What Happens When Twitter Dies?

I’m not really in a position to understand all that’s happening over at Twitter. I mean I realize Elon Musk bought it and seems to have the desire to change the platform and many feel it will either implode or turn into something they don’t want to support. But I don’t yet have an opinion. It’s partly because I’m not sure I care.

That might sound weird for someone that was around for as long as anyone I know. I joined the platform in January 2007. It was barely 6 months old. There was no such thing as social media or at least we didn’t call it that. Twitter was a major accelerator for network building for me. But as this all was happening, most of us had no understanding or intentionality of how we would use it. We were a bunch of educators playing around. I say educators because, at the time, that’s about all we’d see. The first 3-5 years of Twitter were the glory years for me. I created a network and made friends. This is one of the first things I wrote about Twitter. It was mysterious. It was innocent. It was fun. This post sums up how I have tried to use Twitter over these past 16 years.

I used to tweet a lot. I mean a lot. In the first seven years. I hit 100,000 tweets. I even made a stupid video about it.

I don’t remember when but I did get the coveted blue check mark. I don’t really know why, there are a lot more famous, important people using the platform but I got it. It didn’t really change anything for me. But it was around this time that the platform shifted and became more mainstream. That mainstream use came with the advantage of becoming more popular and important to many but also came with more garbage and sketchy players. In the last 8 years, my use has dropped 75%. Twitter has been evolving long before Musk took over and I’ve certainly lost much of my desire to spend time there but I got out of it so much. As I mentioned, I’ve made friendships, gotten connected to smart people, laughed, and played. I’ve even been able to secure speaking gigs on the platform so in that respect it’s probably made me a little money too.

If it blows up tomorrow, I share much of the sentiment written by my friend Alec who has a very similar Twitter trajectory. I’m good. I’ve got more out of the platform than most. I have a robust network and community (those are different things by the way). I’ve found other platforms to stay connected to those I care most about. The serendipity of finding new people has diminished greatly over the years but for me at this stage of my career, it’s fine. But what about younger educators?

This is where I’m most concerned. When I was teaching undergrads and even graduate students, part of my mission was to help them build their network and find a community that existed beyond the walls of their school or district. Early on I advocated the use of Twitter. That has not been the case more recently. The added noise and activity on the site made it more difficult to easily find people. I realized the cost/benefit of using Twitter to find a network was not favorable. I saw educators naturally shift to Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat, and TikTok. While I’m not sure those spaces can provide the access to the right people the way the old Twitter did, at least some were trying. But the idea that a teacher can find her tribe and then every year attend an event and meet up with that tribe to reinvigorate and revitalize her desire to teach may be gone. For those of us fortunate to have that we know what a difference it makes for us and our students and our well-being. At a time when wellness is such an important topic, the idea of an online community and support from outside voices is more important than ever and yet more difficult to build today than it has been. Twitter still has the structure that can allow for that but it takes effort to curate and understand how to do that. If Twitter dies, I’ll be fine but I hope we can figure out how to provide opportunities for young people to connect to the same kind of smart and caring educators that have encouraged and supported me for the past 15+ years.

EdTech Posse 8.1

We are now in our 8th year of podcasting. I could be totally wrong but I'm going to declare us as the longest running educational group podcast on the planet. If I'm wrong leave a comment and I'll retract.

We had a relatively quick conversation with Rob as Alec and I were in the same room planning for our workshop the following day. 

Here's some of the show notes:

 

Also, you'll want to listen and earn a coveted Posse Mug. Hey, I've now done three consecutive posts as podcasts which is a new record. I'm kinda diggin' the audio again and am actually planning to develop a workshop on audio design. Anyway enjoy the show.

 

[podcast]http://edtechposse.ca/podcasts/2012/etp_8.1.mp3[/podcast]

 

 

Understanding the Digital Divide

I need to be careful. A new job and new learning gives me plenty of excuses not to write. My mind is occupied with all sorts of things that make it challenging to be be reflective sometimes. Writing and blogging has been a critical part of my own growth as an educator and I have no intentions of that changing but I need to force myself to write. This might be one of those occasions. 

Last week I visited two dramatically different conferences. FETC is one of the larger educational conferences you'll ever attend. While numbers have decreased significantly from the first time I attended over 11 years ago, there are still thousands that make their way to the Orange County Convention Center to drink in all things related to technology and learning. My first time there in 2001 I recall attending a pre-conference workshop on streaming video. I believe it was Miami-Dade County sharing how they were able to stream events such as football games and graduations to their community using a truck with TV studio equipment and servers coming out the wazoo. It took me about 15 minutes to realize that someone from Moose Jaw, SK with a handy cam and a lab of 30 computers had no business being in on that session and no hope of ever being able to do anything of that magnitude. I continued to be in awe that week of the emerging hardware and software that offered some new possibilities. I left feeling pretty excited. 

The next few years at this conference were less and less exhilarating and by the 2009 I had pretty much decided there wasn't anything happening there that I would need. My learning space had shifted. What I valued from conferences was about meeting new people whose ideas and sharing I was beginning to understand but wanted some clarification. Call it the flipped conference. Unfortunately FETC wasn't the best place to experience this. Unlike ISTE,  who was not only larger but had begun to acknowledge this need amongst a percentage of its conference attendees, FETC wasn't really embracing this need. 

This year I attended FETC as part of my new role with Discovery. As it turned out, it was a great way for me to spend time with co-workers, ask questions, watch a pre-conference event and connect with many DEN stars. In addition, there were many Canadians in attendance (Florida in January may have something to do with that) and made some important connections that will be helpful as develop community in Canada. But although for me, there was benefit, I couldn't help but noticed that 11 years since my first FETC, there was still a large focus on tools and devices. Very few sessions dealt with the real hard questions of teaching and learning. To be fair, I was largely going by the program and session descriptions but I struggled finding sessions I thought woudl be interesting beyond, "here's a bunch of tools I think are cool". 

The conference ended Thursday night and Friday I left for Philadelphia to attend Educon. Educon and FETC are nothing alike. Educon is small, 500 or fewer. Educon takes place in a school. Educon is in Philadelphia, not Orlando. Educon is designed to be conversational. I led one of these sessions with Alec Couros and shared this diagram from D'arcy Norman as the basic formula for the conference:

This happens because Chris Lehmann attracts smart people. It happens because a high percentage of these people interact with each other regularly online. It's a community  coming together to get at some important issues. It's kind of a flipped conference. It's not a perfect conference but it serves the needs of many who are looking to connect deeply with people and ideas. 

I think FETC meets some of their needs as well. However it's much more of an introductory space for many. A large number of attendees are experiencing shiny new tools and ideas for the first time. I often lose sight of that. At the same time I don't think they're adverse to having the conversations that might take place at an Educon but may not be ready to go there. I think they lack a context for change. 

I'm making a number of assumptions here and I may in fact be wrong. But I did come to realize that just because I find the format and style of Educon more to my liking doesn't mean that an FETC conference doesn't have value. I also realized that my role with Discovery is going to mean that I need to find more ways to reach a more diverse audience. In one month of travels and conversations, I'm seeing first hand the spectrum of technology use and understanding which is greater than I perceived. Working inside a single district, I at least understood the culture. I knew that while not every teacher was using technology to its fullest, I was aware of the circumstances and barriers to a greater degree and was able to provide the more appropriate supports. I've seen some schools and teachers who are dealing with very different challenges than I witnessed. Schools with virtually no technology outside of a single smartboard and a lab of out of date computers. No wireless access. High levels of filtering. Boards with limited vision. While I was aware these problems existed, they weren't really my problems. Now they are. 

So all this to say the digital divide is vast. Somehow I need to prepare myself to address that and It begins with a more sympathetic attitude towards those just beginning to see that things could be different. I think at times I've been harsh and impatient with people. Not openly perhaps but may have dismissed someone's seeming lack of interest as being reluctant. I'm realizing that so many people have not had the opportunities and time I've had. Again, this isn't new but I got a good reminder last week. 

The Educon experience of community and challenging conversations is something I hope to pursue and nurture with my time at Discovery. I've got lots of resources to make that happen but I've also got a big challenge in supporting a country as big as Canada. 

I'll keep sticking with what's gotten me this far; smart people. I know a few. 

 

 

 

Emotional Surplus?

Cross posted at Education Debate

I’ve been a strong advocate for shifting school’s narrow focus of writing to include more contemporary forms like video. It’s clear this skill is going to be essential for our students to communicate in a YouTube world.

 

Two years ago I wrote a post about the Best Job in the World. My argument centered around the idea that we need to get on this. I loved Stephen Downes response:

They are, of course, creative and imaginative and effective. Now for the kicker: ten years ago, not one student in a hundred, nay, one in a thousand, could have produced videos like this. It’s a whole new skill, a vital and important skill, and one utterly necessary not simply from the perspective of creating but also of comprehending video communication today.

This phenomena of requiring people to create videos to “show their stuff” is growing and will no doubt continue not just as a cutesy fad but as standard fare in job recruitment, college entrance, dating and pretty much any other purpose you can imagine.

Today I viewed the video by Alye Pollack.

What struck me was the simplicity and sincerity of the video. Low production but high impact. Here’s someone who understands how to reach an audience.

In addition to the students not being able to produce something like this ten years ago, we can respond them in ways we couldn’t ten years ago.  With some, it’s the click of a button to show a sign of support. Not much effort but when thousands or millions participate, it does demonstrate popularity if nothing else. In the case of Alye Pollack, it seems we can and should do more. The comments left on her YouTube video are for the most part very supportive and encouraging. I hope she takes solace in that. But I continue to wonder what more can be done. From her video, she says she loves her school. As is the case often, parents and adults struggle to resolve these issues. While we all can do better, I wonder, if like this case, the broader community, indeed strangers could help?

I don’t know what that means. I’ve contacted her parents via twitter. There’s also an email and Facebook page. The vigilante in me wants to send a message to all the kids at her school that are causing her pain. I doubt that’s the response we should take but what could we do as a community of caring adults to support and aid these situations? Shirky talks about cognitive surplus, maybe there’s some kind of emotional surplus that could be garnered? Facebook pages and comments are useful but I maybe there’s more. If there is, I want in.

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Barbers and School

 

My son, for whatever reason, has chosen to let his hair grow while at college in Toronto. His mother and sisters and I have been trying to get him to get it cut for months. On Friday he did. 

He Skyped me to tell me the good news and relayed how it was a rather lovely experience. The barber, who was recommended by a friend, was a little ways from where he lives in Toronto. So he took the subway and made a day of it. Not only was he describing the best burger he ever had but also the haircutting experience itself. Apparently the guy who cut his hair totally ignored my son's suggestion and proceeded to do his own thing. I guess he knew what he was doing and my son was quite pleased with the result. After he finished, he asked that Sam stay and play a game of chess with him. The barber schooled him. My son left feeling quite pleased with the whole day. It was indeed much more than a haircut. It was an experience and a time well spent with a stranger. From the tone of that conversation, he'll be back. 

During this call I was on hold with Alec as we were planning an upcoming event. I briefly shared this story and he told me of a friend of his who decided after taking his share of university classes to open up a barber shop in his home town and cut hair for a living. Alec told me how his friend loved to cut hair and visit with people and painted a picture of one of those places "where everyone knows your name."

The idea of devoting your life to a job like cutting hair somehow doesn't seem like it fits in with all our conversations about global connections and shifted learning. Nor does it fit in with standardized testing and rigorous curriculum. (by the way, I hate the word rigor to describe anything about school)

Which lead me to consider a couple of questions:

1. What could be better than finding a vocation that you enjoy and that allows you to spend time with people connecting and sharing life while providing a useful service?

2. Do our schools help our students seek such a life or do we see a hairstylist as somehow a lesser profession?

3. How did their schooling contribute to the life they lead now? Did it help them become the person they are or did they become that in spite of school?

4. What if we began to measure our schools, not simply at the end of a term or year but for the quality of individuals it serves? Do we want to or need to measure happiness or quality of life?

A Saturday twitter conversation with Will, Bud and Brian got me thinking about the what we need to be paying attention to. Will is currently looking to the edge. I like the edge too. I spend much of my time trying to reach it and see what new opportunities and accordances might be useful to help us learn better and learn more and learn differently. The edge is an important place to explore but these barbers would hardly be considered living on the edge. But in many ways, it's hard to argue they aren't living well. Really, really well. It seems like a nice way to spend a life.