Let’s meet them at the door

I’ve been really busy of late with all the things that go on in the life of a parent, principal, coach and community member. My senior boys basketball team is showing signs of becoming a real contender – which means that we have to play more – with more nights away. I’ve also been working very hard on getting some of the policies for our school ready – reworking areas that just don’t seem to fit. I’ve been expanding my use of various web2.0 tools including such things as Jing, VoiceThread, Animoto and other tools. Now this is because I’m hoping to do a session at the upcoming Tlt Conference in Saskatoon in May. I am focusing on tools that can help administrators to become more familiar with what is available and begin to use the tools in their own lives. I’m hoping to use Jing to create a Jingcast of some of the tools I hope to use plus add to my admin wiki some of the things that I am learning and working on during this time.

Tonight, after reffing and coaching a bball game, I was able to sit in on Alec Couros university class using Ustream. During this time, one of the participants, nnoakes, asked a really good question about the whole networking idea. George Siemens, who was guest presenting on Connectivism, had just mentioned some of the major educational bloggers in his presentation. The question posed was something like:

How does the network open up for new people as most of the people mentioned refer to one another in their writing and their own network includes one another.

I also wonder this. I recall a commment that once directed me to some advice on becoming more widely read. It included commenting on other bogs, writing regularly, keeping the topics current, referring to what you’ve read and so on. Well, I must say that it’s a lie, as far as I’m concerned. Many of the big names were there at the start and continue to grow their readerships because they were there at the start – and rightly so. Some have done some great work with connecting classrooms and including technology in their teaching and this has grown their readership. Some have interesting comments and make controversial comments which brings them readership. The rest, well, we write on, sometimes having a good post that draws attention from readers or we manage to be noticed by a blogger with a large reader list which brings in readers.

As the number of teachers who enter different networks grows, it will be interesting to see how things pan out. I know that I’ve seen the frustration in a number of bloggers who find it very disappointing that it is so hard to get comments or interaction. Having commented on a number of blogs, I know that it takes a great deal of time to do this. Some say it pays off in attracting readers. I’m not convinced. I’m not convinced that, like all other areas of our society, there won’t be just a few major players whose writing is followed by many while many of rest will continue with a very small readership, occasionally attracting readers because of this or that.

My reasons vary but mostly come down to this:  most of the big name bloggers are not full-time teachers or school building administrators and are outside looking in. There, I said it. There is only so much time in a day, there is only so much time to do reading and commenting and many are finding that to be committed to a network requires time that many teachers do not have. So, if you are a well known figure, you can pop in and out of twitter and leave a few posts and then not appear for a day or two and people will respond to you. The rest need to build and nuture our networks – commenting and building, building and discussing, discussing and sharing. Any time away and our network moves on – not really leaving us but not allowing us to just drop in.

Now, we do make some personal connections, especially if we can meet f2f with people from our network. This really adds to the relationships, strengthening the bonds but, like most teachers, the chance of attending a major national conference and meeting these people is, well, not that likely. Those who do get this chance, appear to build and strengthen their network in ways that are different than others. With many of well known names, they meet one another at these conferences to get reaquainted and reconnected. Their conversations have references and such that those not attending cannot share. It may not create an exclusive network but it does affect those who are involved. So for others trying to get involved, it becomes even more difficult as they try to make sense of it all.

Maybe we need to really go out of our way to help those just joining the community and network. Mentor them and introduce them to different educators. Really share ourselves with them instead of allowing them to find their own way. The idea similar to what happens with new teachers. Those who have mentors tend to develop in a much different way than those who learn by trial-by-fire. Education, unfortunately, is know for the latter and not the former. For so long, we have not opened the doors to new people but instead allowed them to make it on their own. Maybe, as we explore these new venues and tools, we need to toss open the doors and do more than just invite them in. We need to meet them at the door and help them find their way. We need to check in on them and see how they are doing and share cool ideas or tools with them. Those of us who have some experience, need to share that with others and maybe go beyond just our blog sharing. Maybe we need to meet them at the door, welcome them and help them with what they are doing. It’s one thing that does work in school.

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14 responses

  1. I try to suffice by making comments and getting noticed.

    That said, I believe that networking will happen if it is meant to happen. If people want or value a network, in 50 years they’ll have developed or have had the opportunity to develop comfortably. The current crop of teachers is another matter.

    Over time, though, more and more future teachers — or just plain people, at least — having grown up with the idea of being part of a massive network, will acclimate to it.

    Speaking as a member of perhaps the first part of that generation: We’ll try, anyway.

    http://awaitingtenure.wordpress.com/

  2. FIrst let me welcome you to Ustream, and also say we are thrilled that the educational community has accepted Ustream for the remarkable education tool that it was originally designed to be. If anyone has questions about ustream and how to stream your event, feel free to caontact us at support@ustream.tv, ustreamtech@yahoo.com or stop by the Ustream Users Community Forum http://www.ustream.tv/channel/ustream-users-community-forum, for tips and techniques!
    My own daughter is a teacher and uses Ustream daily for her microblog, streaming to shut ins and PTO/PTA events, and when special guests are on campus streaming to the entire district, you are limited only by your imagination! And your community grows and goes with you!

  3. I clicked on this link from your tweet while I was editing the Classroom 2.0 wiki page to add myself as a mentor for building PLN’s! This is a topic that is very important to me. I’ve dedicated countless hours to building my PLN, but fully realize that most educators don’t have the time or ability to do so. I’m still fairly new to all of this as well, so I understand the frustrations of trying to break your way in. Great post and much needed!

  4. … hmm went to your about page … no name … i assume any writing that doesn’t have a name attached (especially in the education field) doesn’t particularly desire linkage prreferring to remain anon … know that name could be anything … you describe your working/family/interests … is that more than enough? … maybe still conversations work best for me with faces & names …

  5. 3 a.m. and I’m due for sleep, Kelly, but

    1) I’m an almost full-time teacher who blogged for about ten months before the network formed. Persistence was key for me.

    2) I try to spread the love by writing about “must-read blogs” and urging my readers to read them.

    3) I hope you’ll hook your best basketball players up for some natural student collaboration with two students in my Networked Learning elective class who are working on a web-based project that….features star high school basketball players around the world. Tweet me if you want to play with the idea.

    Your post is right on in many ways. We’re in new territory, and the jury is still out on how we’ll map, navigate, and populate it.

  6. I’m a K-12 teacher/librarian who has been blogging since last June. Your posting certainly describes my experiences.

    When I build on and refer to another, better-known blogger’s reflections, my readership goes up, at least temporarily. My more experimental or personal reflections attract much less notice.

    I’m slowly building my presence but recognize the truth of what you say: I have neither the time nor the reputation to become a leading voice in the edublogosphere.

    My Twitter network is growing; I accept any follower request as long as the biography or website does not look too extreme (all relative, I know!). I try to respond to queries from new Twits and comment periodically on the blogs in my Reader.

    I believe there’s room in this digital world for all levels of citizenship. It would be fun to be a Presence, but just participating is wonderful in and of itself.

  7. I’ve often felt the same way: Chagrin at not having posted anything education-related recently. Worry that I’m missing out on something important. A twinge of envy at the “stars” who get to do the big keynotes. Wondering if this is just an echo chamber, because the “real world” is often very different from what we see on Twitter, UStream, or our RSS feed.

    “Out there,” the idea of putting in more time and effort to learn something new is often met with a blank stare, if not ridicule or hostility. We all know teachers who are just going through the motions, putting in time until retirement. (Maybe some of us were those folks, until we got revitalized by the nifty affordances of these new tools.) People like that are a drag, no question. But they’re the minority.

    Most people in education (and I’d venture 100% of us who make the effort to blog about it) are in it for love. (It’s sure not the money or the prestige.) Love of learning. Love of knowledge. Love of growth.

    Love of helping others to achieve things they never thought possible. To paraphrase the fellow in your banner graphic, “We! Are! That! Hero!”

  8. “My reasons vary but mostly come down to this: most of the big name bloggers are not full-time teachers or school building administrators and are outside looking in. There, I said it.”
    I applaud you for that statement. I am in the trenches. I have to teach 130 students, read emails, correct papers, return parent phone calls, update my webpage, and be witty/insightful enough on a blog to encourage responses. It is exhausting. I agree-we need to spread the comment love around…. those who are the leaders are there-read, respected, recognized. There are other points of view/perspectives that need to be examined. I am the foot soldier of change-don’t discount me because my vita does not have “keynote speaker” listed on it.
    I have two decades of experience to draw from, and it ain’t over yet!

  9. Kelly, great post. I’ll just add a few thoughts echoing what everyone else has said. I’ve been blogging(off and on. . . word to the wise: taking a six month hiatus plays hell with your Technorati rank, and more importantly, with the trusting relationship you’ve built with readers up to that point) since December 2006, with spectacular results for my personal learning, a few real ongoing relationships with other bloggers, and no discernible impact on the greater landscape of education. I have to say that the first item in that list would be sufficient by itself to keep me going. Add the second, and we’re getting into true gift territory. Is it easy to get impatient and frustrated; when we send out those brilliant posts, we hope for “Did You Know?”-style impact craters that transform said education landscape, and instead they hit ground with all the force of a wiffleball.

    I second Diane’s thought: neither the time nor the reputation. I can’t imagine having the energy or grace to handle the kind of inflow a Richardson or Warlick must get. We each have to answer the question of how much (influence, learning, Technorati rank, number of Twitter followers, etc.) is enough for our purposes, and allot our time and energy accordingly. A mischievous side-benefit of being a small fish is that when a post leaps into the light, the thrilling spike stands out in stark contrast for a moment like a shadow cast by fireworks, and then you get to go back to normal life.

    That said, prominence is all relative, and welcome-to-the-neighborhood generosity of spirit is a good rule of thumb no matter where or who you are. Your post title says it nicely: meet them at the door. And hopefully the kindness will be reciprocated by others as we move through whatever is OUR next door. Clay’s point about spreading the love is right on, and he’s one who walks the walk. Scott McLeod is another. In his PLN class, Clay is trying to do network development with students. There’s a good meet-them-at-the-door opportunity if I ever heard one.

  10. Thank you for this post. My experience has also been similar. I started blogging 6 months ago but fortunately under the ‘wing’ of an experienced blogger who as you mention had a big ‘audience’or ‘community’ anyway. My blog then was a general one about our own backyard and included school students’ yards, school and our community. Those comments, which she encouraged her community to give us, were so precious to us and encouraged us on our way. Yes, it is fun to do it by yourself, but when the comments begin, the connections and motivation, encourage a blogger to go further into a connected community.

  11. So many things to digest and think about. First of all, thanks to everyone who commented and who took time to read the post. I was going with the flow at the time.
    eye – I think you might have a point about the network growing as people get use to this form of collaboration and communication. However, I think we’ll miss out on a whole lot of “wisdom” if many of the current teachers can’t be led to participate which would be a huge shame.

    Kate – growing our PLN is one of the greatest things about being able to network. I’ll definitely add my own name to the PLN wiki.

    Raymon – it’s been a long time since I even looked at my about page – didn’t even think about the name not being there so I’ve added it and provided a picture for all who like that sort of thing.

    Clay – will be looking for someone to match with you for the basketball. You walk the talk – you deliver and that’s why you’re one person I look to when it comes to a reality check – am I on track? Being part of your network is so great for me. Thanks man!

    Diane – being a presence is what all of us want – to develop that level where people are communicating with us and exchanging ideas. This wasn’t about becoming a presence but more about the fact that if we want people to be part of the networks, then we really need to reach out to them and help them along. Introduce them to different blogs of people who are doing what they do day-2-day. That is where we’ll see growth, I think.

    Corrie – Love of helping others to achieve things they never thought possible. To paraphrase the fellow in your banner graphic, “We! Are! That! Hero!” EXACTLY – we are all vegetables trying to do something for the good of others and, with some of us being that hero, there will be growth and by helping them along, showing them that there are many more people out there like them, they will find their network. If we just introduce them, they may not have the persistence to keep going.

    Linda – what can I say. I’ll be following you, as all the rest who leave a comment. I will be looking, commenting and showing others your blog as an example of someone who is doing what is necessary, and right, in a swiftly changing world. Keep Strong Linda!

    Scott – you are so correct about the big fish/little fish thing. I’m not saying that we all need or want to be big fish. I don’t have the time to do more than what I’m doing without some shift in things. As you mention, Clay and Scott McLeod are great examples of people who walk the talk and do spread it around. That’s, I guess, what I wanted to point out. We need to look for others. Some people carry the message but it will be the ones doing it every day that live the message. They are the ones that, like you and me, are looking to build their networks and just because it took us 2 years or 2 months, should there not be some learning from that lesson to help those just beginning so that they don’t get discouraged and stop like some that I know have done.

    murcha – you are so lucky. It is great to be able to have someone help you along, introducing you and giving you some advice on what you are doing and opening up the possibilities for you. Thanks for the comment!

    Building a network takes time and dedication like a friendship. As Scott pointed out, people begin to search you out and do become disappointed if you don’t continue. I like being able to meet new people and get to know them through their writing and their work. As our networks grow, we’ll hopefully see our PLN meshing with our blogging, meshing with our other networks. Who knows, maybe we’ll soon see a FB network for educators!

  12. .. thanks for the reply & adding name … years back i was asked by my educational institution department head to remove a blog simply because it was an open, unauthorized site … have never let it prevent me from using technology but am very cautious … students have shared with me how to unblock myspace & facebook at school … they will use networks … i will use networks but always looking behind the screen so to speak …

  13. […] idea of what a network does and can do for us will continue to evolve and change. In my previous post, I stated that we needed to help those who were entering this edusphere become acquainted with what […]

  14. […] long tail and what you write doesn’t matter, that only the A listers matter, read this post: Let’s meet them at the door « Educational Discourse where Kelly responds to the question… How does the network open up for new people as most of […]

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