Early in my career I had a team leader who had a reputation for being highly critical. Other teachers thought this teacher was hard to work with. My team leader could harpoon an idea at any meeting big or small with a simple question:
“Have you thought about…”
It was a highly effective strategy.
I still think ‘what would my ex-team leader say’ when I’m doing something new for the first time. The truth is I learned more from having someone pushing my ideas back than I did from having people tell me what a wonderful job I was doing.
I learned barriers aren’t there to stop you implementing new ideas, they are to stop you implementing bad ones.
Simply put my old team leader taught me how to turn crazy ideas into reality.
At TeachMeet Singapore @robnewberry floated an idea that twitter has become too much of an echo chamber where we don’t challenge each other. It has become an endless stream of sharing ideas of a small group of educational thought leaders with followers in the tens of thousands that Rob terms educelebrities.
I thought back to a recent incident where someone prominent in the education technology field shared one of my posts on twitter. There was a small problem, a small typo meant the link to the content was incorrect.
Yet that initial tweet with the bad link kept being retweeted.
Which led to me to wonder.
How much content is being re-shared without people actually bothering to click on the links much less read the writing?
Why did nobody (including myself) correct this person?
The numbers of teachers engaging in online communities has grown considerably in the last few years. However we’re engaging with each other on a more superficial level, through shares rather than reaction or action. This mirco-engagement is as @TomBarrett pointed out killed the edublogging community.
People are less likely to comment on blogs than they were 3-4 years ago and I’ve watched a number of bloggers either cut back the frequency of their frequency or give up on blogging altogether. The push and pull of comments often leads to inspiration for further content.
When I started edublogging in 2011 I held a utopian belief that the internet would be a force to democratise teaching, a first year teacher could have as much of a voice as a veteran teacher or even a principal. But now as the crowd has descended online we’re less focused on sharing our own ideas, just those of a few tastemakers. More importantly we’re becoming less tolerant of those who disagree with us.
Getting shares, likes and positive mentions feels great, but is it really pushing our learning forward as educators?
In another online community I’m a part of there was a discussion about teachers querying other teachers classroom practice. I was bothered by how many teachers stated flat out that it is unprofessional for teachers to disagree with each other online.
On the contrary I think it is unprofessional for teachers not to speak up whether online or in person when they disagree with classroom practice.
We can’t all be right all the time.
Critical discussion is such an important of what makes us learn and grow as educators, not the number of followers we have on twitter. Those growth mindset quotes and infographics that teachers keep retweeting mean that we actually need to act on constructive criticism.
Yet how much critical discussion is really taking place online?
Could it be a problem within education itself that we don’t actually like conflict, and those who do challenge the status quo are viewed as troublemakers?
To be clear I am not saying that online education communities should descend into full on flamewars – we can still have robust conversations without descending into full on personality attacks.
But because we’ve got out of the habit of being critical with each other, those challenges can make it feel like we are being attacked rather than our ideas simply because we aren’t used to having people disagree with us.
That isn’t a good place to be in.
We should all be worried about the echo chamber the education community has created through twitter chats and edublogging awards is leading to a re-creating of old educational hierarchies in the online environment where who shares the idea is more important than the idea itself.
Lets have more conversation and push back than shares and retweets.
Lets share content from new faces rather than the same old names.
Lets grow our learning.