Voice and choice

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I adjusted my time using social media when summer arrived and even more when the weather finally felt like summer.  But as August creeped up, I have been dipping back into the social media sharing and news more.  With recent events and news in our communities and our world, I do appreciate that I can sign into Twitter and catch more perspectives on events and issues.  But there has been a lot to take in lately, if one chooses to take it in through these spaces.  So I am plopping down some thoughts in reflection… many of which I am sure have been said before by others.

I have no doubt that social media has impacted how we choose to communicate, if not what we communicate and with whom.  I think it has also impacted how we process and react to events and news – positive and negative.  It is not hard to pick up on the dissatisfaction that occurs when some don’t like what others are posting (or not posting) into the timelines on Twitter.  There is often debate about how Twitter should (or should not) be used, and there seems to be no shortage of articles suggesting ways to use social media better to increase one’s influence, etc.

But really, I don’t think anyone can tell another how they must use Twitter or other social media platforms.  Each platform does have its own “psychology” and communication norms which can impact how users share and behave, but I think it is important to remember that our experiences and perceptions of social media can be impacted by those we follow/friend and what we attend to.  We can choose or adjust our experiences and time in these spaces.  I can understand that can be easier said than done.  I get that these online connections can build and lead to close relationships.  I can understand that there may be pressure in maintaining a network to support our work and purpose.  These pressures exist for adults and youth, I believe.  But in the end, we still have many choices in this experience and in these spaces.  We may have to accept that we can’t tell someone how to use or what to share on social media any more than we can tell someone how to live their life.  It has been reassuring to see some response in this regard from some social media platforms and representatives in some situations.

However, I find it most unfortunate that there are individuals who may decide that the best choice is to stop using social media completely.  I can respect that — there are some horrendous stories.  Choice and adjustment of one’s network and sharing may not be enough to feel safe and comfortable or worthwhile for some.  I hope such situations lessen ahead, but I am not sure how confident I am that they will.  It can seem so complicated at times.

Some other related reading that helped me think about voice and choice:

Web Trolls Winning as Incivility Increases   (NY Times article)

Important Voices (blog post by Mark Carbone)

 

“Social” or Promotional Media?: Part 2

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I have been sensing some shifts in social media lately and I have been reflecting if it has affected my interest, or whether my priorities and interests have just changed.  In my previous post I wondered about the introduction and the impact of the “mute” option on Twitter.  I realize that some may not have the option if they are using Tweetdeck or other Twitter clients, but I think we still can inadvertently “mute” many people we follow in different ways as we often read from personal lists and we can only read so much.  I sometimes wonder if some people read what others are sharing on Twitter at all.  There is a lot of sharing of links and images on Twitter.  But maybe that is fine, as there are many people who don’t share and prefer to read what others post.

We call it “social” media, but it is easy to sense the promotional focus of it.  I know that more organizations and businesses have embraced social media and that platforms must adjust to user needs as well as stay in business themselves.  Organizations and businesses do share some great content, but their focus is to promote their own purpose or product in the end.

Often when I am trying to understand what I am sensing, something shows up in my social media newsfeeds that helps. I had a listen to this video of a presentation by Gary Vaynerchuk, Stop Storytelling Like It’s 2007.  If you can get past the “F sharps”, he shares many good points and insights about storytelling – why, what, how, and where.  The talk was for a social media marketing audience, but when he said, “Marketers ruin everything”, I listened to the end.  Good points were made about how the “psychology” of the different social media platforms is often missed and how context was more important than content in reaching an audience. His talk captured the realties and challenges of getting the attention of users and consumers, and he reminds that respecting the nuances of each platform is important.

It all makes we wonder where this leaves individuals amidst all the increase of users, platforms, information, and advertising?  Does the individual blogger have to consider marketing strategies and platform psychology in order to have an audience and voice?  Gary suggested that marketers need to tell stories and “give” like a human being, not like a brand.  They need to listen instead of talk and act human every day in “micro moments”.  He suggested that people seem to think they need to be witty on Twitter to get attention, and being kind is not the priority of users.  Is that really the general perception of Twitter users? Is this how marketers will stand out from that?  Gary suggested that marketers and businesses should offer value, respond and engage with users — then asking for their business becomes easier.  Can individuals also have any of these as priorities?  If they did, would they get noticed? Would it seem trustworthy, or suspicious?

I started using Twitter to follow and learn from people and be a part of conversations (where I felt welcome and where I thought I could contribute a helpful perspective).  I have enjoyed sharing perspectives and contributions of others in education conversations and debates.  I have valued what others share using social media and I pass a fair bit of relevant information to each of my family members.  (I should thank and let those people who share those bits know that more.)  I blog and share what I care about, what I find interesting, or what I think my followers might appreciate.  Some people using Twitter suggest that we should refrain from retweeting too much.  But we all have different followers and networks, and someone we follow isn’t just tweeting/retweeting for the benefit of one specific follower.  Also, If someone engages with me, I try my best to respond and acknowledge.  It is manageable when you are not a “rock star” Twitter user :)

However, I still wonder how much the changes and the various uses of social media are affecting my experience as I try to stick with what I feel is appropriate for me.  The new Twitter profile encourages us to “pin” selected tweets to “show off your best stuff”.  It can seem as if there is an underlying assumption that we are all about establishing a personal “brand”.  Content and advertising on Facebook seem to be pushing through in different ways.  I am reluctant to “like” anything.  I follow a few people on Twitter who share interesting things about social media, but I also see many articles about improving one’s reach, influence and audience with blogs and Twitter.  Where does this leave individuals just sharing with a purpose and trying to have a network and a voice with no motive for business or monetary gain?

I know I am just a guest in these spaces and there are things that one just has to tolerate, but there have been reports that Twitter has had some challenges in keeping and attracting users.  Why do users leave?  Why can it be difficult to stay? Is it getting more difficult to be ourselves or an individual on social media?  Is it best just to become readers, lurkers, and receivers of information and promotions on social media?  The writer of this article suggests that Twitter now has 2 uses.  1) To support ads as a revenue tool and 2) To snark.  Yet I can think of many people who bring so much more value to Twitter than that.  Many are kind, helpful, and share good insights.

I know we can all adjust our networks, unfollow/unfriend and now mute who we follow on Twitter, but how “social” is this media going to remain ahead?  Was it ever really authentic? Sharing can be caring, but what actually gets attention and shared the most?  How does that impact what individuals do in these spaces? Is it enough to stay purposeful and kind? How do we guide our youth for these spaces and changes ahead?

I am not sure who will read all my thoughts and questions, but I wanted to write them down… see where things go ahead.  Thank you if you did read.  I welcome your thoughts.

“Social” or Promotional Media?: Part 1

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I enjoy the dialogue about many topics on Twitter, as well as the discussions about Twitter on Twitter :)  I have been catching some conversation and reaction in tweets regarding Twitter’s new “mute” button.  I have seen a few people wonder about the impact on engagement and others wondering about its usefulness and purpose.

I read a post that explained its function and possible purpose quite well. (Thank you for sharing, Mike @mikekujawski).  How NOT to get muted by Twitter’s new function also refers to engagement,

The true measure of success for brands on Twitter will no longer be just follower numbers. Especially when it’s impossible to know how many of those followers are actually listening any more. Engagement is the success metric that counts now.”

Here is the advice and reassurance to “brands”:

The Twitter mute button will essentially let your followers be the judge of your content strategy. And you can be fairly sure that regular, repetitive streams of self-promotion are going to be quickly and quietly turned off.

Twitter is not ‘punishing’ brands, it’s trying to adapt to become a better social network. To keep up with changes like these, brands are also going to need to adapt and to commit to being truly social themselves.”

So, the focus is about brands and keeping things “social”?  Muting will be a form of feedback? Where does the individual user factor into this and in social media in general? Just trying to make sense of it.  More of my thoughts to come.  I welcome yours.

Dancing in the Dark — Then and Now

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Another day of snow in spring… maybe a music-related blog post will help (also stealing an idea and theme from Doug Peterson’s blog.)

I often enjoy “covers” of songs, especially when new musicians refresh some of my favourites.  It leads to a lot of conversation, discovery and comparison in my household.  My youngest recently told me that one of her teachers referred to “that dancing in the dark song”.  She noticed a few of her classmates looking a bit surprised so she clarified for the teacher, “I think she means the song by Bruce Springsteen…”.  Apparently there is another song about dancing in the dark….

I know that my youngest would be familiar with the Springsteen original as we have showed her and her sister the popular video where Courtney Cox joins him on stage.  Perhaps “staged”, but if you would like to enjoy again (direct link, if viewing is not available):

 

 

But it is through my daughter’s interest in Laura Marling’s music that brought my attention to this cover of Dancing in the Dark:

 

I really do like it – maybe even more than the original by Springsteen.  On Doug’s post, he invited us to vote for Springsteen’s recent cover of a Bee Gees song or for their original.  I am going to be lazy and skip a poll, but feel free to comment as you wish or mention your favourite cover, or any cover that you find particularly well done.  It might help us all pass this extra long winter :)

And I must say, I do like how social media and youtube seem to help connect my children to our “old stuff” … rather than us just pushing our vinyl records at them. :)

Social Media Menus and Venues: Home and School

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I often reflect on my social media “diet”… Is it balanced?  Should I consume more of this and less of that?  What should I skim… what should I take with a grain of salt?  Who should I listen to in regards to what is good or better for me?  Will it be suitable to me?  What am I role modelling for my children?  What do my choices, online activity and interactions say about me?  How and where do I choose to connect with others?

While we find ourselves asking these questions as adults (e.g. check out Bill Ferriter’s post), we are also trying to understand and support what is appropriate for children and teens.  Who should do what to nourish and balance the social media “diets” of our youth?  Where does the guidance start?  Can support in the school environment impact choices and behaviour outside of school?  Which has more influence on the choices and behaviour of youth online – home or school?

A related conversation occurred recently between a few education bloggers about supporting youth with social media.  Aviva Dunsiger started the conversation and wondered where lines could be drawn with using social media for learning and personal interactions,

I think that students need a safe place to make mistakes, and I don’t know that social media provides this safe place.

Maybe we need more candid conversations with students about what tools they’re using, how they’re portraying themselves online, and what to do when problems occur.

Please read her full post and the comments here.

Doug Peterson responded to her questions on his blog with the suggestion that student blogging experiences may address many concerns.  Mark Carbone joined the conversation and added his thoughts further in a post on his blog.

I certainly support Doug’s view that blogs are indeed an excellent starting point.  I also think that  the K12 educational experience needs to move beyond this.

I don’t think one can underestimate the power of positive role modelling.  Do you see this as an opportunity for educators? or perhaps a responsibility?

While following the comments of Aviva, Doug, and Mark on each other’s posts, I noticed a post by William Chamberlain in which he reflected about the value of blogging for students.

Doug also weighed back in on the conversation in a subsequent post and mentioned the research and book by Danah Boyd.  As I think by now, like Doug, we all realized, yes, it really is complicated.  Doug ends with,

If you’re interested in another perspective on networking, then you really owe it to yourself to read this book.  Armed, you’re ready to join the conversation.

I recently wrote a summary about Boyd’s work as well.  I posted it along with some questions for parent input and perspectives in on online forum.  There is a lot to consider and discussion is good.  We can all have good intentions to support our children and youth, but the world of online interactions can get very complicated and confusing.  We are all still figuring out this netiquette – as adults and teens.  It must be difficult for teachers as well.  I often wonder if we may just have to accept inconsistency in this area.  Like choosing our diet and habits, there will be inconsistent and conflicting choices between home and school.  Positive role modelling and support may also be inconsistent from place to place…and online space to online space… and home and school.

I would think it is confusing for parents as well.  How can we consider Danah Boyd’s insight to support and respond appropriately as parents and educators together?  I can understand Aviva’s questioning if the internet is the place to make mistakes, especially when consequences can be harsh, if not unwarranted.  I also think that role modelling by parents is really important.  But like diet and food choices, how much can the school impact behaviour online if the messaging at home is different?  As a parent, I have had more concerns with other parents not monitoring enough than over-monitoring.  I don’t have my children as “friends” on Facebook, but we have frequent conversations about the interactions that transpire in that space, and in others.  Yet, there are always new grey areas to discuss.

Let’s keep talking, sharing, and learning from each other.  You might want to consider joining this online chat or “hangout” on April 3rd that Royan Lee has organized to reflect on Danah Boyd’s book.

Post update: Adding the recorded chat/discussion panel that Royan posted to this blog

Presence and Purpose

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A recent post of mine compiled some of my thoughts and questions about education after K-12, and I linked other blog posts that helped my thinking about passion in learning, decision-making, and life’s work.  I noticed that John Spencer also wrote a related post about “DWYL” (Doing what you love).  He took the topic to a different angle and discussed it in regards to blogging and teaching.  His points were insightful and his post ends with:

I think the advice to “do what you love” and “write for yourself” sound noble, but they’re actually pretty steeped in self-absorption. Kids don’t need teachers who are “doing what they love.” They need teachers who will do things that they don’t love, because they are motivated by love for their students.

What a great statement about teaching, I thought.  I think this applies to parenting as well.  Parents certainly do things that can only be explained by their love for their children.

As for blogging by adults, I too have some confusion with: “I blog/write for me/myself”.  I wonder if sometimes it is a way to buffer us from negative feedback or judgement about our blogging or writing, or defend it as John suggests,

“It sounds noble, somehow uncorrupted by the petty, external need for gratification. “I write for myself” makes it sound like it’s all about personal growth.”

It got me reflecting about my own blogging.  There is no question that I started a blog to share my thoughts and to contribute to the online conversations that were occurring about education.   I am sure my posts often promoted my ideas, but I hope that they have contributed to a collective of ideas and actions that benefitted others.  I also started my blog to help support other parent voices enter the education conversations, either through reading, commenting or guest blogging (such as here, here, and here).  I really enjoyed offering “my space” and helping other connections and ideas in these online networks.  I still feel odd every time I share a blog post of my own on Twitter.

I also hoped that the thoughts I posted “out there” would benefit me — my understanding and my thinking through the feedback, comments, pushback, or interaction from other readers.  That certainly did occur on some posts.  Without that kind of feedback, or whatever we call it…”validation” or “gratification”…. it can leave us trying to make sense of the feedback of data, or the sharing “stats” of our blog.  That is not a perfect science either.  I am not sure what the number of “hits” on posts really means… some may have closed the post as fast as they clicked on it or it could be random search hits.  I could have easily discontinued some time ago if I used just data or statistics or “shares” as feedback.  It is easy to question why I continue, but the sincere, personal and direct feedback I get from a few certainly helps me feel that my blog is helpful to others as well.  I can’t see people continuing to blog “for themselves”, or at all, if they received no interaction or some form of feedback on their posts.  Am I wrong?

I can often feel overwhelmed reading blogs and trying to decide on what to read, share, comment on, etc.  I often reflect on the balance of sharing my own posts and posts of other bloggers.  I guess it is passion that helps in all of this.  Fortunately, I have a passion for writing and I value sharing and interacting with other bloggers and readers who are passionate about similar topics.  I guess it has provided me with another way to extend my interest in supporting children and learning environments, even with the uncertainty at times that any of it makes a difference (as I wondered in a previous post).  And there are many stories and experiences that many of us can’t blog or reach out about.

We can struggle as adults with making sense of why we blog and what impact it has, so I often think about younger people navigating this aspect of online presence.  Doug Peterson recently posted some thoughts about online “influence” and suggested,

What I think would be of real interest in the classroom would be to have a discussion with students about what just goes into developing an online blogging presence.

I agree.  This would be a good topic to explore with students, whether they are blogging or not, or about to start blogging.  I am sure there would always be much to talk about regarding passion, purpose, motivation, stories, audience and feedback.

It’s a journey, for sure.

It’s just a yearbook…

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My daughter came home from school the other day quite excited.  She was excited about the submission she was to prepare for the yearbook which was extended to all students in the senior graduating class.  She was really eager to set about filling in her favourite quotes and memories and such.  I don’t recall being able to self-submit much in my graduating year.  I asked her why she was so motivated and she replied, “Because…this is how people will remember me…. and I was looking at your yearbooks and thought, huh?”.  I didn’t press for what that meant!  I did reply, “But it is just a yearbook and they are still only in hard copy, right?… and you have social media sites, unlike in my day.”  She dismissed the significance of that though.  I was left thinking about a few things… the past and the future… and about memories and yearbooks.

The creation of school yearbooks has certainly changed, but I guess they are one thing not published or desired to be online (except for the odd scanned image, I suppose).  The physical signing of yearbooks still seems to be a cherished thing.  A few days after this conversation with my daughter, I noticed this link to a story shared in my Twitter feed: “Someone Found a High School Yearbook from 1913 and Put it Online“.  Yikes…but quite interesting!  I think I will go hide my yearbooks now :)  Do you keep yours around?

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