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?

Eleven Links

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The online blogging world is often full of the unexpected.  Recently a “blog meme” started.  It is similar to a “chain letter”.  Blogging and connecting with others in these spaces can often be very serious about topics and issues – in education for sure.  I wasn’t sure what to make of this “meme” at first, but now I have seen it growing in participation.  I now see it as a nice break from the more persuasive writing and blogging and an opportunity to link and connect more bloggers and networks in a serendipity kind of way.

Donna Fry also saw this an opportunity to bring some joy to blogging and I appreciate her participation in furthering the outreach and linking a group of northern bloggers here.  This meme has been named as “Homework” in the Twittersphere, and not long after I received my “homework” from Donna, I received “tags” from Doug Peterson and Johnny Bevacqua.  So in the name of connecting education bloggers and joyful blogging, I have decided to have a go at this.  I also have a tough time turning down an assigned task. :)

Here is how it works:

  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. List 11 bloggers.
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.

As I mentioned, Donna, Doug and Johnny nominated me in this meme.  Please check out their posts (linked above) to read more about how this started and for the list of bloggers they connected.  There, that is #1 done.  Now #2 is not as easy for me, but here goes (and I won’t be upset if readers skim through this part).  Hmm, some random but true facts….keeping in mind Donna’s reminder to have fun but be careful about personal information that we post online:

1. I am the youngest of 4 (how did my parents do that?!)

2. I have lived in 6 different towns/cities

3. I have spent time in only 3 Canadian provinces - must travel more!

4. My dad had his own dog sled team and bush plane.

5. I enjoy watching and identifying birds.

6. I met Fred Penner when I worked in a children’s book store.

7. I celebrated Christmas in a different city 4 years in a row.

8. I enjoy walking and writing and how both allow me to think.

9. My Grandma lived to 100.

10. My favourite month is July.

11. I have read almost every John Irving novel.

**

Now on to Donna’s 11 questions: My answers in bold

1. What was the first “subject area” you studied after leaving high school? Psychology

2. If you could cook anything, what would you cook for supper tonight? Something my mom used to make.

3. What makes you stop and pause during your day? Fresh outdoor air or something inspirational in nature.

4. Cats or Dogs? Cats, since I have never owned a dog.

5. If you could have only one Pinterest Board, what would the topic be? Nature

6. What was the catalyst that got you blogging in the first place? Discovering blogs via Twitter and support from others

7. What is one (funny) childhood misconception that you had, or that you have experienced with a young child? (for example, we lived near Manilla, Ontario during the eruption of Mount Pinatubo. My 5-year-old daughter watched the news and thought it was right near our house!) My mom used to tell stories about “Brother John” (my dad’s brother) when I was young. I thought he was preacher, but she was only making a distinction from “John Sr.”, his dad.  Oooh…! :)

8. What was your favourite summer job? A number of summers working in a concession at a Drive-Inn Theatre – yup.. cars in rows, speakers attached… those were the days!  I saw the endings of many movies those summers.

9. Where do you find flow?  Chillin’ alone with tea poured…looking out over a lake preferably.

10. What was one personal challenge you faced in 2013?  Adjusting my focus and priorities

11. What are YOU passionate about?  Family and community

**

Next up, Doug’s questions, which he invited anyone reading his post to answer:

When was the last time you backed up your computer? The last time my husband did (he thinks it is time again..)

If you could speak any language other than English, what would it be? Norwegian

Where would you go for your dream vacation? Norway or Scotland would be on the list.

Have you ever received a parking ticket? Yes, and only one!

You’re in control of the thermostat.  What’s your ideal room temperature? 21 C

Have you ever taken an online course? No, but have helped others doing so.

What was the last educational conference that you attended? People for Education’s annual conference.

When was the last time you were in a public library? Spring of this year.

Have you ever dabbled with Linux? No

What would you consider to be the best photo you’ve ever taken? Toss up between a kitten and flowers.

What, and where, is your favourite park?  Rushing River Prov. Park, Kenora

**

And now Johnny’s questions… creative juices are flowing now…

What keeps you up at night?  Unresolved conflicts/misunderstandings with others or struggles of/with my kids

What would you consider comfort food?  nachos

What is one thing you would change about your job?  I work on call, so I go with the flow. 

What is one thing you would change about schools today?  Hard to stick to one :) Let’s start with less sitting in chairs…

What is one piece of advice you would give to someone?  That advice is advice… and not always correct.  Try on what “fits” or toss.

The biggest inspiration in my life is_____ I’d say a combination of beautiful things: music, scenery, people

What was the first music concert you attended? Edward Bear (not kidding!)

What is the first movie you attended?  A Walt Disney movie likely.  Or was it Planet of the Apes? :)

Other than work, I have a passion for___ Family and community

If you wrote a book, what would the title be?  Gooseberry Lane

When I grow up I ___hope I don’t stop learning.

Now my turn to tag and interview!  I have decided to nominate some bloggers who I have met at least once, and a few others who I have talked about meeting up with.  I have met both Donna and Doug in person and it would be great to meet Johnny, but they nominated me and the rules say I can’t list them :(  I would also like to invite anyone reading this post to participate.  If you don’t have a blog, you are welcome to respond in the comment section.

I hope the following bloggers/PLN friends will find a way to participate.  No problem if you don’t wish to… I meant to do ‘my homework’ before Christmas!  This is a invite to have fun and share, but also my way of saying Happy New Year to you, and that I appreciate our connection.

Jennifer Chan

Fred Galang

Tracy Bachellier

Robert Hunking

Katie in NorthTO

Andrew Campbell

Stephen Hurley

Nathan Hall

Philip Cummings

Vivian

Jane Mitchinson

My 11 questions:

What is your favourite season or month? Share a reason, if you wish.

Where would you like to travel next?

What band/music do you enjoy that you discovered through a recommendation from a person younger than you?

What do you plan to eat more of in 2014?

What is your favourite flower or plant or tree?

What rock or crystal are you curious about?

What was your most memorable grade level in school?

What book or author are you enjoying lately?

Book or movie first?

Sweet or spicy?

Why did you begin to blog? Do you blog for the same reason now?

Thank you for reading and participating! 

A Seat at the Table – Parents, Teachers and Education

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I am pleased to have Nancy Angevine-Sands, (With Equal Step @withequalstep) back as a guest blogger this month.  Her previous contribution to my blog can be found here.  She has plans to start a blog in the new year, but I am honoured and happy to offer her this space once again for this post with her appeal to both educators and parents:

***

I joined Twitter a year ago (I know – late to the game) as a way of hearing new and different voices in the field of education and parent engagement. I found amazing people blogging and having great online conversations about these topics. (And I see only a minute fraction!)  Some inspire me; others almost cause my head to explode; a few make me stop and reconsider my beliefs, while many confirm my convictions. But here’s the problem – I am a member of the converted, being preached to by my brethren. What about all those parents who are not connected – to twitter, to blogs, to their schools? How do they hear the many viewpoints expressed? How do they participate in the discourse? How do they learn about, argue over, and understand all that is happening and could happen in education?

Sheila has written about this topic, in this space – notably in December 2011. In that post, she asked some very pertinent questions, among them -

“How are opportunities created, supported and encouraged for parents to engage meaningfully and concretely in dialogue about learning, technology, etc. at the school level? The district or board level?  Are a few different ways offered?”

Too many of the postings I’ve read bemoan the lack of support parents give to education initiatives. But how many of those authors/educators have taken the time to provide ‘inservicing’ for the parents? How many have created opportunities for parents and guardians to learn about an issue and “engage meaningfully  and concretely in dialogue…?” How many have viewed parents as partners in the education of their students?

Let me give an example. Many of the latest discussions have been around student awards and “losing”.  This is a hot-button topic. I remember arguing with my children’s principal about this 18 years ago. “Awards are necessary and to deprive hard working students of the chance of winning is unreasonable”, I argued. The principal, a wise woman, took me to a meeting on the topic to engage my point of view. And so began my conversion, aided by watching how awards were handled, working with students who would never win the awards being given, and learning more about the topic. (see also Chris Wejr’s post - Nov/13) I now see things differently.

How many parents will get the opportunity for thoughtful consideration of this – or any – issue? In twenty-four years of parent engagement, I have rarely seen opportunities for parents to sit around the school table, learning and debating the latest trends in education. Yes, the school council might offer a workshop on Cyber safety. But will the staff present seminars on using technology in the classroom? Or open up discussion on the concept of Flipped Classrooms? Resilience may be addressed in ‘parenting‘ sessions, but will schools teach their communities how it is demonstrated in their building. Will they seek advice on implementation?

Is it any wonder that parents balk at the newest initiatives? Many educators, themselves, resist change and they are schooled in the topic. Why do we expect our communities to shift beliefs and practices without support?

If we don’t treat parents as partners, we restrict the information they receive, underestimate the value of parent knowledge (Dr. Debbie Pushor), neutralize their input, and convince ourselves that a monologue is really dialogue. The disconnect leads to misunderstandings and grievances with the system. The result affects student achievement because what is learned in the school is not supported in the home.

But let me not put the onus for partnership-building solely onto schools. In workshops with school councils, I encourage members to use twitter and other social media to connect not only with their parents, but the education community at large. In today’s world, information and discourse is at their fingertips. If we encourage the concept of life-long learners, that should include understanding how our children are being taught. Let parents take part of the responsibility for learning, questioning, and supporting their schools in the 21st century. This means school councils, teachers and principals must first send that information out into their communities and then encourage a discourse with parents/guardians on the wide variety of educational topics. That is partnership.

O’ Christmas Card

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IMG-20131215-00382 (3)As I finished up this year’s handwritten Christmas cards, I got to thinking…  The list of people I send cards to by mail is quite short now – it used to be much longer.  It may be that I was able to prepare and send cards each year because the list got shorter.  But I have sent them for years.  It has often been the only time of year that I connected with some far away friends and relatives.  There were years of short notes, years of full family newsletters and school photos, and some with silly recipes and jokes.  I often find myself humming this song (Again by Melanie) as I prepare to start on my card list, but I know there has been at least one song written sentimentally about a Christmas card and also a movie that I have yet to watch.  My curiosity also led me to confirm that the first Christmas card was sent in 1843 – 170 years ago.

My list of addresses still include those we have lost touch with or lost due to death or illness.  Some just stopped sending.  I don’t think technology, social media and e-cards are the main reason for this – people are really busy and/or Christmas cards just aren’t their thing.  I could let it go too, but a part of Christmas that has always been important to me is the re-connection to people and the time to do that, even if only a card exchange in the mail.  I found it interesting that both my older children are exchanging printed cards with a few friends.  I wondered if their choices with cards were because of my influence, but then I read this news article which mentioned a survey done two years ago which found:

“Surprisingly, the majority of young Canadians — aged 18 to 24 — said they preferred receiving cards in the mail to electronic alternatives. Two-thirds suggested cards in the printed version carry more meaning than their electronic counterparts.”

There are other interesting bits in the article about Christmas mail and the influence of technology, but now I am thinking that handwritten and mailed Christmas cards will continue to be a part of this season for me.  And that is okay.  I have added a few new names to my Christmas card list and now I have written a blog post about it - I didn’t really expect to do either this year.  I welcome your stories or thoughts (or predictions!) about Christmas cards in the comments as well.

I would also like to take the opportunity with this post to send best wishes for the holiday season to those I connect with through this blog.  May it be just the way you like to spend it!

From the mouths of… teens.

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I became curious about a new song by a teenager and its meaning, so I consulted the experts :)  The reactions of the teenagers to this song in this video are both sweet and humorous.  After the 6 min. mark though, the “question time” and further commentary about media, youth, and their lives is quite insightful and honest.  We can read and hear many things that make us worry about teenagers and their lives ahead, so I wanted to post this to my blog to shed a hopeful light.

Royals by Lorde

*

Through this video, I found a similar one of some of the same teens reacting to “the iphone video”.  I have seen many responses to that video, but not this one.  I appreciated their perspectives and thoughts shared about smartphones and their worlds as well.

Teens react to smartphones

Rocks and Stars of an Education PLN

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We never know who we might learn from as we begin to network through social media, or “build” a personal learning network (PLN).  “Building” implies a very intentional endeavour to me and I recognize the value in that.  But using and participating in social media often brings unexpected connections and learning.  It can also feel very messy and confusing, especially as we enter these spaces and interactions initially.  It is easy to forget our own first experiences as we become more used to the “language” and subtle norms of social media, Twitter in particular.  I am always thankful for reminders from people who have taken the step in more recently.  I suspect that “newbies” don’t always articulate publicly how it can seem for them.  This is why I appreciated a recent blog post by Vivian (@ChezVivian).  I recently “met” Vivian in comments on a blog post, and from there we have interacted and conversed on Twitter.  I know we can get excited about the connections we make, but Vivian’s post about social media rock stars gives good insight into how someone new to using social media might feel as they try to make sense of the experience:

There are some Social Media Rockstars that have a positive impact on me.  They are the Social Media Rockstars that blog (even tweet) out of their vulnerabilities and share them openly.  They are not Rockstars (though they might also have thousands of followers).  They are the ROCK.  They are the bedrock and the foundation of all that our PLNs are trying to accomplish.  Upon their lessons, we can attempt to build something lasting upon. The “Rocks” prop me and others up. They tell us that we’re OK despite our weaknesses because they openly share their weaknesses. They inspire us to overcome our challenges, just as they are openly working towards overcoming theirs.  Their transparency invites me to dialogue back as I don’t feel like an inferior wanna-be in front of them.  To those “Rocks” in my PLN, I extend my gratitude and deepest heart-felt thanks and I know I speak for many other people.

Like Vivian, I didn’t expect to use social media to be a rock star or find rock stars, but I do think that over time we all find a network with a few of our own “rocks”.  Vivian’s post ends with, “I won’t be your Social Media Rockstar.  I don’t even want to be.  I promise that I’ll be your Social Media Rock, though.”

So while there may or may not be social media rock stars, I think each of us benefit by having up a few good “rocks” along the way…

RocksPhoto Credit: me (and not even an accidental ground shot) :)

The reach of education blogging

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I appreciate how summer allows for moments of reflection about many things, including my social media use.  Regardless of how my roles and interests change, I need my social media experiences to matter and be personally relevant.

An article written recently by Peter DeWitt, Why social media matters, caught my attention.  I appreciated the first part about teenagers and their use of technology to socialize.  He spoke well to perceptions that may lead to misjudging their social media use.

Peter also covered blogging in this piece,

Blogging, which is another form of social media, has become one of the most important mediums in the public education movement. Educators, parents and students are able to provide their opinions of what is happening in their schools.

His statement about mainstream media and education departments also stood out for me,

Too often in mainstream media, or state education departments (as well as the USDOE) communication can be skewed to sell their ideas. It becomes a way to market their initiatives. The importance of individual voices, who also may have a bias, is that it gives the public the opportunity to see how all of these changes are affecting real students and real schools. Hopefully, bloggers help provide a much fuller picture to what is happening.

As I reflected on this, I realized that this is one of the main reasons I became motivated to use social media – to read and share blogs by educators and parents about education and schools.  It often frustrated me how education messaging was handled in and for the public.  I really believed that there must be important thoughts and messages that weren’t being heard or connecting.  As I started to explore and connect with others using social media, this became even clearer and truer for me.  I have enjoyed being connected to many individuals and sharing their thoughts and work as much as possible.  It gave me a lot of hope for education and motivated me to start my own blog.  But I have to admit there are many times when I wonder if education bloggers really are helping a fuller, real picture reach the public, as Peter referred to.  It can seem to require a lot of work – for the individual blogger and for a network or “tribe” of bloggers to support one another.  Is it enough to impact and integrate with mainstream media messages?  The media and government departments can promote their message so effortlessly and broad at times.  Is the pressure on a network of bloggers fair and realistic, even if valuable in so many ways amongst educators?  As I recognized in a reflection post last summer, not all educators are blogging about education and social change, but also to share resources and for professional development.  There may be risks for educators to blog about controversial issues and certain topics as John Spencer recently wrote about.

I see the value of connecting but “hierarchies” in social media networks may also impact messages and voice.  “Sharing” in social media is not always, or meant to be, reciprocal.  When I reflect on the impact of the “numbers” of social media it leaves me with some uncertainty in how all messages and individual voices reach and contribute to a fuller picture. How much is there a false sense that the messages and stories in blogs are being heard in the more public sphere?  Can we be sure about the reach at a more local level?

I am aware and often in awe of the impact of social media and blogs in education, but I have been thinking a lot about the responsibility and commitment required of bloggers to keep the messaging inclusive and consistent — by using social media, writing and reading blogs, commenting on and sharing other’s blogs, supporting new bloggers, etc.

Social media and blogging can matter in many different ways, but I am not as clear as to what makes a difference with the public.  This may speak to why it is so important to support bloggers who are trying to offset or inform mainstream media messaging.  As I was drafting this post, Tia Henriksen created and shared a great infographic on her blog.  Her post, “Supporting Social Media”, provides leadership ideas to support educators and schools using social media and blogs to share their work and stories.  This is important, but still requires time and interest of individuals.

The questions remain for me:  Do the messages and voices reach parents and the public, and does the public reach back?  Is it enough to impact change in education?  In an article by Tony Wagner about education change leaders, he mentions that,

Highly effective change leaders don’t merely preach these things to their teachers and parents, however. They engage them in adult learning about a changing world and how students learn best. They realize that the only way that change can be sustained is if the adults in the community also deeply understand the need for change, and so these leaders sponsor readings, talks by local experts, and discussions.

I am not always certain of the impact of all these strategies, but I know many individuals are passionate and committed to this balancing act of online communication and personal and public outreach.  Whether I continue to blog or not, I hope to continue to share the work of others and what I think might be of relevance to my network on Twitter and elsewhere.  We can’t always be sure what is being read, but I appreciate that there are education news writers and governance organizations who are using social media to listen, if not promoting blogs.

I welcome any further insights or assurances.

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