Yes, I am Frustrated

For the last few months, there has been a grumbling in my soul regarding my “Personal Learning Network” — or as I prefer to call them “my friends online”.

Instead of moving forward, it feels we have come to a crossroads and have stalled.

As the dweller that I am — I have spent some time in self-reflection of why this might be (both as a participant and also as a grateful receiver of info).

…..and just decided to share my thoughts.

1.  The honeymoon is over.
The newness of wonderment with this thing called “twitter” or “PLN”  is now over.  We are getting to know each other – the true parts of each other — and seeing each others pros and cons.  With familiarity at times can come contempt.  The being on our best behavior (whether some of us ever really were — grins) has also faded and there is impatience and nit picking where before there was compromise and “this I can ignore.”    Plus, the small network that was manageable is now huge — and at times overwhelming and overstimulating.
Because the “honeymoon” is over — reality is settling in…..which can be a good thing, as well as bad — it just seems (to me) that we are not as nice to each other as we used to be.

2.  I am right, therefore you must be wrong mentality
If we are truly in a time of “reformation” in education, the #1 thing we cannot do is shoot each other down.  Yet, we are doing so.  Arguments over the pros or cons of Interactive White Boards, whether twitter or facebook should be allowed in classrooms, are there new literacies, constructivism, manipulatives, worksheets, tech or not tech, — feel free to add to this list — are eating away at our power because we are dividing over simple things that are not important.  Instead of celebrating the success of someone getting into Apple Distinguished Educator or Google Teacher — people are being belittled for even applying —
and I don’t get that.
At a time that we need to strengthen our group — it seems we are destroying our group from within.  And I don’t know why.

3.  We have stopped listening
Take the time to watch a conversation at the next upcoming conference and count the seconds of breathing time from when one person concludes a thought to where the next person jumps in with their idea.  It is minuscule.   The time of reflection has diminished into nothing.   People are so ready to share their ideas, that they have stopped taking to time to listen to others.
And, we are missing out on good F2F conversations because we are tethered to the conversations in our devices.
Just recently at a dinner event in Texas, I spoke for 20 minutes with Christine — F2F, no interruptions, no let me share this on twitter and invite 1,900 people to jump into the conversation.  It was 1 on 1 chat.   We didn’t solve the worlds problems, conquer the ed-tech issues….but we talked, listened and shared.  Personally, I need to do that MUCH more often.
I think we are missing out on some good conversations because we are forgetting how to listen, reflect, and sometimes stay quiet.

4.  We are forgetting who the true experts are
At both recent conferences I went to….as well as upcoming conferences…..there is a lack of teacher voices sharing from the microphone and also from the audience.  There is a vast amount of “former” teachers’ but very few “in the classroom teachers.”
and those are who I think we need to be listening to.
Yes, I was a classroom teacher for 21 years of my life and a very good teacher (if I say so myself) but I have been away from the classroom since 2006 — and A LOT HAS CHANGED.
Sure, good techniques, skills, and ideas are timeless — but how I experienced my individual classroom is much different than how you did — or how current teachers will as well.
I believe we need to open the microphones to more “in the classroom teachers” and let them share their successes, their failures, their hopes, their disappointments, and encourage their voices to be heard.  Not silenced by people who are held as experts who have NOT been in the classroom for a very long time.  (and yes, I add myself to that list of voices that need to be subdued a bit.)

5.  We have built ourselves into an educational silo
Yes, it is true…..we are singing to the choir.
We wander to conferences and then go hear people we have heard tens of times already.
We comment on each others blog posts and edit each others wikis and add to each others google docs.
We RT our friends …..
and then wonder why nothing is changing.
This is the hardest area I personally am working on — because I love to support friends, and I truly enjoy spending time talking with friends.  (very very much)
But I also know that I am becoming content with having the same conversations with the same people about the same things…..and then nothing new gets accomplished.
It is my goal — at the CUE conference in 2 weeks — that I get out of my comfortable silo and start inviting in some new conversations, some new discussions, and some new ideas.

Perhaps this is just a rant — but I feel like right now I am spinning within my “PLN” and not getting anywhere.   I am disappointed that I don’t see encouragement — yet very often see people being cut down and I very much want the “in classroom” voice to be heard and to be listened to.

For me, the honeymoon might be over — with this social network media kind of stuff.  But — that might be exciting…..the “we are in this together — for better or for worse”….might just be what propels us forward….to change, to reformation, to listening to each other.

I am frustrated — but I am optimistic.
I don’t wish to see us fail.   I am continually anticipating our success.

Just my thoughts.

Jen

 

 

 

26 comments

  1. I’ve been feeling this for a while. I’ve been much less active on Twitter etc recently, but it’s because I’m working to implement much of what I’ve picked up via my PLN in my school this year.

    Maybe everybody is still working with the same passion, it’s just their energies are just redirected in to their own schools?

    (How’s that for optimism?!)

  2. Beth Swantz says:

    As a lurker on many blogs and a fairly recent joiner to the PLN/techie world, I thank you for this post. You clearly and eloquently expressed many of my own thoughts…

    It seems the educational world is becoming more clearly divided into those teachers who have the time and energy to belong to the techno world(twitter, PLN, blog, ed tech conferences, etc) and those who don’t. As our circles spin apart we are creating a much larger problem at a time when the future of education looks pretty bleak.
    We need voices who draw the crowds together – and you did a great job of explaining that!

    Thanks!

    • Jennifer says:

      Thank you, Beth.
      I means a lot that you stopped by and shared your thoughts.
      I was hesitant to post this — so I am glad you feel the same as I do, in some ways.
      Jennifer

  3. Jean Tower says:

    I’m reading The Power of Pull (John Seely Brown) and one of the things he recommends is going to conferences. This increases the chances of meeting people (that you haven’t met yet) who share your passions. But with a twist (or two) – first, hang out in the lobbies and corridors instead of going to the sessions you would normally go to, where you would meet up with the people you always meet up with. Second, go to some sessions that are OUT of your comfort zone and not ones you would typically go to. This increases the serendipity-like chances of discovering a new connection. I hope you make new connections at CUE, externally and internally. It can be renewing.

    • Jennifer says:

      @Jean
      Thank you for the book suggestion. I am adding several titles to my “must read” and this sounds like a good idea. And yes, I will take your suggestion and wander into some “out of my comfort zone” sessions at CUE.

  4. Eric Roth says:

    You’ve articulated some of my feelings and perceptions, but I’ve chosen a more positive spin. The incredible thrill of sharing teaching tips with teachers around the world – Korea, Argentina, France, Japan, Germany, and other parts of the US – remains – in small doses.

    The trick, for me, has been to limit my exposure, chose when to engage, and avoid just adding to a seemingly never-ending, litany of to-do tasks. Read when it pleases me, or answers an immediate challenge, or furthers a research question. I had to, however, step back from and rediscover – as you indicated – the pleasure of simple conversations with fellow educators.

    I’m also becoming a tad more strategic in my online activities. The conference listings and conference calls for papers have moved up in my priority – and casual scanning of random bits of news reduced. I’ve also given up the delusion that it’s possible for me to track every new development or the desire to be an early adapter. I’m quite comfortable being in the second, third, or even fourth wave. After all, if an educational software program or best practice is really significant, it can wait for me to discover six months after the real cutting edge, techie global educators.
    And that’s how I’ve kept myself awake to the fantastic possibilities of this amazing moment in education. I also remember Churchill’s definition of success as “going from failure to failure without a loss of enthusiasm.”

    • Jennifer says:

      #Eric –
      Thank you for taking the time to share.
      And thank you for the Churchill quote.
      And thank you for the “positive” spin.
      Jennifer

  5. Al Smith says:

    Could not agree more Jen! I’ve been feeling and noticing similar conversations in my PLN. It’s evolution I suppose. I do know I am stronger in my practices and creativity because of networks like Twitter but these powerful tools can also get plugged with rants- of too many I contribute. thanks

    • Jennifer says:

      @AL
      It is a continuing growth — isn’t it. Sometimes I forget that and complain at growing pains.
      Thanks for stopping by and sharing.
      Jen

  6. I have felt this for about 6 months now. I took off about 3 months at the beginning of this school year and when I came back I suddenly felt out of the loop by some of the “big names.” Even though many of them I could hold conversations with on a regular basis over the previous two years. And, too often, these people were the correct answer and no one shall question them. Or at least that’s how I felt.
    I should note that there are many, like Tom Whitby, who are always welcoming and my perception is that he truly welcomes all newcomers to the table.
    A good post that needed to be written. Thank You.

    • Jennifer says:

      @Chris
      This PLN — or “friends online” has been a continual journey for me. A see-saw if you will.
      Thank you for offering a new name — @tomwhitby — I have added him to my twitter feed and look forward to following him.
      Thank you for your kind words.
      Jen

  7. Jason Kern says:

    What really resonated with me was the lack of people still working in schools speaking at many of the conferences. While I certainly love to hear many of the “big names” speak, I really enjoy hearing about what is going on in people’s classrooms.

    • Jennifer says:

      @Jason
      Yes, and I do too.
      I appreciate the knowledge that those who have been in the classroom CAN offer. I truly do.
      My post might have read contrary to that — which I apologize for.
      I do wish for more teachers to start speaking up and sharing though — very much.
      Jennifer

  8. Angie says:

    I thinkmitsmtime to open up your PLN and twitter followers. At first I kept my followers to people I knew and yes, it was talking tom the choir. I’ve opened up my PLN and now I’m corresponding with people around the world who ask interesting questions. We need people to question and help us reflect. I encourage you to expand your circle.
    Good blog post!

    • Jennifer says:

      @Angie
      Thank you for your nice words — and I shall consider expanding my circle. Any suggestions on who to follow?
      Jen

  9. Rodd Lucier says:

    It takes wisdom to unplug every once in a while. It’s one of the reasons we’re taking a group of Canadian educators into the wilderness for a few days of building deeper connections. I can hardly wait to read the reflections that will follow later this summer.
    http://unplugd.ca

    • Jennifer says:

      @Rodd
      One of the reasons I recently took the train to get to ILLINOIS was to unplug.
      I look forward to hearing the reflections of your teachers as they do the same this summer.
      Jen

  10. Andy Crozier says:

    Hi Jen,

    Really nice post. I can relate with a lot of it. Especially the part about listening more to teachers who are actually in classrooms rather than the individuals who “use to be” in classrooms.

    I also would add one more part to your post. That would be the “ego factor” that has taken over in social media in education. Educators first got on to twitter to share, connect, collaborate, and have engaging discussions with other educators. It seems like some people have shifted into the “look at me” with everything they do online. I’m ok with a little bit of self promotion (I do it myself) but there is a fine line where it becomes, quite frankly, annoying.

    Your post took some guts to write and I admire you for that. Nice work!

    • Jennifer says:

      @Andy
      Smiles, I decided to stop at 5 to not appear “witchy” (grins) but agree that “ego factor” could have been included…….but I have to admit, I struggle with that at times.
      And grins, thank you for your comments but the post was not hard to write — but hitting the submit button was very hard. 🙂
      Jen

  11. Jon Becker says:

    First question…who is this “we” and/or “us” of which you write?

  12. Brett says:

    I find it really useful to monitor and participate in #edchat and follow a select group of (in my case techie librarians) on twitter. I keep a few columns in TweetDeck synced with my iPhone and just dip in and out when I have the chance. I think it’s OK to change your perspective to not read everything that everybody writes.

  13. A nice push-back on PLE/PLN…but after all, is not the questioning part of continuous improvement? After all, I have never read your blog yet I found your post through my PLN. Concepts I see in Twitter and blogs from educators all over the world push my thinking, making me a better educator and teacher.

    • Jennifer says:

      @Britt
      Yes, thank you. It is a continual journey — reflection — change/review — etc, isn’t it?
      So glad that you found the post and took the time to share.
      Jennifer

  14. Jennifer says:

    To all — thank you for your comments. I will respond to each other them soon.

    @jonbecker
    Good question……
    There are 3 major events in the last few weeks that prompted this which would be the “WE/US”.
    a. the two conferences I just attended
    b. the last two months of Twitter
    c. recent ustreamed events.
    Does that answer your question?
    Let me know.
    Thank you
    Jen

  15. Jon Becker says:

    I think you answered a different question. Anyway…

    By using we/us, you suggest that there’s some defined group here. But, if it’s your *PERSONAL* learning network, then there can be no we/us. Even you say you prefer “my friends online…” (which is better, IMHO). Note the use of “my.”

    I raise this issue, because I believe this is all very personal. Your network might overlap lots with some others, but it’s still YOUR network. That being the case, it is YOURS to tweak/tune/prune/etc. If people are bugging you, prune them. If you’re hearing the same things over and over, maybe it’s time to diversify your network. If you don’t want to hear/see “experts” who’ve not been in the classroom lately, don’t watch/listen.

    I dearly hope I’m not invalidating your feelings. It’s just that after reading your post, I couldn’t help feeling like you’re presenting this all as something static and outside of your control. It’s all very much within your control; it’s “personal.”

    I’ve been on a bit of a mission to try to help folks think about why it’s inaccurate to say things like “THE PLN” or “OUR PLN.” Words matter; precision matters, especially if we believe there’s value to these social media mediated interactions.

    I’ve been spending time lately unfollowing people on Twitter. Most recently, I’ve gotten rid of one-trick ponies; people that say the same things over and over again. I’ve also added more higher ed. folks while dumping some K-12 folks. That’s added great diversity of issues (if not ideology) to my Tweetstream.

    I hope you’ll find it empowering and therefore helpful to really try and see this as all very personal to YOU.

    • Jennifer says:

      @jonbecker
      NO worries — you are not invalidating my feelings.
      And yes, I agree that this is very PERSONAL…… to me, to you….to all involved…..in a variety of ways and degrees.

      I have to push back though — and will reread through my thoughts to make sure I wasn’t just whining (my words) and outside my control — with your comments of it being personal to only me. If I might.

      With our “group” — our colleagues, our followers, our friends, other educators — overlapping as it does — I think there is the necessity to “call out” at some times, things that could be improved.

      Just as your comments caused me to step back and reflect — I hope my post did the same.

      Sure, I could stop following people — via tweaking, tuning, pruning — but what would that truly do?? Out of sight, out of mind? I hope not.

      If I see something that I think could improve, is it not important for me to share it out, rather than just quiet my thoughts, or ignore the person who might just need a kick in the seat??

      I know — Jon — I know that I will never be the controller of proper actions on this ” ” — mine, yours, whoevers — or whatever we wish to call it. But a shake up of thoughts…..directed at myself as well as others — is needed every so often, perhaps??

      I do seriously find this empowering and truly helpful — which is why I wrote the post — because it was very personal to ME. Because, I have willingly placed myself in a position to be influenced — both positively and negatively, helpfully and not so helpfully, and critically and creatively by those I choose to follow — and those who choose to follow me & at times I do wear my feelings quite close to the surface….. but because I have chosen to make this personal…..I feel (at times) a need to share out my thoughts, frustrations, hopes, and more …..hence this “personal” post.

      I feel as I am rambling — and so let me end with the truth that I appreciate you, your friendship, and your willingness to take the time to comment on my post.

      Jen

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