Twitter Lists

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Did you have a new year’s resolution regarding social media?  I noticed a few posts and articles related to making changes in the use of social media when the new year started.

I still see value in social media, but I continue to feel dismay at how it is often used to put things out of context and/or to push a particular agenda.  Critical thinking and careful consumption of social media has become so important.

I still find value in using Twitter because of the way I set it up to be more manageable about 8 years ago.  Although I use Twitter a lot less and differently now, I still find useful content and people who continue to share respectfully and thoughtfully.

A recent post by Doug Peterson reminded me how important “lists” can be for Twitter use.  I think the lists I started to create soon after I started a Twitter account are often what still ensures my continued interest in visiting my Twitter timeline.  Doug’s discussion about his lists provides some good ideas for managing Twitter use.  He states and asks,

Twitter lists are indeed one of the best ways to keep tabs on diverse things.

Are you using them to their fullest potential?”

Doug’s post also nicely clarified the “subscribed to” and “member of” lists.

My “Subscribed to” Lists:

A few lists that I created (“subscribed to”) also have followers (subscribers) — I thought that was cool when that happened.  They might not even check those lists, but maybe it is a good alternative to creating one if someone else has already created a public one that might be useful to follow.  Like Doug, I also have one list set to “private” (12 are public).  It was on a suggestion from a friend to create a list of people whose tweets you never want to miss.  No one can see or subscribe to that list but me.  I have also subscribed to 3 lists (Education Leadership, VoicEd authorsInvolvement) that others created publicly, for a total of 15 “subscribed to” lists.

When I started Twitter my focus of interest was Ontario education.  I was also interested in comparing and knowing about education initiatives in other provinces, so I created more lists.  I visit those lists less now, but I will still check them out here and there.  If anyone else would like to look for new connections in a certain province via my lists (but sorry, I only got as far as Ontario and western provinces): ON-ed,  BC-ed,  AB-ed,  Sask/MB-ed.

I have a few more specific education lists:  ed-news (mostly Ont. focused), ESL/resources, Parent/Ed advocates, and online tech.  I will often add someone to an appropriate list before deciding to follow them back.

I have a “local” list, but I will also just check out the popular hashtags for my city and region when I want Twitter to be my “local” feed of news and happenings.

I do spend some time in my main timeline and no “system” is perfect, but I think I have a good balance of serious and fun lists to follow as well.  I enjoy checking out my music list.  I have an “inspiration” one, but I don’t seem to check that one out much — maybe it is time for a adjustment.  I used to have one named, “Actors who say interesting things”, but I recently deleted it.  Not mentioning any names…

My “Member of” Lists:

On a quick count I discovered that I have been added to (“member of”) over 150 lists created by others.  This is not meant to brag, as I know that many of those lists are automated to add people as soon as they tweet using certain hashtags or words.  I doubt all the creators are checking my tweets or those lists.  There must be a point where creating and updating lists can get unmanageable as well.  Most of the lists make some sense as to why I was added — many of them include words in their titles such as education, advocates, and parents.  A few other lists sort of fit, for example, “wild life lover” and “people who love MN” (I occasionally cross the border to visit that state).

My use of Twitter (and lists) will likely keep changing, but I think I have made a good attempt to access diverse topics, people, and viewpoints by using created lists and checking out hashtags linked to topics.  I hope that it helps what I read and also what I share.  Politics will reach my timeline whether I seek out issues or not.  I remain encouraged by the way educators, advocates, artists, photographers and many other individuals use and share on Twitter.

Are lists a part of optimal Twitter use for you?  What works best for you?  Do you have suggestions for additions to any of my lists?

Twitter’s instructions for creating lists here

Personally, I blog…

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This past weekend I read a few blog posts specifically about education blogs and bloggers.  I noticed a few of the posts shared by Doug Peterson on Twitter.  His own blog was reviewed by a preservice teacher and it started some conversation and a response post by Sue Waters, “Blogging is personal.. or is it?”  I found the discussion about voice and the personal aspects of blogging interesting.  Sue offers some good advice to new bloggers.  I also got thinking about how bloggers can be personal as well as personable and professional.  It may all be about style of writing and personality as well.  I think just having a blog involves some personal risk too.  With each post there is a certain amount of personal risk-taking — whether resources or ideas or reflections are shared.

I think that it is okay if people want and look for different things from blogs.  A blog that didn’t appeal at one time may end up having an appeal at another time.  This could be due to the blogger’s or the reader’s change in situation or growth over the time.  I read quite a few blogs regularly and I don’t have any problem if the posts take on a personal approach or offer a personal reflection or story.  I enjoy “seeing” more of the person behind the postings.  When I started tweeting and blogging, I never expected the connections and friendships that would come out of it.  I also didn’t expect to continue as I did.  I think having a chance to do personal stories or reflections on a blog helps me, so I won’t fault anyone else for doing the same.  It isn’t always easy.

Nathan Hall’s recent post celebrating his own blogging connected some dots for me too.  I thought he offered a great argument for reflective blogging and some great advice to help sustain blogging, be real, and take risks.  Here is his list (but do read his full post please):

  1. Don’t focus on the numbers; they will only take attention away from what is really important. Does it really matter how many people liked your post? It may be that the one post that only gets a few visits might be just what one person needed to read that day. It’s all about the bigger picture
  2. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You are a person. People do stupid stuff from time to time. People are generally understanding, and if they aren’t, don’t dwell. Make this a time to learn from your less than glamorous moment and others will as well.
  3. Be real. This goes together with number two. You can try as you might to look better than you are or to pander to the masses, but most people will see through the thin veil of vanity and you will tend to lose strength in your message. Stay true to you.
  4. Don’t try to compete with others. It isn’t a game with others as your opponents. One thing I have learned more than anything during this time is that I am not the smartest, best, or any other superlative and I am more than content with that. I actually do think I have some things to share with others, but I gladly concede any titles to others.
  5. Push yourself, but don’t feel you have to always find something to blog. There have been more than a few times that I have put the writing to the side for a season. When I felt the urge to share something, I’ve picked it back up again. It has its ebbs and flows.
  6. When sharing your posts, put it out there a few times, especially on Twitter where it can be buried fairly quickly, but don’t overdo it. It is just a personal thing, but I don’t like to share a post for more than 24 hours on social media. After that, I feel like I look desperate for visitors and I don’t feel good about it. Again, this is just my own decision and others feel differently. Feel free to make your own choices on that.

I appreciate the personal and personable approach of bloggers like Nathan and Doug and many others. I think it is possible to “blog the personal” and still benefit others.  Many bloggers do so from the good of their heart.  It can be the great thing about blogs — choice in how and why you use a blog, as well as in which blogs you read, as Sue Waters discussed in her post as well.

But I am sure there are still some drawbacks to blogs for many.  Can there be too much pressure to post what you think your readers expect?  Too much choice?  Is it different for education blogs?  What sustains you in blogging and/or reading blogs?

The always controversial “RT”

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If you use Twitter for education connecting, learning, and conversations, you have likely read some of the blog posts that are circulating regarding some concern about being “connected” in education.  There seems to be some disappointment with “Personal Learning Networks” (PLNs) and some examination about how social media is being used for education networking, sharing, promoting, etc.

I have been reading some of the posts and trying to understand what the main concern and conflicts are.  I haven’t shared or commented on the posts — these are networks that I am not really a part of and I see the posts via an “RT” usually.  I see educators using Twitter this way and that way, just as I see many people and organizations using it different ways.  It can be easy to wonder who is actually reading and learning via Twitter and blogs and not just posting their own links, status updates, and news.  People will use it as they wish, want different things from it, just as people will read, share, “RT”, and ignore different things.

I wonder if some of the disappointment has to do with the expectations that one has coming into Twitter and building a PLN.  Do some want to be a “rock star” for many, while some just want to be rock for a few, or connect and share within a smaller network or community?  Doug Peterson posted today and shared some aspects of this topic and conversation.  I appreciated his reflection, as well as Tom Whitby’s post regarding “RTing” that Doug linked and reflected on.

Being someone who tweets and blogs mostly about parent roles in education, I knew I would never be a top tweeter or receiver of RTs, and I didn’t expect or want to be.  I have read some concerns about the lack of comments on blogs, while some don’t even get many views of a post.  I rarely have a blog post that gets over 100 views, but after 115 posts and 4 years later, I still post.  I think I am waning though, but that is both about me and what I have learned about social media.

The post of mine that got the most views on a single day is not one that is necessarily my best or most thought provoking.  I know it got those views because somehow it got on the radar of an educator with many followers.  That one day.. that one tweet (and no, I didn’t RT it).  The person has never shared another post of mine that I am aware of… the numbers would have told me :).  I do understand the frustration with people RTing people (and the same people more), instead of it being about the ideas (even if only a perception).  Do the “influencers” who are well established in networks understand the perspectives and actions of others who are trying to find purpose and value in the use of social media?

People “RTing” their own compliments and the tweets of others who have shared their posts can bother me too.  But when I see that many people seldom get their tweets or posts shared/RT’d, I can understand why they might use a different strategy, even it if appears self-promotional.  These spaces and the hierarchies that still exist within them affect our choices and conduct.  I don’t think there is a science or perfect protocol for it all.  I don’t know… but just thought I would write about my perspective and observations.  I don’t claim to understand it all either.

Read, filter, share… repeat.

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I read a few posts this week regarding the “echo chamber” and “filtering” in regards to social media networking and reading information online (via my Twitter feed).  Aviva Dunsiger wrote about the importance of connecting with those who challenge our thinking and present us with new ideas to chew on.  Doug Peterson wrote about reading, accessing, and storing information online and through our social media networks.  He also featured an article that helps the awareness about “snake oil” in a PLN.  The article and Doug’s post offer good guidance about the information we process and who/what we choose to read via social networks.  At the time of my reading it, I found the comments added by Brandon and Lisa very valuable and insightful as well.

I think we all use different strategies to make our online and social media experiences personally suitable and I suspect those strategies change continually — people read and share online for different and varied purposes.  I am not sure what contributes the most to an “echo chamber” — maybe a number of things.  Social media itself keeps changing how information is received and shared as well.  I find I continually reflect why and how I am using social media, as well as about what I share.  I think it is easy for an individual to feel that what they share is not on the radar of anyone and that it would be much easier and more comfortable to just “lurk” and read.  But then does that just allow for the “big” content sharers to keep being the big “content” sharers and/or “thought leaders”?

I think decisions about what to share (of ourselves and of others) is often impacted by a concern about one’s own “brand” and/or about how one might be perceived by others in these spaces.  We could also be very unaware just how much we might miss about a topic or a side to a story, even if we think our networks are diverse and openly sharing.  Also, we all choose how deep we dig into any particular topic or story.  Last week I read this article and interview with Gabor Maté, “How Capitalism Makes Us Sick”.  His points about the internet caused me to ponder.  For example,

And the Internet, whether it’s the amount of information or the way it’s accessible, it may actually be causing people to remain more on the surface than actually digging into ideas.”

So with that and add in the possible pressures to be positive and considerate about a reputation in social media, such as suggested in this article, it does make we wonder a lot about what we are tailoring and filtering for and of ourselves in these spaces.

I guess we are all still figuring it out… as users, learners, networkers, promoters, and products in online/social media spaces. It’s complicated for adults too. Or is it just me? If anyone reads this to the end… 🙂

 

 

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)

 

What’s King…Knowledge, Content, or the Network?

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….the question I pondered after reading/listening to some links I clicked on Twitter this week. I often catch bits about the U.S. education debates regarding “The Common Core”, but I certainly don’t have the understanding of the context and issues.  But it does catch my curiosity at times.

I read this post with interest.  The idea about the importance of a knowledge base so that one could “never be lost” did make me stop and think.  It outlines the importance of teaching a base of common knowledge/curriculum.

Following that read, I listened to this video interview that was shared with the quote, “90 percent of what we typically teach is a waste of time.”  It’s a short (less than 3 min.) clip with insight from David Perkins, Professor of Harvard Graduate School of Education.  He suggests that the question that isn’t asked enough is, “What’s worth learning?”  He also states, “We need to teach content looking for…. understandings of wide scope…”.  I thought his final statement in the clip was accurate, “Curriculum is one of the most resistant fronts of education.”

Is there a meeting in the middle of all this for schools?  How do schools meet both present and future needs for knowledge, skills and learning?  Consider this read about knowledge, working, and learning management in the “networked era” by Harold Jarche.  Are we still figuring out the value and impact of “networked” knowledge sharing in our adult worlds?  Yet learning, understanding, and knowledge can come from many directions and sources.

What are the implications for schools, teaching, and curriculum throughout K – 12?  I am struggling to see the right balance and approach.  It is easy to get lost in semantics as well.

 

 

 

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.

Blog Meme Morphs…

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I enjoyed the recent blog meme that started amongst education bloggers.  The critic in me did sense some limitation for participation as it did require one to write a blog post and it required a bit of “putting oneself out there”.  I sent the “homework” as optional to 11 people and I remain open to how they or others want to participate, if they want to participate.  So I may have broken a few rules with this already… with the help of some friends. 🙂

I was glad Philip still answered my questions in the comments on my blog post without creating a new post, as he had already done so on his blog.  A friend of mine (with no blog) discussed some of the questions (from both my “nominators” and me) with her family while indoors together on a very cold day.  She sent me some of the responses in private messages.  Hilarious!

I also got chatting with Doug (one of my nominators) about how it felt amiss to me that my nominators couldn’t answer my questions back… if we followed the rules :).  So I guess through our back and forth, we both decided… “Why not?”  Doug took my questions to his own blog post and completed my interview :).  So I will “prod” some more… and see if I can nudge Donna and Johnny in some way as well.  I still welcome others to participate in their own way too – even if it means answering just a few my questions or any of the questions from the others in my previous post.  It is all just for fun and connecting while some of us wait out the recent bitter cold temperatures and stay warm on our blogs. #nopressure 🙂

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!

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) 🙂

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