One of the great benefits of being an online connected educator is the vast amount of resources available. Like Alice down the rabbit hole, one may follow any of hundreds of potential paths, having no conception of where they might lead. That's a situation I have encountered multiple times this summer. I still have no idea how I found out about the CLMOOC, but boy am I glad I decided to give it a try. Numerous links, chats and posts on Twitter and G+ have led me to learning about topics from the animation of Adventure Time to reconsidering how to arrange the classroom to incite more engagement. After following one of the breadcrumbs that Shawn White left on Twitter, like this one,
I traced a path for nearly two hours learning what IFTTT* is. I read blog posts, watched associated YouTube videos and Ted Talks, and then read more all because I was ignorant in how these automated messages got created in the first place. I thought that users could check a box somewhere on a social media site that measures analytics (such as commun.it), not realizing that the automation might actually be something users were developing on their own to be efficient. How bizarre!
On the one hand, because I am relatively new to Twitter and still have what I would consider a small following, I can understand how a heavy feed would make responding individually nearly impossible. Those users with the largest following in the educational sector can't possibly keep up with their Twitter feed and their day job(s). Thus, the need to find efficiencies wherever possible - but at a cost. Shawn, in his various blog posts, addresses the many idiosyncracies of Twitter and its various off-shoots (chats, EdCamps, Webinars) as they intersect with the bizarre technological search for humanity. Read them. (Then read about Pax to understand the man behind the writing.)
What I sense is a mass of human beings trying to figure out how to navigate the seemingly emotional connections to other human beings they've never met. In Twitter, blog, and G+ posts, the desire to make "real connections" comes across frequently. The ability for a user to say, "I was at (fill in the desired PD institute here) with (fill in name of leader of the field here)" holds the same currency as being in the proverbial in-crowd in middle and high school. I have witnessed on some large chat sessions some users' brilliant tweets going completely ignored while other well-known users get immediate response and feedback. The best moderators work hard to engage as many different users as possible. Exemplary moderators in my book are @JennGRoach, @BethHill2829, @dogtrax, @grammasheri, and @kfasimpaur. Some I've 'met' through subject area chats, others I've 'met' through CLMOOC. I'm certain there are many other engaging folks who, by their very nature are inclusive. Of course, there are also those in the Twittersphere whose sole purpose is self-promotion.
To be fair, long time users seem to be fulfilling a different need than those new to Twitter. I often wonder if they feel that their time on these social media sites has become less worthwhile. For some reason I don't yet grasp, a vast number of Twitter-educators (Twedupeeps?) are looking for someone to validate them, their methodologies, their Tweets. Others use posts and Tweets in a search for information (I'm in that group) and others still are on Twitter only because someone else told them they should be.
As I moved from using Twitter only to share with my classroom parents what was going on in school to developing my PLN, my knowledge of what's available has grown exponentially. With this new technological intelligence comes a sense of having to choose. With the choice comes a concern that I'm possibly missing what might be more beneficial for my specific situation. At some point, I have to trust that what I know is good enough. I am hoping that I can develop a new habit of referring to the curation tools I have so carefully built over the summer because I certainly will never remember all the new tools and tips I have been exposed to in the last several weeks. What I do know is this:
The network of collaborators that I found on the CLMOOC is far more intimately connected than those I have met on Twitter.
Perhaps because of the nature of the CLMOOC - assignments, gently prodding facilitators, a sharing of results, and opportunities to process the process, taking metacognition to a whole new level, and multiple 'touches' within short timeframes, I feel more connected to the PLN from the MOOC than I do the Twitter PLN. The MOOC facilitators have been nurturers, whereas the Twitter participants are sharers. In the MOOC I found the humanity that Shawn laments is lacking in the IFTTTs.
As my chance to learn and play without time constraint comes to a close, I can carry into my classroom a new understanding. I can teach (share) and the information will land on its mark but without the warmth of emotional attachment, or I can facilitate (nurture and engage), where my students will develop that WANT to learn that all true educators are trying so desperately to create. More valuable than all the tools I tried and mastered over these last many days and nights is the critical human component that the students need, whether they realize it or not. So glad I had the opportunity to experience it firsthand, my eyes, and more importantly, my arms - are open.
*(If this, then that - old coding protocol that still applies to nearly all programs, but in this case is a web-based automator that allows the user to create messages between devices and users without human intervention.)