Some ‘big’ questions we might have to ask

Well, it is Friday afternoon, and for many teachers holidays are in session, so we might as well get this reflection party started eh?

Seriously, I have been having some possibly paradigm altering thoughts, about social networking in particular.  If you dig this scene, please read on!

  • Networks that are ‘free and open’ (i.e. Twitter, Facebook) seem democratic, because everyone can ‘have their say’.  But what power plays are still at work?  What NEW power plays are we constructing that we’re going to have to undo/amend/atone for later?
  • Social networks enable fast and efficient communication.  But if you can publish your thoughts too fast, without reflection, is the noise that this generates worth the pay off?  We are evangelistic about the benefits…but are we ignoring the costs (the drain on our own limited energy and focus in particular as we act as information filters)?
  • Networks are being constructed (thinking especially of the Facebook issue here…but anything with an avatar and a bio could be seen to go down this road) that invite identity construction.  We post photos, preferences, ideas, affiliations…identity capital (?)  But are we muddying the waters of constructing a generative PLN when our communications are so entwined with our personal identity construction?
  • Are the ‘big players’ – the people with many followers – throwing around their identity capital?  Or are they using a cutting edge technology to be leaders?
  • Are ‘great minds’ being devoured as they try to stay on top of the network (with the best of intentions – wanting to share and be open with others) and lead others?  At what point are we no longer ‘paying it forward’, and just ‘forwarding’…or, ‘paying it back’.  My online PLN has helped me to develop in so many ways…am I indebted to it?  Am I obliged to stay and lead it?  How can I nourish my own development?
  • As a reflective practitioner, am I generating too much out put, and not getting enough input?  Am I making/hearing thoughts…or just noise?

Honestly folks, I don’t know where this is all going.  But yes, after some consideration, I decided to write a blog post about it.  Because no matter where this line of thinking ends up, I highly doubt it will dull my appreciation of irony.


Happy holidays!

  1. #1 by anonymous on July 6, 2010 - 5:52 pm

    Surely your time (or anyones) would be better spent creating a life that reflects your core values. I doubt facebook would rank.

    I’m not sure I would even ponder the question that people with a lot of facebook friends are potentially leaders.

    Yes potentially great minds are being devoured by mindless networking sites. However, luckily, a lot of intelligent people don’t have a facebook acount.

    • #2 by kmcg2375 on July 9, 2010 - 3:54 pm

      I hear your feeling, but I’m not sure it’s enough to paint Facebook users as ‘unintelligent’, or people with many online ‘friends’ as not having leadership capacity (although I’m not saying there is a link the other way either).

      The reality is that in a world where work/life demands have become onerous, tools like Facebook allow people to stay in touch and share their lives. This is also true for people who are living very far away from each other, especially interstate or internationally. I don’t think anyone would argue that this is better than a real life meeting, or even a phone call…but many would argue that it is better than nothing, which is a situation many people had found themselves in.

      Some organisations have tried to capitalise on the growing number of people using Facebook for social purposes by creating groups, fan pages and the like to connect users with wider networks. I guess my point is that this is fraught with issues that are only just being able to be reviewed…not that networking is bad, per se.

      • #3 by anonymous on July 11, 2010 - 1:05 pm

        I did not paint facebook users as unintelligent, rather that their intelligence could best be used doing something more worthwhile. I also claimed that it is good that some intelligent people are still using their time on tasks other than facebook.

        I agree that it is important to stay in touch with loved ones that are not close by and that facebook is useful for that. But in doing so you are faced with the temptation to spend further time there, looking at this, liking that etc.

        It is very clear that companies are using this tool to reach people. Some ‘groups’ and ‘pages’ also claim to have some material benefit to the word, be it environmental or another cause. I believe that this creates a culture of feeling like you are doing your ‘bit’, when in reality you have merely clicked on an icon or joined a group. In this world where people are overwhelmingly making the CHOICE to dedicate a large amount of their time and energy to work, it is a substitute for more meaningful and ‘real’ interactions, causes, tasks etc. It also allows for a shift in responsibility away from the individual.

        I agree that there is no link between leadership potential and number of online ‘friends’ either way, that is the point I was trying to make.

        Facebook is generally a quick and easy way for people to validate themselves and their opinions. It is often an insecure world and you will generally find someone who agrees with you or ‘likes’ the random thought that is selected to be ‘posted’. It is there for the ego, why else would so many people use it and the majority of ‘content’ be so fickle?

        The main beneficiary of facebook is the guy from California with access to the worlds personal information.

  2. #4 by Katy on July 7, 2010 - 8:18 am

    As for new power plays, I think the fact that Web 2.0 involves public conversations between individuals means that power plays result in two individuals overtaking the discussion, or using language whose lexical density/modality is designed to intimidate and alienate others. But I don’t think this is very different from the real world. I think, also, that the generation below us (ie teenagers) can be disempowered through their reliance on the web as a means of research and learning. It’s just too easy – and much of what is published online is highly opinionated and not verified through facts. I think, also, that people can use blogs as a means of self-glorification (and why shouldn’t they necessarily?).

    One thing that I find interesting as someone who was once on the outside looking into the teaching profession is that many of my notions of ‘reflective practice’ didn’t necessarily hold once I became a teacher. I believe in being reflective about what I do, but there is something to be said for being caught up in the everyday business as well – I really wish that practicing teachers were taught to reflect in meaningful ways as learning communities within their schools. I think if we were encouraged to have open, honest conversations about the way we make decisions (as teachers, not just as accountable powerbrokers), it would encourage more meaningful interactions. I also find it alarming that, after four years of teaching, I don’t read educational theory anymore and have acquired a resistance to it – this might be a sign that I’ve developed my own individual theory or might be that I find that jargon marginalises those who are out there doing.

    Sorry, a bit of a rant…..and not really on your topic…but your post made me think.

    Congratulations on your new job and I hope that it’s all you have wished for!!! Inspire the next generation!!!

    • #5 by kmcg2375 on July 9, 2010 - 4:04 pm

      Katy, I couldn’t agree more that schools ought to focus on developing learning communities so that teachers can engage in reflection that is closely aligned with ‘everyday’ work!

      From my own experience, I was getting quite a lot of this at school, but felt the need to connect with people outside my school context, to ensure I was keeping touch with ‘best practice’ and hearing broader perspectives.

      As for resisting educational theory…this makes me sad. It probably is true that with more teaching experience you do develop your own approach and philosophy, but heaven help us if that doesn’t continue to be refined over time! I think it is a case of finding the ‘theory’ that interests you, and that you can see an application for in your teaching. It is also a case of finding time to read and reflect…something that is not always afforded by the cycles of exam marking, report writing, playground duty…etc.

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