t a bad thing but connecting as is happening here is something very different, and I’m arguing very important.

    • Jennifer Mitchell


      I’ve just come back to read these fascinating, and intricate comments again – a final word. I agree with Dean that if this resource was written by students, it would demonstrate the variety of positions available to diverse participants; it would show critical thinking; it would show human emotional engagement and passion, and it would mirror a world of debate, considered opinion and reflection. These are attributes I advocate in my face to face classes with adolescents.

      I also agree with kwhobbes that social media is not the be all and end all, but no-one here is actually advocating that it should be a choice between one or the other, from my reading. “We can lead students to technology, but we can’t make them learn” – Gary Stager, I believe, who traveled to Australia to talk with some of our faculty, face to face. Social media is but one option in a range of professional learning options, and I would prefer face to face over virtual every time. I’m an English teacher trying to collaborate on innovative projects with the maths department in my college, because I think we have common interests which if combined in creative ways, would help our common students to learn more powerfully. No-one wants to participate: everyone’s too busy – one of them thinks I’m a nut-case – I’m sure of it. I wish they weren’t so dismissive, but I came across just the resource I needed in a Tweet, and it led to a brilliant session in class, engaged students, and a feeling of regret that my own colleagues couldn’t share that excitement of collaboration with me. I will continue to try to get more staff involved in discussions next year.

      • Reply

        That’s wonderful. I have had similar experiences with having students engaged in discussions with other students across the globe through blogging about ideas we were discussing in class. This was 5 years ago and I’ve used a similar format on a few other occasions, when it fit with the students, class and what we were doing. I’ve used a variety of communication tools to interact with schools in other cultures and have promoted and assisted teachers in setting up such things. I have a few teachers here who have skyped in experts to talk about certain topics in order to offer students access to their knowledge while also promoting having local guests visit the school to talk with students. Gary’s right that we can’t make them learn but, if we are willing to explore and discuss with them, one can usually find some way to engage a student. It won’t always happen and there are many issues our youth deal with that impact on their lives long before they arrive in our presence.

        I agree that it isn’t an all or nothing case and I’m just stating that we need to not jump on the social media bandwagon and share, share, share. In the not-to-distant past, the debate about cellphones was huge. We had debates, people wanting them to be dropped off at the office and all sorts of other things. Yet, lately, I’ve heard very little about the evils of cellphones but, instead, they have slowly become integrated into the lives and are being used as tools by teachers and students. I still have to deal with the occasional inappropriate use of a cellphone but we don’t ban them. Instead we use them and teach the students how to use them appropriately in a given situation. So, in this school, you’ll see students using them as calculators, calendars, notepads, browsers and such. It’s all about how you approach the topic and there is no silver bullet that will fix it all. Good on you for trying and sharing. However, I do have a bit of a different position which means that I must travel a different path which closes some opportunities for me while opening others that a classroom teacher might not be aware. I tend to speak from seeing and working with, talking and discussing with teachers who are passionate about the students they teach but not always willing or wanting to join in these discussions. As you have noticed, sometimes you have to have a thick skin as people will sometimes act in ways that are unacceptable. And we wonder, sometimes, why people don’t want to engage in this form of sharing.

    • Reply


      I wholeheartedly agree. As you know, I believe that this is a part of what I do. What has amazed me is that, in all my time of writing and sharing, about 5 years, this is the very first time that anything of this nature has taken place despite all the commenting, writing (about 200 posts) and other things that I have done. In part, I believe, because someone like yourself was part of the discussion which took it to the next level. In part, because of the content. For me, there is a huge difference between this and what normally takes place. So, I agree that if there was a way to generate this type of discussion consistently, it would be a tremendous opportunity for learning by everyone. But, for many people who are like me, this isn’t the norm. That is why I advocate other methods and tools to teachers to develop and expand their learning and improve the learning opportunities for the students. For some, this may be something that they will be able to be part. It’s just not the norm for many. If I wasn’t so stubborn, I’d probably have tossed in the towel on blogging. Instead, I have poured my energies into working with teachers to enhance their own development, using tools that they can then use with greater leverage in their own teaching – social bookmarking, online organization, online lesson development, etc. We’re on the same side, just using a different approach and seeing different results which shape how we approach the ultimate task of doing what’s best for the students.

  17. Reply

    If you get the value of collaboration in school, you’ll get it to even greater depths beyond the walls of the classroom.

    If you don’t get collaboration, experiencing the variety and richness of the many educational voices in the online world, may inspire you to consider adding your ideas to the pool.

    But, you have to be careful from where you drink it in.
    It requires critical thinking; it resonates with open-mindedness; and it takes time.

    • Reply

      Right with you Rodd. Carefully sifting, carefully drinking so as not to become drunk in the cleverness of my own ideas, to stay humble through knowing that others are out there engaging and to be always in wonder and amazement at the pursuit of learning.

      Collaboration, when well developed, is a wonderous thing that expands and makes everyone involved better but, when used inappropriately leads to problems and creates barriers that are even greater to overcome. Collaboration isn’t easy and doesn’t happen by chance but, when it works, is incredible!

  18. Nancy


    And to think I happened upon this conversation as a result of a tweet posted by @shareski !

    That said, will the contents of the post & comments make me a better teacher? Nope! Will they give me pause to reflect upon the amount of time & effort I spend in my ‘virtual neighborhood’ (I so dislike ‘PLN’)? Perhaps.

    For myself, it is all about finding balance. If all my ‘free’ time were spent in social media venues I would not be able to impact the learning in my classroom the way I want. So the recipe that works for me is: scan Twitter for links & ideas, walk the halls & enter the classrooms of colleagues to share an idea or link, use what I have gleamed in my own class, with my own students, & then reflect on the effectiveness (both alone, with colleagues, AND — most importantly — with my students).

    ‘Times they are a changing’…I believe we are all trying to find our place. For today, I’ve found mine though I’m not certain where I’ll be tomorrow.

    Thank you all who have contributed to this conversation.

    • Reply

      because @shareski has a huge fan following – which does make a difference. Usually my posts get 4 visitors and that is if my mom takes time to visit from her two computers. Seriously, there are over a hundred posts here, going back a number of years, that have been read by mischance. So, yes you did happen upon this through a tweet and the learning and sharing has been wonderful but it wasn’t planned and it isn’t the norm. Most of the time, it’s me talking to myself and my mom. Being connected does have something to do with this and it takes time to do that. For me, happenchance isn’t something I usually have the luxury to partake despite the fact that I am fairly well linked in a few social mediums. I like the variety of ways you enhance the learning of your students. It’s one I encourage. Thanks for sharing.

  19. Tex


    Wow! What a great resource your post was (and all the comments as well!)
    If you ever have the time, could you read my 65-page ebook about teaching and learning? You can download it for free at this link:
    I would love to hear your opinions regarding my work…

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