Have you ever been just rolling along thinking, “I’ve got this! This is awesome!” only to have a simple comment suddenly cause you to see a pattern? Man, it can hit like a ton of bricks (and then sort of consume your thoughts for a while). You can’t stop seeing it. It’s just now in clear focus.
This happened to me recently. So, of course, a post.
I’ve been on social media for a long time now. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn have been launch pads for connecting me with folks over the years. For the most part, engaging via social media is fun for me and I’ve figured out how to maintain my sanity across platforms. Well, most of the time, at least.
I’ve recently come back to Twitter after a several year hiatus and am building my social circle (PLN) from scratch and it’s been great! I’ve connected with some very cool people and learned quite a bit. It’s been energizing in many different ways at a time when I really needed a shot in the arm.
I’d been back in the Twitter game for several weeks when a couple of tweets made me step back a bit and take a look at a pattern I was feeling, but not really seeing – I find myself agreeing with almost everyone currently in my feed.
Wait? That’s a Problem?
I know … it doesn’t sound like one and, if your goal for connecting on Twitter is to connect with like-minded folks to converse with, maybe it’s not. There’s most definitely a lot of positive energy flowing through my feed. In fact, it’s really pretty contagious.
Here’s the thing though. There are a lot of educators looking at Twitter as an avenue for Professional Learning and consider those they follow their Professional Learning Network. It’s a great avenue for that for sure. In fact, it’s why I’ve rejoined. It’s a part of several avenues for me to grow and learn.
In looking at my own pattern of use, I’m concerned that I’m limiting my growth potential by the choices I’m making. With all of the educators on Twitter, wouldn’t it be a richer experience if each of us sought out a point of view or perspective that’s different from our own or from the majority of those we follow?
As much as I thrive on the energy and positivity, my goal for professional learning is to encounter people and ideas that challenge my way of thinking. To do that, I believe that casting a wide net will be necessary. If I follow only the folks that are followed by those I follow (wait, what?) … what I mean is, if we all just follow the same people, we will have learned a few really cool things (like Tara Martin’s #booksnaps or Alice Keeler’s Google tips), discover more than a couple of good books, and have some energizing/validating chats, it’s true! But learning doesn’t happen when we’re comfortable and agree all the time.
We know that about kids. Isn’t it the same for us? We’re not going to get a shift in our own practice until we get uncomfortable.
Tweeting Under the Influence
We’ve been cautioned for years about our Internet/social media footprint. Say it with me, “The Internet is forever.” However, as I take a critical look at my own social media use, I would also argue that there is equally good reason to think critically about what we are consuming (maybe I’m preaching to the choir, but my experience in social media says that I might not be). What do we do when Twitter chats start to sound a wee bit like we’re all students taking an assessment, giving answers that sound so similar that it would appear we’ve been taught by the same teacher.
I don’t mean this as a slam on specific chat or cast this reflection of mine in a sort of scary or malevolent way. I’m very much looking more at purpose and goal. “Why am I here and spending time in this place?” Does what I see, hear, and do in my social media world match my goals for its use?
We are very much influenced by who we follow. We consume what’s being posted and agree, disagree, engage, and share. By doing so, we are participating in a sort of promotion of those thoughts. It’s great! … and not. What if we are only feeding on things we already believe to be true? What if, in choosing those we follow, we are actually (unintentionally) making our world just as small as it is if we didn’t have Internet access?
So, who do you follow?
As I seek to expand my online PLN, I am going to challenge myself to find 2-3 people per week that Tweet about educational topics that are NOT currently in my feed. I’m going to look for folks presenting information from different perspectives – and those commenting on education who are not educators. I’m going to click follow and see where that path takes me. I’m going to feel the angst of needing to change someone’s mind (let’s be honest) and I’m going to strive to hear their point of view.
What about you? If you look at the list of those you are following, do you have those who push your learning buttons? Maybe you can join me in the challenge? I’d love to hear how it goes!
And Speaking of Social Media…
Do you geek out on statistics? Yeh, me too! While I was reading about the topic of this post, I ran across this SlideShare. There is a massive amount of data in this and I got sucked right in. Sharing is caring, right?