80 Comments

  1. George,

    Enjoyed your post. I've been on Twitter for over a year now, and I'm still amazed and impressed by this whole "connected learning thing". I don't know which catches my breath more, all that is possible with technology or all the thinking resulting from the interactions. After a month of learning from events like RSCON11 and EduCon, I am reminded of the importance of staying connecting and collaborating with other professionals. We are so fortunate to have these opportunities as they not only change my learning, but the learning of the students I work with every day.

    Cathy

  2. George – that is very cool! The power of connectivity shines through once again! We are most definitely all teachers and learners…and I thank you for being a voice of reason that helps keep me grounded and focused. Your posts are always uplifting and inspirational, and while I find much relevance in your posts, they almost always get me thinking and reflecting about things I am not too familiar with.

    Thank you for sharing!

  3. George,

    You needn't worry about your behavior. You are warm and open. Months back when I thought I had offended you, you DMed me back, "I only have love for you." And I believe it. I also believe that there are many others who could learn from your easygoing example. I did experience people not taking time to find out who I was and who later regretted not taking time to meet me. Now, granted, I could have taken time to get to know people, too, but I frankly felt overwhelmed by the place and number of people. I am an introvert and I readily suffer from sensory overload and from being claustrophobic. Tangerine walls, anyone? Who in their right mind paints a wall tangerine?

    From my perspective I did hear phrases like "A listers" thrown around, and I did get a sense that some of us were the cool kids and others of us were not. Could also be that my perspective was colored by other experiences I've had in life. I expect to be forgotten about and left out, and so that does tend to lend itself to a self-fulfilling prophesy. And, from that standpoint, I take responsibilities for my reactions.

    Part of the problem with EduCon is that it is too jam packed. There is not enough time to just take things all in. Just be. And so people would say things to me like, can't talk now, gotta run to the next session. And I'd never see them again.

    Before we do our best for our kids, we need to do our best for each other. If educators are really serious about including parents as part of the conversation, then there needs to be a real effort at invitation. There was little of that from what I could see. Few sessions were really appropriate for parents like me, and the ones that perhaps were weren't scheduled until well into Sunday afternoon and I had to skedaddle.

    I was happy to meet you and Alec and a handful of others who did make me feel welcome, but unless there is an entire overhaul of the conference, I doubt I'll return.

  4. I just watched Dean Shareski's TEDx talk again: The Return of Barn Raisings and Pop Ins. So appropriate for your post. It was neat to watch that, and then hear how easily Diana was able to "pop in" to your meeting. Twitter allows us to connect with others so these types of opportunities can take place. Sure, there are a select few that may not be as approachable to newcomers. But I think that is rare. We may connect more on twitter with a certain group of people, but we know that most educators we find there are happy to help if we need it. That's the beauty of being connected for a common purpose.

  5. Hey George,

    What a tremendous connection you were able to make to demonstrate the power of being connected. Twitter is full of people like yourself and Diana – really supportive and engaged in supporting students, regardless of whose students they are in the end. It was a huge disappointment for me to not have the chance to attend Educon, but I did enjoy your session from the comfort of my home office and it was a super session with great discussion, both in the room and on twitter.

    Like anything, there are people who are in it for the wrong reasons. I have met them. However, I would never paint 'twitter' or 'educon' with such a broad stroke. That is simply not fair to those out there who go way above and beyond to support colleagues across the continent and even the globe. And you know what? I can learn from those who are all about building a huge following too. What do I care what someone's motivation for sharing is? If you share good stuff, I benefit. How someone behaves towards me says more about them than me. Simple. That sort of stuff cannot draw my attention away from my core reason for engaging and connecting – the students and the learning.

    The comment regarding inviting parents is well-noted. I think that we are at a point now where we can call the elephant in the room. For too long parent participation has been an after-thought and an add-on. To move things forward, we need to examine how we are working with parents. It would be wonderful to have some sessions at conferences like educon that are conversations involving all stakeholders. I know you do that really well at your school and I think that we have a lot to learn from what you are doing. Your rscon panel presentation is a great example.

    We are all teachers, George. And we are all learners together. Thanks for another great post.

    Shannon

    • George

      Shannon…I do my best to share and help others and I totally agree that parents should be in on the conversation. How can they not be? I am thinking about something similar to Educon but with parent involvement and sessions. What do you think? Crazy Couros idea?

  6. Stacy Kimbriel

    George,

    I am just going to comment on a small part of your post-the "clique" portion. I have been endlessly inspired by my twitter feed since I joined in October. I am helping (loosely stated) bring an edcamp to Texas as a result of that renewed inspiration to connect and learn from others. I was curious about edcon and hopeful there would be tweets that would further aid my team with edcampplano, so I searched that hashtag. I read the posts about the cliques and uncomfortable setting for some participants. I was stunned. You can't please everyone, nor will we all hold the same opinions, that is evident. We can only try. It's funny that you posted this, because after I read that, I vowed to be a more giving participant in the twitter community. I cannot continue to passively receive in order to continue to grow. Thank you, George, for being a huge part of my growth and interest in the educational world beyond Plano, Texas. Please help us all learn and grow with you!

    • George

      Stacy,

      What is interesting is that after I connected with people in "real life" from Twitter, I have vowed to do the same thing. I think it is huge that we have conversations using these types of forum, but it should be at our own pace. Some weeks I am writing reports, doing presentations, or in the classroom with kids. No matter how "awesome" it is on Twitter, my school, must and always will come first. I don't get the clique thing because I just talk to everyone. The only people I don't follow or talk to are spammers, or rude people. If you are an educator (or involved with education), I follow you. We can learn from anyone right?

  7. About not pleasing everyone… I was not looking to have people please me.

    I just wanted to feel welcome and feel at ease. I felt neither at EduCon with few exceptions.

    • George

      Debbie,

      I think that your presence was huge in my session. Parents and educators need to work together to provide the best for our kids. It has been too adversarial for too long and we are only going to do better for too long. I am sorry that you felt that way; I hope it was not the intention of anyone purposely.

  8. George, I don't think that anyone could have said it better than you did in the last line of this blog post. It really is all about the students, and I'm amazed by how much you will do for ALL students and ALL educators too. You really are a connected principal, and I'm glad to have connected with you here. Your ideas have helped change my own classroom practices, and you've definitely helped me become a better teacher: my students and I thank you!

    Aviva

    • George

      Thanks Aviva! I am hoping that any "movements" that start in education involve ALL stakeholders. I really believe in the power of collaboration and our PLN displays that over and over again.

  9. Nice post, George. I definitely feel more connected (and more overwhelmed and time pressed) since Alec and you introduced me to social media and Twitter. This even extends to teachers I work with face to face.

    I am not sure I would call myself an introvert or intrapersonal savant, but more of a naturalist on Gardner's intrapersonal-interpersonal-naturalist continuum (he does not view this as a continuum, but I do). I am definitely more aware of the World around me than the people around me or even myself.

    Anyway, social media has helped me connect, particularly with fellow teachers and even more so students. In this way, I consider social media a benefit to me.

    I completely agree that we all love all our kids, and regardless of actual parenthood they are all all our kids, and not just our students.

    Have a great Ground Hog day. Since you live near me, I know you will appreciate that the weather certainly suits the significance of the day.

  10. Pam Franklin

    I am the author of the clique post, and I was "inspired" by @MissShuganah's experiences at EduCon. I am sure that if I would have been invited to attend, I would have had a very similar experience. I am not an "a-lister". I am not "cool". And don't get me wrong – I would be very uncomfortable if I were considered either one of those things. I'm just a teacher, trying to be a better teacher.

    I knew that they were be many people who would disagree with me. I expected it. But just because YOU happen to feel a part of the "group" doesn't change the fact that there are many who do not.

    I know for a fact that people at my own school have given up on Twitter because of the constant RTs and being ignored during #edchat. I rarely participate in #edchat myself anymore.

    George, you and your brother, amongst others, have never been anything but open and kind to just about everyone who tweets. Your parents did a great job!

  11. Geez….Clique thinking about Twitter and Educon, huh?

    Those must be the same people who say that those who share content and ideas freely and openly on the Internet are shameless self-promoters even as they run back to their schools to push for the ideas being promoted.

    Drives me nuts.

    Are their individuals and/or groups who get more attention than others—both in digital spaces and in real life?

    Absolutely—but those are the same people who have been grinding and thinking and sharing and creating and imagining and reinventing for a long, long while. Those are also the same people who are regularly giving away the best ideas to digital audiences for nothing.

    A-listers aren't A-listers because they chose themselves. They're A-listers because they've consistently proven to audiences that they are worth listening to.

    Those who are complaining about not being a part of the "in-crowd" have the same opportunities to be recognized. They've just got to start raising their voices and sharing their ideas. Come up with something innovative, provocative and/or memorable to say, and you can feel cool too.

    And if they're frustrated by the supposed attitudes of the A-listers, stop listening to them. Stop following them. Stop reading what they write. That's the beauty of digital forums. Anyone can build an audience. And anyone can craft the audience that they're the most interested in listening to.

    As for me, I'm thankful for the A-listers because I've learned a TON from them over the years and haven't paid a dime to do it. In fact, I thanked almost every one of them personally for being so willing to make their work transparent and available.

    Am I crazy here, or is this just another example of the aversion that individuals drawn to our profession feel about any form of competition and/or recognition being given to our peers?

    And here's a question for you, George: What are you doing in your school to make it okay for teachers to be accomplished? How are you setting up structures that encourage teachers to stand out even as their peers pull them back and titter about how "everyone's equal in education?"

    Challenging, huh? But a challenge worth thinking about for any principal interested in holding on to the best and the brightest teachers who are frustrated by the complete inability to advance as an educator.

    Thanks for stirring my mind—even if that's not what you're post was primarily about!

    Rock on,

    Bill

    • George

      Thanks for the comment Bill :)

      Here is something that happened to me as a teacher. I asked my principal if I could set up a classroom blog about 9 years ago. I discussed the purpose and the response was, "If you do that, you will make everyone else look bad so no." I was stunned. I wanted to do something innovative and it was not allowed. I vowed to not do that.

      In my school, I try to find everyone's strengths and people have different ones. I am hoping that everyone can do great things, but just in different areas. I do not want carbon copies. If a teacher feels uncomfortable because another teacher is doing great things, that is something I have to live with. My job is to help people see their value for what they do, say "yes" WAY more than I say "no" (I rarely say no), and trust the people that I have working with me to do great things.

      We all push each other through our own innovation. My parents taught me that doing a good job is not about being rewarded, but you do because of pride. I recognize people in different ways but it is usually in a personal way, and not through "awards". I do my best to show appreciation to all my staff.

      I would never want to kill innovation in my school, only encourage it.

      Thanks for pushing my own thinking.

  12. Learning is life. Not every situation we encounter in life will be ideal. We need to learn from it. As someone who is outwardly shy upon first entering a social situation, I know that I may have not initiated conversations with people that I probably should have last weekend. I certainly didn't see anyone go out of their way to be unkind to anyone. I will try to engage more people in conversations in the future, not because I am concerned about "cliques," but because the more people I connect with, the more I will learn.

    I think we need to consider that Educon was an event that was overwhelming in many respects. It caused us to push our thinking and become uncomfortable intellectually. It excited us with the opportunities to meet so many people we admire. (When I introduced myself to Chris Lehmann, I called him, "Mr. Lehmann" out of sheer panic. I'm a goof.) :) Educon was emotionally charged, and for that reason, feelings were heightened. Some were hurt, and that is unfortunate.

    These things I know: I couldn't do my job without the inspiration and brilliance of those in my network. I appreciate wholeheartedly the time and effort and contributions they add to my learning. I hope that which I share in return is valued, even if I never get the chance to connect with them in real life.

    George is right in that we are a group of people who work toward a common goal- to constantly improve learning opportunities for our kids – and that we owe each other a certain amount of allegiance in that respect. I am lucky to call so many of you my true friends, I look forward to meeting more of you in the future, and I appreciate everyone who contributes to my learning.

  13. George, If I, too, can be a member of the choir to your preaching:

    I must thank you first for having the courage to offer your advice and experiences to people that you feel you can impact. I am especially thankful that you chose to offer me help when I threw a request into the cloud. It's the transformative power of passion and fearlessness that will lead us into a new era in education- and you example both. Thanks again and great post! @matthew2switzer

  14. Pam Franklin

    You can't have it both ways. So many of you don't want good students to have special recognition or earn rewards, but now you are touting such things as Wonders of the World for teachers and principals.

    Be consistent in what you want. If recognition and awards are okay for teachers & principals, then they are okay for students who work harder and are better achievers.

    And I am so far from jealous. I was just reporting on what I see happening in my little corner of the world. Teachers don't use Twitter because they are ignored. Teachers don't blog because no one will read what they wrote.

    I keep telling that eventually, you get to the point that you just tweet and write for yourself, but it takes a long time. Many people aren't willing to give it that time.

    That is why those of us who DO use Twitter need to be more welcoming and respond to unknown avatars and names

    • Pam wrote:

      You can’t have it both ways. So many of you don’t want good students to have special recognition or earn rewards, but now you are touting such things as Wonders of the World for teachers and principals.

      Pam, what rewards and special recognition are you talking about? Correct me if I'm wrong, but there wasn't any awards or special recognition given out at Educon, was there?

      If the fact that some people have more followers than others is what you're referring to, I'd argue that's not a choice that the so-called A-listers are making. They're just creating content and sharing ideas that other people want to follow.

      How's that a bad thing?

      And if the fact that those same people choose to limit their own learning networks to manageable groups filled with others whose ideas they find interesting is what you're referring to, I'd argue that's a choice that every individual has the right to make on their own.

      Some of the people I'd guess that you'd think were A-listers have tens of thousands of followers on Twitter and get 20-30 comments on every blog entry. Are you suggesting that they should interact with all of those people every time that they're messaged?

      That just seems unrealistic to me.

      Bill

    • George

      Pam,

      First of all, thanks for your comments and kind words about myself. You know that I have valued your thoughts in my own world and have followed your blog.

      As for your comment on "awards and recognition", you are half right about my thinking, I am totally against public awards because they separate people and create the "A" list type thinking which is detrimental to a collaborative environment which schools should be. As for recognition though, I believe that we need to recognize people in different ways to show that we value what they do. I write cards, have conversations, and personalize them in ways to show people that I know them better than what any "trophy" says. My job as a principal is to unleash the talent that already exists in people; if they don't feel valued, it will not happen.

      I HATE the thought that people don't talk to others because they are not "cool" or whatever. I know that sometimes I am unable to respond to people and don't always thank for every Retweet but I always have to put my school first, and sometimes it can be overwhelming. I don't always have to keep up with my PLN, but my school, I always have to. That is my priority.

      Here is my belief since I was a kid; you don't have to be close friends with everyone but you MUST treat everyone with kindness and respect. I am closer with some people on my PLN just because they have reached out. I am actually kind of an introvert and rarely go out but some people have REALLY reached out to me and I am thankful. I will always be kind to people that treat me with the same respect. It is expected from my family and from myself.

      If you have sparked people to be more thoughtful of how they connect, I am really glad.

  15. I am feeling slightly guilty for some of this discussion because I tweeted: "Some refuse to see the learning possibility because they see it as a closed circle….we have to break that image" in response to somebody saying we had to get more educators involved in a movement to reform education like what was being discussed at EduCon. The discussion was also linked to Twitter and I forget the exact context. My point was that we, meaning the educators who use Twitter and other social media to share ideas and resources, have to be mindful that people that are new to this enviroment easily get discouraged because they don't understand the nuances of medium and often feel left out because they do not "see" all of the discussion. If you don't know how to follow the discussion, then it could certainly appear as if the discussion was amongst a "closed circle" of people. Unfortunately, perception is reality for those who see it that way. I don't want to loose the richness of anyone's contribution. I guess my mission in all of this (yes, I am egotistical enough to think this is about me 😉 is to try to welcome as many to the conversation as I can with open arms….because after all, we are stronger and smarter together than we are apart.

    • Well put Dave! I would consider myself a newbie here and I lurked for quite some time in order to learn the language before entering the conversation. I'm so engaged by following the threads and have learned so much from the content of the founding members of connected principals. I appreciate the post here by George that clearly frames the issue and makes his thinking vulnerable.

  16. Pam Franklin

    But discussion is awesome! I just don't like being painted with "you said that because you are a loser and not an a-lister" brush. So not true!

    If all this makes everyone a little more cognizant of new people and little more welcoming, my mission is accomplished.

  17. Well, I wish I could be as eloquent as everyone above, but, basically, I just think it's hard to do anything without riling some people up. I feel really bad that some people feel excluded from the PLN or Educon or whatever. Considering the whole raison d'etre of our network is inclusiveness, I guess it's just a case of keep on keepin' on. Peace. Love.

  18. Geesh, Bill, insensitive much?

    I am a Z lister. I don't mind being a Z lister. All I want is to be treated with the same dignity and respect as anyone else.

    I don't have a school to return to per se. I am a parent in a difficult situation and searching for answers to real life problems.

    Before I even attended a single session at EduCon, before i even walked in the building, I had already been here and so emotionally I all ready felt raw and vulnerable. What I didn't mention in that blog post was that the proposed outcome for these disabled kids was no different then the one proposed by the Chicago Public Schools: a sheltered workshop. Oh. My. God. Are we still living in the 19th Century? Any of you who are parents, do you want your child to grow up to work in a sheltered workshop? Yet that is what I am supposed to accept for my child's future since she was six. They expect my child, my precious wonderful daughter to be a menial laborer. I wandered around EduCon with that predominantly on my mind and no one to talk to about it.

    And realizing that even if I returned to my daughter's school to talk ideas with them that it would probably not make a lick of difference.

    And wanting desperately to connect and to teach in my own way. George was one of the few who really let me do that. Alec, too. Listened. Parents are not listened to, by and large, and that does need to change. Because this is George's blog and he has been kind to me, I will remain civil.

    • Deb,

      I had the privilege of hearing your points of view in at least two sessions last weekend. I observed that each time, your words were met with respectful audiences. I honestly felt a little helpless in that I knew I couldn't say anything that could remedy your immediate situation. As others have stated, your words sparked many great discussions about parent involvement in the minutes that followed, and made me think about my own practices and my work with our parents. Thank you for that.

      What I am having a hard time understanding is why you continue to repeatedly post your negative feelings about Educon in a way that is not constructive. In your comments here, you have made some suggestions that many of us will take to heart the next time we encounter new faces/voices in our professional circles. But honestly, the negativity is draining. We have too many positives to share with each other, and my feelings are that we should be spending more time constructing solutions to problems rather than complaining about the injustices we encounter along the way.

      Pam, if I can address this: "Teachers don’t use Twitter because they are ignored. Teachers don’t blog because no one will read what they wrote.

      I keep telling that eventually, you get to the point that you just tweet and write for yourself, but it takes a long time. Many people aren’t willing to give it that time."

      I am sorry if people you know feel ignored on Twitter. It's extraordinarily difficult to keep up with everyone's tweets, particularly during a fast-paced #edchat. But I believe your last line is the one that makes the strongest point –> "Many people aren't wiling to give it that time."

      No one joins Twitter and starts with 1000 followers. No one writes their first blog post and has 20 comments waiting for them an hour later. I agree wholeheartedly that the purpose of blogging should be for reflection and sharing ideas with others. But it takes time. It takes a lot of time and dedication to developing a community of learners this way. Anyone who thinks otherwise, and who believes they are being slighted by the "cool kids," perhaps hasn't spent enough time dedicating their time and sharing their ideas to the community. I agree with Bill in that respect.

      I'm hoping we can all cling to positivity and learn a little something from everyone's Educon experiences that have been shared.

    • Sensitive, MissShuganah?

      I've never been accused of that!

      My point is a simple one: You own your digital learning space. If you don't feel like you're being valued and/or respected by people, you have the right to walk away and find someone else to learn from.

      But that same right belongs to every member of the digital learning world. Just because you follow someone else—whether on their blogs or on Twitter—doesn't mean they have to follow you. They have the right to make the same choices that you do—choices to craft their own learning spaces that may or may not include you.

      Inclusiveness—especially in communities that can quickly grow to thousands and thousands of members—is not an automatic promise. Being included is dependent on developing relationships. Interacting. Sharing. Contributing meaning to the conversation.

      It's no different than being included in real life.

      Bill

  19. George,

    A very thoughtful post here yet again. I think it is very interesting that people would be claiming there are cliques within twitter and that people are being left out of some magical circle. Personally, I have only been active on twitter since November of this year. In that time I have connected with people across the globe from every walk of live (educationally speaking). I have yet asked a question that was not answered nor have I felt on the outside. I talk with some people more but that is a matter of who I relate to and is discussing what I want/need for my students. This is just logical.

    The key to the success of Social Media like Twitter as a form of educational reform is the connection we all have. That bond is the kids. If we are caught up in who is on the "in crowd" we lose sight of what is truly important. If we are worried about how many followers we have then we lose sight of the resources being shared. If we are worried how many times we are retweeted then we miss out on great professional conversations. If we get upset that someone didn't comment on our blogs we will miss the true point of twitter which is learning. If we are concerned that we are not "A-listers" then we will not learn how to be better teachers.

    While I admit some people are probably on Twitter to self promote, that is not always a bad thing. If we don't share what we are doing and do some self promoting then the power of Social Media is wasted. I write about what I think and what I do in hopes that it will help someone else.

    I will continue to blog, tweet, retweet, and skype with anyone that will listen. Even if I am on the D-List with Kathy Griffith, have no followers, and nobody reads my blog. I will do it because I know I will learn and that learning will be better for my students!

    Thanks George!

  20. @brooker1015

    Isn't it great when someone shares something with you (a blog, a TED talk, an article) and you can say, "Hey, I know that person!" Or even better yet, "I met that person!" The same thing happened to me a few months ago when my Staff Development Coordinator showed me an article by @andycinek. I was proud to say that I knew him from Twitter and met him at Educon last year! It's great to show the power of a PLN in front of others who do not have one.

    In response to @MissShuganah, I did not know you were a parent until I was at the #cpchat session. I've seen your tweets (and when you introduced yourself, I wanted to tell you how creativeI think your twitter name is!) but I never knew you were a parent. I don't think that fact has anything to do with whether people dined with you or not. A lot of my conversations just happened to be because I was in the right place at the right time – impromptu conversations. It's human nature to talk to the people with whom you're familiar. If I'm choosing a place to sit, I'm most likely going to look for a spot next to someone I'm familiar with. Maybe you weren't in the 'right' place at the 'right' time? I only saw you once during the conference. Many people, who I actively searched for, I didn't see at all. Can we have an #educon reunion this summer so we don't have to wait a whole year for the next one? 😉

  21. I am a librarian at a small k-8 Catholic school who always felt isolated as an educator until I began using Twitter to learn and connect with other educators around the world. I had the privilege of attending Educon for the past two years, and have grown immensely from the experience and the thoughts shared by the participants. Because of budget constraints, I travel up to Philly each day and return home in the evening, and for that reason have been unable to make the strong social connections that others have. I don't believe that has anything to do with "cliques" but with a familiarity that I haven't been able to establish because of a lack of time. I don't feel out of place or unwelcome, but conversely, enjoy seeing and meeting those I can. I have always been treated with the utmost respect and kindness, and would never consider foregoing the conference.

  22. Twitter and Social Networking are such amazing gifts, and can cause a lot of grief. Wording choices, timing and recognition are some of the elements that play a role in how they are perceived. There are so many amazing educators out there that have so much to offer. I would love to spend time reading everyone tweets, blogs and ideas but everyone once in a while I do have to answer the phone, talk to kids about why jumping in mud is a bad idea, visit classes and so on. I struggle to keep up with the fantastic educators in my own school district, let alone my province, and then there are amazing folk in the prairies and I have not even discussed other parts of Canada or the rest of North America.

    Everything is about balance, and in order to maintain balance there are choices that need to be made. Would I love to have 30 comments on every post I write? Absolutely. Would I love to have 25 tweets responding to questions that I have posed? Of course. I blog because it forces me to reflect. I blog because I enjoy it. I try to add my two cents, two nickels or a couple of loonies whenever I can, and I know that others do the same. I do this for my own personal growth and interest. With respect to reading tweets and blogs I end of taking the same approach as I do when I go into a bookstore. There are certain authors that I really enjoy and that I tend to follow, and every once in a while I see something that grabs my attention or that someone has told me about and I explore that new author's work. I see Twitter and blogs the same way.

    I would have loved to have been a part of Educon, but budget, time and school commitments did not allow for it. I loved the fact that I was able to connect through the virtual chats and I connected with a few more people, had some great resources that were shared and deepened my learning. I love the fact that so many educators are putting themselves out there, taking risks, taking on challenges, challenging the status quo, and doing everything possible to create better learnng opportunities for students. The more that I am actively participating, the more people get to know my name and the more frequent I get responses. If people don't know me I cannot take it personally. Much like Lyn, I am quite shy and not the one that will usually instigate a conversation, although my degree of cheekiness is much greater virtually than in person. It was great seeing people through a camera lens that I have tweeted with, and would have been better in person, but I cannot imagine being able to meet and greet every single person.

    Many of the people out there have been much more active for a longer period of time than I have, and as a result have made many more connections than I have. If I want those connections then I am going to have to put in the time. I cannot remember who had written about the time it takes to create a PLN, but it does take time and it is time well spent. I just cannot expect 2000 followers overnight. I also know that I cannot actively follow 2000 people and be able to have a personal life and keep my job. I accidentally showed my multiple columns in Tweetdeck and freaked a few people out. I love being a part of a dedicated community and I do it for my own growth. All of you make me a better educator and I thank you for it.

    • Jana

      I have been trying to come up with the words to espress my feelings about this post. Remi just hit the nail on the head for me!

      That said, I would like to add that I was a lurker for a very long time before I decided I knew enough to jump in, and even then I did not jump….i just put my big toe in. I am still learning and most of the time feel like the new kid in school. Since joining in I have "met" many great people and have an amazing PLN. I follow people because I read something they have tweeted that I like, not because someone else is following. Of course people that you tweet back and forth with over a long period of time are going to be the people you build a stronger bond with. Just as in life, we all have different bonds with different people.

      Thank you, George for being brave enough to open up this can of worms so to speak! I always enjoy reading your post.

  23. Debbie Barnes

    I must say as a newbie, it is all a little overwhelming, but I have never felt ignored or that there are conversations that I couldn't weigh in on. It is natural that the people that spend a lot of time tweeting back and forth over time are going to have a stronger or more comfortable connection.

    Life, relationships, twitter, they all are what you make of them. People need to not take it all so seriously, especially Twitter….. My favorite person in the whole world (my dad) used to say "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff."

    Life is good!

  24. donna

    I just started using twitter this weekend. I think it was a great time to start because of Educon and the uprising in Egypt. I have learned so much from so many different people.

    The comments about cliques does seem to ring true for my short time on twitter. I don't think they should be called cliques though they really are a group of like-minded people having meaningful (at times 😉 ) conversations.

    Teachers who don't use twitter because they are ignored or don't blog because no one will read what they have to say are putting up an unnecessary digital wall. So many teachers complain that they are not part of a group and are not treated like other teachers are. I think when you look at it you have to figure out why you become part of any social media setting. I decided I wanted to learn from people who knew a little more than I did and who were passionate about education. In the past week I have learned more than I might have anywhere else.

    Thanks to all who share. To everyone else lets not use excuses or digital walls instead lets figure out what we can do to be better for our students and our community.

    • Lyn Hilt

      Sadly, I think you did not carefully read the paragraph or two in my comment detailing the positive contributions you made at Educon. You certainly bring more than negativity to the conversation. If we make the choice to put our thoughts "out there," we become intellectually vulnerable (ht Bill Ferriter), therefore we must prepare ourselves for the constructive criticism that may result. Exiting the conversation, while your choice, doesn't necessarily help us gain perspective or share your knowledge with us.

      • I don't know what else to say at this point, Lyn. I noted to myself about what you said about the positive things I added at EduCon. But reacting to being considered negative right here. And thinking if that is the case then I need a time out or something. It's been a really draining week for me. I had a reaction to a school visit even before I entered the doors at SLA, and it did admittedly color everything I experienced at EduCon.

        I want to be clear. I didn't feel ignored as if anyone were doing something on purpose. What I felt was that there were too many people, and everyone was rushed. No time to really talk or connect. People were either in a session or on their way to the next.

        Because of the school visit, I really needed to just be and there really wasn't a way for me to do that. I do better in a more open space type conference, and the formalness of this conference was something I was ill prepared for.

        • I'm really glad you followed up with that explanation, Deb. The way you described your SLA experience above is not the way it was portrayed in your tweets.

          You also make a valid point that when our emotions are at their peak, decisions can be difficult to make. It's easy to react irrationally in the heat of the moment, such as when an angry parent calls or a teacher is raising her voice at you. There's always merit in taking a deep breath or two and processing the entirety of an experience before reacting. Again, I'm sorry you had an unfortunate experience both at the other school visit and at Educon, and thanks for sharing your views here.

          • The school tour was great. The people were truly gracious. At the end, though, when they talked about projected outcomes for kids like my older daughter who is severely disabled, it was just the same as projected outcome at CPS, ie, sheltered workshop as a menial worker. That was a lot for me to take in as well as trying to adjust to sensory overload and claustrophobia. I blogged about the visit so I missed just about all of Friday. That was cathartic but it wasn't enough.

            George was great. He is a perfect person for being a principal. He was always friendly to me on Twitter, and, as you could see, very cordial to me in person. He knew how to put me at ease.

            So many people I wanted to connect with, but not sufficiently good ways to do it. Given all the rest going on with me emotionally and psychologically, I found the space, the number of people and the rushing really chaotic and frustrating.

            In my head EduCon was not at a school but at some other place with carpeting and soft colors on the walls and comfy chairs. No one had told me what to expect, and I had not looked it up for myself. For some odd reason I didn't realize SLA was a school. I thought it was some museum like Franklin Institute. I thought it was going to have large rooms and smaller rooms. I was mentally ill prepared.

            Communication snafus did not help, either. People who had invited me ended up not being able to spend time with me, either, and given all the other stuff ended up not sitting well with me. Just a series of small things. I also had network problems so I couldn't DM people either at critical times. I found it all really unwieldy. Kind of a perfect storm. And then when I got home I think I kind of let myself have too public of a meltdown. All of the rage, grief, disappointment tumbled out onto Twitter. Even tonight just figuring out the answer to, "what was that all about?"

  25. Pam wrote, "That is why those of us who DO use Twitter need to be more welcoming and respond to unknown avatars and names"

    It's a crowded room – do we respond to everything that's said? Simply, no.

    I engage in conversation that sparks my thinking, but I might not respond just because someone tweets me.

    What it doesn't mean is that the points being made by those "unknown avatars" are invalid. But they need to find their niche. If we want those new to twitter teachers to continue to engage with SM, we must (to paraphrase Tim Gwynn) encourage them to find their audience.

  26. Melanie hutchinson

    Must agree- perhaps we all need to get beyond our insecurities- or our oversecurities- and remember this!

  27. Pam Franklin

    Lyn –

    Good point. And I am constantly getting the "you-have-time-because-you-are-divorced-your-kids-are-grown-you-have-no-life" routine from some of the teachers in my building.

    I love Twitter. I like it better than Facebook, because I enjoy the interchange from many people from many places.

    And usually, if I post a tech question, I get an answer. Now.

    It took me a long time and a lot of hours to be comfortable here. All I am saying is that we should be more open and inviting to new people. Read their blogs. Answer their questions.

    And even if that person isn't an "A-lister", recognize the fact that their voice deserves an audience, too.

    • Pam,

      First of all, that's a ridiculous response for someone to give you about why you can afford to dedicate time to connecting. You have the time because you make the time, period! Kudos to you for doing so.

      I agree, also, that we need to embrace new voices. I asked another principal in our district to come with me to Educon. She's new to Twitter and didn't know anyone! But she enjoyed the learning and is embarking on this adventure slowly. I know she'll benefit as a result.

      Great discussion here!

  28. I'm really enjoying reading all of the comments here. I must say that I don't know if I fit in the cool or not cool group, and this really doesn't matter to me. I do know that when I started tweeting 1 1/2 years ago, I had almost no followers, and now I have over 1400. It's not about the followers for me though, it's about the learning, and I learn a lot from the people that I follow on Twitter. I've also learned to get involved in the conversation, share resources, and encourage others to do the same. It's taken me time to get the most out of Twitter, but I do see Twitter in a positive light, and I encourage other educators to tweet too.

    George, I know that I can't speak for everyone here, but I've only seen you as being highly supportive of everyone on Twitter. You help people see the benefits of this social networking site, and you help all of us along the way. I wasn't at Educon, so I have no idea what it was like there, but if I was there, I would have used every opportunity to connect with some amazing parents and educators, as I do think that "connections" is what Educon is all about. Maybe one day I will make it there, and then I can speak from a personal experience on what it's like.

    Thanks for getting all of us thinking and conversing, George!

    Aviva

  29. Wow. Intense conversation! Obviously hit a nerve on many levels. Ultimately, it's about people making connections and creating meaning. Or not: being frustrated in achieving our needs and wants.

    Twitter and Social networking tools are just that – new tools, but simply, tools. So they're going to be prone to all the foibles and frailties of the humans who are using them. I agree George: we're all learners, and we're learners who are simultaneously learning and creating this every day. So a reminder to be aware of people trying to be heard is a helpful piece along the way.

    I've been incredibly impressed with the level of openness and acceptance in the relatively short time I've spent in here! George, all the #rscon folks, the Educon crew, the Educational PLN folks, and so many many MANY more – it's been a long while since I've had the pleasure of stumbling upon such an open, sharing, and supportive educational community, where people are generally both willing and able to put their ego's aside for the sake of our kids and their future.

    Genuine thanks to all of you.

    I like what Royan said: One can only keep on tryin'.

  30. (sorry if this is double-posted, but apparently the first version isn't showing up)

    Pam wrote, “That is why those of us who DO use Twitter need to be more welcoming and respond to unknown avatars and names”

    It’s a crowded room – do we respond to everything that’s said? Simply, no.

    I engage in conversation that sparks my thinking, but I might not respond just because someone tweets me.

    What it doesn’t mean is that the points being made by those “unknown avatars” are invalid. But they need to find their niche. If we want those new to twitter teachers to continue to engage with SM, we must (to paraphrase Tim Gwynn) encourage them to find their audience.

  31. I was going to run on with my own opinions on the A-lister discussion but opted out. Instead let me simply say, everyone wants to be included. When you follow thousands you aren't able to really follow many and certain folks will always stand out. One of the best tools for "belonging" is the simple #hashtag. With it, we can find a cohort of like minded folks or at least folks with common interests to share conversations. When we check our @mentions, we can connect with some new people as well. And getting a reply from an A-lister can still be a thrill.

  32. Omg. I sit here and read this and find tears running down my face. Now it may be just bc I'm an emotional wreck bc I'm still stranded and not yet home from educon. But I really just want to yell "stop it y'all! Just stop!" I feel heart broken that some feel left out. I also feel angry that those who don't are, I don't know, being, I guess, talked about. No no no this is wrong. Yes many times I have felt that twitter and even blogs are cliqueish, but that comes with humans gathering and forming friendships. Just like any relationships the good comes with the bad. I hate crowds, I feel horrified expressing my thoughts in front of groups so educon was a terrifying thing for me. But I knew if I was going to make the best of this trip I had to ignore that nagging fear that makes me want to throw up. I had no choice.

    Here's the deal. We are here for one purpose. We have students with no one to love them. We have kids who are failing bc other teachers think their worksheets are good enough. We have a common goal, to teach them to learn.

    I love my twitter family of former strangers. I love the support they have thrown my way as I have been stuck here for 3 days. My heart breaks at the number of people I did not meet. My heart breaks that people feel this way. My heart breaks this convo is happening. I do not thin I saw one person and thought "yuck hope they don't eat dinner with us" or "oh I know who that is, hope I do not have to talk to them" I can honestly say no set out to hurt anyone or cause them to feel left out.

    Let's remember to take the good of this community. Let's learn from mistakes. Social media is a new medium, rules are being written as we live it. I'm sure all will learn from this, but this should never be our focus. Our children/students will never benefit from it.

  33. Pam Franklin

    Well, Bill – I am old and a bit addled, but this:

    "Am I crazy here, or is this just another example of the aversion that individuals drawn to our profession feel about any form of competition and/or recognition being given to our peers?"

    kind of seems like you are touting rewards and competition among teachers.

    But then again, maybe my reading comprehension has slipped.

    (I am NOT against awards, myself. It just seems to be the current trend around here lately!)

  34. Hi friends!

    What's amazing about twitter is how quickly I can become aware of important, highly-discussed topics amongst people whose opinions I respect.

    I'm certainly new to this ever growing community, although I'm sure many of you are familiar with the #brocktechies tag that is regularly dropped by @zbpipe. As one of her pre-service students at Brock, I am so excited that Zoe has introduced us to such an infinite resource.

    That being said, I am just one of a small group of #brocktechies who understand the value of 'another social media'. The biggest difference? What you put into it. How do you expect to grow your network without sharing, speaking your opinion or collaborating? As many have already said, surely it takes time. But thankfully it takes time! If this went any faster I would absolutely lose my mind! There is no doubt that those who work hard at developing their PLN and who share constantly would have more followers, and they deserve immense credit!

    Without being at Educon (although what a valuable experience from just following the tag) I can't imagine that it was an environment any different than extended #edchat; highly inspirational and slightly overwhelming, but overall very positive.

    My aspiration isn't to have 10,000 followers but if over the course of time I develop more people who believe I have something to say or have something to share themselves, then all the better. I just find it a bit absurd that a term like 'a-lister' would even be introduced to such a thriving environment. It just doesn't even make sense. As a recent tweep, all I see is human beings exploring with other humans, regardless of race, class, status, or role. Amazing.

    The experience is what you make of it and learning isn't supposed to be comfortable. I'm excited to be at the very start of a wonderful educational adventure, with a very open mind.

    If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. -Wayne Dyer

  35. Love this discussion.

    I think there's a piece of the puzzle that is missing, though.

    On Twitter… and in our other tools where we network… it's a lot easier for some to become part of a conversation, because we're behind a screen. For some, it's still difficult, though. Lurkers have as much value as those who jump into the conversation, but we don't always know they're around.

    I used to be horribly shy. Seriously, painfully shy. It has taken me years to be able to walk up to someone and introduce myself. Most people who have met me would be surprised to hear that. Now, I force myself to jump into conversations, both online and in person, in order to join in. I don't care which crowd it is… if the conversation is meaningful to me, I feel like I have something to add.

    With that said, I know how difficult it is for others to do just that. We can't expect that everyone will be comfortable enough to join a conversation, even if the environment seems to be welcoming. If someone makes eye contact with me, I will try to introduce myself to him/her. I still get intimidated sometimes, but it's something I work on.

    If anything, this should be a great lesson for us all when it comes to thinking about our students. How can we ensure that our students are heard? Not all of them are comfortable talking aloud in class, even in small groups. What other options are we giving them?

    Love the way this thread has evolved. Nice post, George. :-)

  36. Pam Franklin

    Okay, all of you who scoff at "The A-Team" – my little blog usually gets 4 or 5 hits, on a good day.

    George, who is definitely on "The A-Team" (but doesn't act like it) posts a link to my little blog, and it has received more than 78 hits today.

    Same blog. Same person writing it. How do you explain all the hits?

    😀

  37. I think it's pretty self explanatory how the hits occurred Pam.

    I guess we can call 'them' the A-team I just don't understand what point the distinction serves.

    Michelle has certainly addressed the issue, "How can we ensure that our students are heard? Not all of them are comfortable talking aloud in class, even in small groups. What other options are we giving them?"

    I think ensuring our methods are differentiated, allowing for both inter and intra personal strengths to shine, is a start. The best way is to probably be proactive about the entire situation and work from the start to develop a safe, inclusive community.

  38. Wow… just… wow. I just wanted to add a couple thoughts. I am a classified staff person, although in an instructional position. Everyday, I get 'put in my place' by licensed teachers because I don't have a piece of paper stating I am 'qualified'. Rather than learn from each other and collaborate, I sit in meetings where they debate with each other over what I am doing… while I sit right there. If anything, in my physical space, I don't even make the alphabet. Yet, we are all teachers.

    But, that's not who I am. My worth is not based on who listens to me. (Or a piece of paper.) How does this relate? Well, I started using Twitter 1 1/2 years ago when I was hired for my current job. I used it to learn. I listened. I gleaned. I started to blog so I could document my learning for the 'powers that be' because I wanted to gain licensure. I started to reflect in my blog about my teaching practices and things I was struggling with…. for myself. I blog and tweet for my own learning. I would continue to do it, even if no one were around, because it's about me. My learning. I don't even know how many hits my blog gets. I went to look up my Feedburner address, and was shocked to see there were people actually reading my blog! (And yes, I've spruced it up, but that's for potential employers, not my 'audience'.)

    The amazing thing is, that in being a learner myself, I have found other like minded people who challenge and encourage me. It's this truly amazing serendipity. Now, we talk. On Twitter. On our blogs. On Skype. And the cool thing? That discussion is there, for anyone else to read and learn from, if they choose. It didn't happen overnight. I didn't pursue anything other than learning. Yet, these people encourage me in a way that I don't generally see in my day-to-day life.

    I attended ISTE in person last year, and Educon virtually the last two years. Guess what? The in-person experience was majorly overwhelming. I was torn between absorbing content, building relationships with co-workers, and making real-life connections with virtual friends. The virtual conferences? Not so much- I'm still reeling, but being at home gives me the chance to focus on the ideas and not the relationships. That being said…. I'm saving my money for EduCon next year *because* of the relationships.

    And with that, I leave you with Simon Sinek's TEDxSanDiego "Restoring the Human in Humanity", as it pertains to this discussion, and my own inner battle w/the licensure issue.



    And to those who felt bad at EduCon? I'm very sorry. It stinks to feel like you're on the outside.

    And George? Thank. You.

  39. Twitter challenges us to get out of our box. It allows us to feel like students. We want them to take risk but they only have "a certain number of poker chips" to risk. We are the same, we want to be accepted and when we aren't immediately we should relate to our students better.

    Twitter allows us to surround ourselves with the most passionate educational leaders in the world. Ten years ago we would have paid good money to see the transcripts of these conversations, and now thanks to technology, we can surround ourselves daily with the people who will change the game for our children. The only cliques are the one we build, enjoy the greatness of the conversation and realize it might be bigger than us. My 2 cents on this from Wyoming

  40. George congratulations on a great post! To everyone congratulations on great conversation! By my count well over 30 people have contributed to this discussion already! I have noticed that we have input from users with a wide-range of experience and comfort in this setting. I applaud all of you for exploring online conversation. As educators I think we can become more comfortable online and then we can begin to understand how it is that our students are communicating. Discussions like this certainly help to develop my ability to identify with reasons as to why this type of communicating is so popular with our students. Thank you for sharing.

  41. angie

    I must admit that I looked for your posting about Educon via Twitter. I love the ability to connect with others. I have connected with you several times. I am in WV you in Canada. I am an aspiring administrator you are an administrator. There are both similarities and differences, but there is an open willingness to share advice or be open to asking questions. I have found those connections and been able to establish professional friendships and personal friendships in putting my self out there. We should hear as many voices as we possibly can so that we understand people. How can we expect to teach or lead our students into a world of diversity if we can't communicate and appreciate others? I hope everyone is able to find a place for their voice. Thanks for allowing me to hear yours.

  42. Hi George,

    As always thanks for your great modeling. The thing that I continue to stress as well is the fact that we are all educators (teachers) and that we need to stay away from hierarchies in our networks. I am embarrassed when people talk about A-list – Rockstar or terms like that. When we choose to educate children we make a conscious effort to all be A-listers or Rockstars. As passionate teachers we must all agree that our students deserve no less.

    Thanks for walking the walk and talking the talk!

  43. George,

    I have to admit, as someone who has only been on twitter for a week, I can see where some people might find it diffcult to get connected. However, I'm not sure what people expect. Outside the virtual world it takes time to develop relationships. We all know what it's like to be "new" to a group of friends or a staff…twitter/blogging is no different. My attitude has been to contribute, contribute, cointribute…that's it. Connections develop and can't be forced. Just because you are on twitter doesn't mean you will instantly have 5,000 followers. I am following quite a few educators who have large followings and are connected to a number of people….I haven't experienced any cliquiness as you describe. I've replied to several people who aren't following me and they have been very engaging. If I want to be connected and followed then I should say something important and/or meaningful. If I don't then why would people want to follow/connect with me? No disrespect intended, but this whole clique things sounds a little too much like Jr. High?!?!

  44. I joined twitter for my day job, to help promote the company's initiatives. It seemed trivial and did not engage me. My "real job", a school board trustee, is where I started to 'get' connected learning. In the course of kicking off my campaign for the October 18 election, I attended a how-to session (sponsored by our School District) on using social media for campaigning. BOOM! as one of the connected principals, Chris Wejr @MrWejr, says from time to time.

    I discovered #tags could direct me to places where I found conversations and blogs which spoke to learning, about which I am curious and passionate. Even though not a professional educator, I was welcomed and assisted, responded to and taken seriously. @gcouros gave me some advice at the outset that was very helpful. The encouragement I received from him and other tweeps, impelled me to start a blog to connect with my constituents – and beyond. The experience has expanded my knowledge and my world. And it continues.

    I defer to the teachers, administrators – experts, if you will. But I have found that I too can contribute to the learning, prompt a discussion or a thoughtful blog piece by asking questions, or passing on links/info. I am a part of my own PLN which morphs almost daily. I used to worry a bit about how many followers, who is following, retweets, mentions. I do not any more. I just try to be myself because I have found what is most attractive to me on twitter, blogs etc. is authenticity and transparency. I think that's what defines my "A-team".

    Thanks for provoking a great discussion, George. The comments that talk about how this discussion of connectivity relate to kids' learning are bang on.

  45. Cyndie Jacobs

    Look what you started George! As always, there are comments reflecting all (not both) sides of the issue. I'm not sure where I 'fit' into this PLN, nor do I care. I love Twitter and what it enables me to do with and for colleagues, whether I know them or I don't.

    I've enjoyed the evolving chat between Pam and Lyn and find it amazing what we are able to interpret through the printed word – when there are no facial expressions, no identifiable tone of voice, no hand gestures and no visible emotion. This is, after all, a communication tool. Posts such as this one from George, only validate the importance of our connectedness.

    I like Royan's summation…a case of "keep on keepin' on".

  46. […] and closed circles and cliques.  I noted this immediately, before reading the conversation at George Couros’s recent blog post.   Whether Educon organizers or attendees like it or not, there are people who are better known […]

  47. Diane Devine

    This has been a very interesting discussion. Two things come to mind. First, I agree with George that our students do more for us than we do for them. When people ask how many kids I have, I smile and say about 3000. They look a little bewildered until I explain that I consider every one of my students one of my “kids”. I mourned when Brad lost his life in Afghanistan, celebrated when Annie started working on the Hubble telescope, and cheered when Amanda told me that she had kept her 8th grade promise to become a teacher. Brad taught me how to work with pastels and Dany helped me to learn Cambodian. I feel very fortunate each day for all of their gifts so freely shared!

    Being very new at Twitter, I have few followers. This reminds me of the first NCTM conference that I was asked to speak at in 2002. There were 10 teachers in my session. Some would have been discouraged, but we had a wonderful 90-minute session. When I look back at this, I never would have imagined that my sessions would draw between 150-200 teachers, administrators, etc. With patience and hard work, this has happened. If I let the magic happen, it does. The same is true of connecting with teachers at large conferences. I never imagined that I would meet a nationally known educator for Latino/Latina students. But she sat down beside me at an NCSM luncheon and we shared our passions for helping Latinos/Latinas develop their mathematical voices. Magic will happen, if you let it!

    Finally, here is something to consider. Would it be possible to have an EduCon conference in the summer at a school with dorm space? The Anja S. Greer Conference at Phillips Exeter draws 200 math, science, and tech teachers each year and is amazing. It encompasses a full week of courses, short sessions, karaoke, movies, and a great environment for teachers to connect, learn, and laugh. Something to think about…I would love it!

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