Wednesday, April 17, 2013

If Twitter is the Answer, What is the Question?

I recently heard George Couros (@gcouros) speak to our K12 staff about advances how our society utilizes technology and how our schools need to catch up. I have to say that I agreed with most everything he said. I am obviously a blogger, believe that we need to foster 21st century skills in our kids so they can compete in a global economy, and firmly believe in giving back to my profession. Last year as the keynote speaker at our National Honor Society induction I urged the students to create something (ala #Starwarsboy). Needless to say on most respects Mr. Couros and I seem to be cut from the same cloth.

That being said, I want to address a twitter issue. I call it a twitter issue because it is becoming an epidemic in teacher circles. So much so that the teachers that probably need the good attributes of the media platform want nothing to do with it. Mr. Couros stated that "If you are not on Twitter, you are becoming illiterate." Many of those I follow on twitter are engrossed in the wonderful things that twitter can offer. They have encouraged its use by others to a point that it is starting to have a backlash around the water cooler. I am not being critical as I do use it in edchats, have connected with some great educators, and have gained some followers that are probably reading this right now because of it. I think twitter can be a good thing. It has been a good thing for my professional development.

Twitter doesn't address the real problem though. The problem, as I see it, is that many teachers do not feel a need to better themselves using any method. There are many reasons. Time is the biggest. With grading papers, planning for the next day, calling parents, running a class, meetings, and initiatives it is hard to find time to devote to your learning. Some have done very well in the profession and feel they can ride out the rest of the ride, and some think they knew it all coming out of college.

Many of us do see the need to keep up. Before blogs, twitter, news feeds, and online publications, used to get peer reviewed journals in the snail mail. We know that education changes and that attending a conference once a year is not enough to know your profession. We wrote (and still write) articles to educational journals, do research in our classrooms, and share back to the profession. When I started, I knew very few in my building that did this kind of activity. This kind of intrinsic professional development was the realm of college professors, AEAs, and department of ed committees.

What we need to recognize is that that has changed. Giving back to the profession should be a regular part of the job. I write this blog as a way to do that. I recognize the importance of giving back to the profession and that is how we as a nation will get better. I feel like I am being a teacher in writing this and I make time even though it is precious.

Yes, twitter is an avenue to do this, a good avenue really. I use it regularly and I believe that. But it is not the only avenue. Mr. Couros's quote is not unique. Many more like it sail around the ether of RT-land spreading like the flu. What those kind of quotes do is divide our profession into followers and dissenters.

If we want real change in our teachers I feel we need to encourage them to grow using the exploration of whatever kind of media a person feels comfortable with. Zite, Flipboard, Google Reader, News Sites, the Dept of Ed Website, or online publications can do this in some ways better than twitter. I have been encouraging those around me to read these kind of things, to keep themselves current to what is going on, and to join in on the conversation. I have seen in the last decade, even in the last year, how much more accepting teachers are of new ways of learning for them and their students. I know we have a long way to go, but when I find myself reading blogs on educational policy instead of watching Netflix, it amazes me how far I have come. I look at all of the social media and news sources I read in a day and still realize that most of my opinions are made by talking to real people, face to face. We discuss issues, we probe problems, and refine our thinking in real time.

I worry about relationships in social media. We are not walking through this technological adolescence, we are running blindly. I dig you guys, I really do. I enjoy having followers on twitter and hearing from people who read this blog. I have no problem carrying on a dialog involving education, but I, and you have to know that that is not a conversation. It is not a conversation when you can script what you are going to say, edit and delete before you hit send. It is not a conversation when you are limited to 144 characters. I worry about our kids and how this will effect their relationships. Relationship dynamics are changing and I don't think anyone knows how that will effect us and our students. We can't forget those around us for those a half a continent away.

That being said, I am going to stop there and read a book with my daughter.