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.