On Curmudgeonliness or Why I’m Not Going to Say “Yeah, Yeah,” But I’m At Least Going to Try To Be More Nice About It

This post has been a long time coming, and is probably going to be painful to write. But I need to try to write my way through it, so here goes.

I’ve been noticing a shift in my tone lately, from my usual kind and questioning self to someone a bit angrier and less willing to inquire. Specifically, twice in the last two weeks, I’ve found myself slinging a bit more dislike than I’m comfortable slinging, as I’ve used Twitter to make remarks that I believe have been misconstrued. ((I’m thinking Twitter isn’t so handy for thoughtful critique sometimes.))

The first case was a series of tweets about a presentation that I was very disappointed in, but that others found “amazing.” ((The amazingness of everything really bugs me. Overusing praise is a problem – both in classrooms and in collegial spaces. Dialogue isn’t terribly useful if it’s not actually a give and take, but actually just a give. More on that in a minute.)) The second was my response to the release of a new publication that doesn’t make much sense to me.

As I’ve named and discussed this issue with Steven before, I’ll tell you that it was his session at the Reform Symposium (Elluminate link) that I found objectionable. I don’t particularly want to rehash that now, except as an example of my behavior. I don’t think it was wrong to challenge the content of his presentation, but it wasn’t right of me to begin that challenge via some ventish tweets, either. ((If you want to read the tweets, they’re available here (as a picture) or here (with links – do a search for @web20classroom to sort).))

I think it’s important to be in conversation with people with whom we disagree. I think there’s much to learn from such interactions. We can be thoughtful and I think people are special, whatever their opinions, and deserve some basic respect. The only problem is, I’m not sure that I’ve been giving that lately.

I think that one is too often seen as confrontational and rude when disagreement or challenge enters a conversation. And I don’t think that’s the way that it should be. But I know that treading lightly leads to opportunities to learn. Loud bellows, while attention getting, don’t seem to lead to change and understanding.

So I’m doing a gut check right now, weighing my words extra carefully, in an attempt to make sure that I’m acting on the issues, and my principles, and not on the personalities. I’m also making sure that I’m being kind and thoughtful with my words. That’s important.

But being kind doesn’t mean agreeing with bad practice, or with poor thinking, or going along with whatever the other person is saying. Doing right by each other means holding each other accountable for what we say and what we do. If I’m not making sense, I sure hope there somebody listening who’s going to tell me, in a kind and compassionate way, that I’m mistaken. ((And I sure hope that you’ll understand if I ask you for clarification, or tell you that I just don’t understand you or your point. It’s not rude. Honest.))

And I’m going to try to do that as I keep moving forward. It’s the right thing to do.

Some of my actions lately weren’t, perhaps. And I apologize for those.

What’s vital is that you have people in your professional and personal circles who can help you to think through these things, or to help you remember to think through them when you need to. Michelle has been kindly reminding me of my responsibilities with language and tone and kindness this week, and I’m appreciative. She and I both believe that good questions are always better than sharp barbs. ((I forgot for a bit, though, maybe.))

How do you work to make sure that you stay kind, but avoid a case of the “yeah, yeahs” whenever disagreement arises? Who’s helping you to be thoughtful in word and deed while keeping you kind?

It’s tricky business, but it’s worth walking in the space between the curmudgeons and the yeah, yeahs.

45 thoughts on “On Curmudgeonliness or Why I’m Not Going to Say “Yeah, Yeah,” But I’m At Least Going to Try To Be More Nice About It

  1. Interesting post, Bud….you’re wrestling with the same kinds of issues that I wrestle with all the time.

    I suspect I’m a lot like you in the sense that I like to see myself as a critical friend—-someone willing to challenge ideas that I see gaps in—but I sometimes slip into the role of critic far too easily.

    That’s an especially difficult dance in education, where even critical friends can be seen as curmudgeons, but there’s no doubt that people willing to question are the most important people in any organization or network.

    I wonder if the nature of digital attention plays a role here. The “yeah-yeah-ing” you talk about is a way to get on the radar of “important” people, which can be seen by some as a way of just getting on the radar—something that’s always been hard for teachers.

    For me, this actually played out several years ago—and you were involved. In the course of just a few weeks, you followed and @ replied me on Twitter, Will Richardson bookmarked work that my students had done on our classroom blog, and David Warlick quoted something I wrote in a blog post.

    That left me jacked—and I started consciously working to get on the radars of other heavy hitters in the digital circle. Instead of writing and participating to develop my own thinking, I was writing and participating to get noticed.

    Isn’t that crazy?

    That’s the real fail here: We’ve created a system where there are so few opportunities for educators to be celebrated and seen as experts that people change their behaviors in order to get their hands on the few chances that exist.

    Any of this make sense?
    Bill

    1. It makes sense, Bill. I think the critical friend terminology is useful to talk about the kind of dialogue I’d like to see more of in educational circles, online or off.

      As to attention – I understand the feeling and think that’s another balancing act. Lots of smarter folks than I have written about the need to get one’s good ideas in front of an audience.

      But I guess I’d hope that folks are walking in the space between “look at me” and “I’m up to good things.”. And leaning towered the great things side.

      Does “yeah yeah” happen because of attention seeking, hmm. I don’t know.

  2. Courageous post. Thank you for sharing it. You remind me of an experience I had this week in a presentation I didn’t feel was up to snuff. As I participated in the workshop, I journaled my feedback for the facilitator and my own thinking , but realized at the end of the day that sharing that feedback, the good and the bad, at that moment would have been counter productive and unkind. Criticizing, even constructively criticizing, a person with whom I have no real relationship is not helpful, it’s likely hurtful.
    Instead I hashed it out with one of my teaching partners who’d also participated–we rely on each other to process, pick apart and connect ourselves and what we do for teachers back to the real world and what’s best for kids. I do that sort of gut-check face to face more so than online.

    1. Thanks Lee Ann. You say that constructive criticism without relationship isn’t helpful. And I guess I’d say that it could be. But I hope that it can be helpful and useful. If it can’t, there’s lots of unnecessary conversation out there.

      Thank goodness for our teaching partners who keep us sane and thoughtful.

  3. I am guilty of this on many levels but remind others that survival on a 2 way rifle range does not allow the option for nice. Tact is something I work on daily.

    How do you work to make sure that you stay kind, but avoid a case of the “yeah, yeahs” whenever disagreement arises? Who’s helping you to be thoughtful in word and deed while keeping you kind?

    I try to remember that old adage about your mom hearing what you said, but that kind of went out the window after being a war vet. Subbing and volunteering at local high schools shows me that I must strive to be better because many of our replacements (today’s learners) use language that shock those w/virgin ears.

    My draw the line in the sand point, usually comes after the 3rd time we have worked together…because I am all about empowering individuals to resolve their issues, using the insist and assist participative option.

    So #4 is something I open with because I ask the questions that others are afraid to ask or for others who text or slide me the note. As you state, “It is tricky walking between the curmudgeons and the yeah, yeahs” and the yeah buts, sometimes we have to agree to disagree and move on.

    Don’t be so hard on yourself, sometimes we have to disconnect and go do something else to reclaim our balance.

  4. Dear Bud,

    I’ve been a bit offline lately and had missed the tweets you quote here. First, let me tell you those tweets sound kind enough in Argentina. I belong to a culture where an excess of kindness is taken as irony, so most people tend to fall off the cliff of rudeness. This takes long hours to explain to my students. I never get tired of insisting that even if they use correct structures and vocabulary, cultural codes need to be mastered at the same pace. However, I read you and I still believe you *are* kind enough. Maybe because I live in another culture and I cannot escape fully; not even with a lifetime of foreign language learning, or 4 years of blogging to ‘travel’ -as one of my close friends has described the purpose of my writings.

    I’ve been reading your tweets in the last few months and I do notice a change in you. What I see is your learning is making you spot small differences. You seem to treat sentences or tweets as a detective. I say this in a positive sense. I feel like-minded and learn from your different style. After so much edu-talking, we all see people remaining in the high-sounding words and not posting about what actually happens in their classrooms or how they get from A to Z without a mention of a B. You are going deeper into meaning and that is part of your research spirit (I’m biased because I follow your writings, I know, but this is how I see you).

    Now you obviously love a search for truth. There’s no such thing as ‘one’ truth, but authenticity to what you believe to be true in the light of your learning so far is important. You also care and respect. I understand you want to show consistent actions with these ideas. I think that the difference will be in what you decide will be proof of your succeeding in all this.

    To me, truth is not always nice to hear, yet I prefer it. With family and close friends I value more being patient than disagreeing immediately. I simply will not risk hurting, let alone lose those people. At work, I want to innovate and to make things better in the ways I can. Resistance to the new is part of my reality and I accept it. I pull away when it stresses me too much and devise a strategie to come back to the healthy discussion. Sadly, I know I will lose some people on the way. Some temporarily, some for good. But when being authentic and consistent can suddenly go to second place on the value scale, I feel the earth trembling around me with mistrust.

    I know I can try to be kinder. Outcomes and other people’s feelings are beyond my control.

    Apologies for the length of this comment. Thank you for opening your mind and letting us in.

    All very best,

    Claudia

    1. Claudia said, “You seem to treat sentences or tweets as a detective. I say this in a positive sense.”

      I agree with the first sentence, but I’m not so sure I agree with the second. I’ve poked back at you several times over issues that might be semantics, might not be, and encouraged you to take into account your own exceptionalism. Not everyone is the student of language, of words, that you are, and I think some of your “curmudgeonliness” may stem from that. (And, yes, I fully realize that I exhibit the same traits in my own writing/tweeting/conversation, although not to the same level because, well, I’m not as exceptional as you in my understanding of language.)

      One of the things I’ve seen you tweet several times is frustration with the use of “our PLN.” I agree, “our PLN” doesn’t make much sense if the ‘P’ stands for Personal. But the flip side to that is that if you truly believe the ‘P’ is personal, then you have to be willing to allow people to use their PLN in the way they want to. Which means they can tweet that they find things “amazing,” or they can use words that you might take exception to.

      People use Twitter differently. People use blogs differently. People view teaching and learning differently (see Alec/Will/Lee/Gary’s posts). While I agree that we should advocate for what we believe is best for kids, and that we should try to convince others of why we think it’s best for kids, I think there is a tendency to distill things down into a black and white, right and wrong, binary-option-only solutions. When we do that, we not only appear curmudgeonly, but we may actually do harm to the very causes we are promoting (again, I’m fully aware I do the same thing).

      So, I appreciate the post, and I see you trying to find the appropriate positioning of being a “critical friend” (although I have to say I intensely dislike that term, although I can’t tell you why), but if only your (our) public manifestations (tweets, blog posts, whatever) change, and not our mindsets/approaches, then I’m not sure if we’ve progressed very much.

      1. Karl,

        As you’re one of my best critical friends, I hope you’ll get more comfortable with the term.

        I’m fine with the personal being personal – but there are still language elements that are common across personal networks. Claudia mentioned another element – different cultures have different norms for language – but I think there is enough shared culture in education that we should be able to use words together. The “amazing” example is especially interesting to me as educators are constantly in evaluative modes – we grade and assess student work, we offer feedback and suggestions for improvement to students all the time.

        But not to each other. Not so thoughtfully. Or, at least, not enough.

        1. But what if they truly thought it was “amazing?” Just because you don’t doesn’t mean they don’t. Or just because your definition of amazing is different than theirs, how can you assume your definition is correct?

          And, yes, sometimes the “amazings” get to me as well. But a lot of folks lately have moved from critically supportive to just critical – I don’t think that’s a move in the right direction.

          1. I think folks get to use words like “amazing” like they get to use other strong language. It’s not the individual use. It’s the collective use. And, yeah. I want to, ahem, support critically supportive uses of language.

        2. Back to “critical friends” for just a minute. Not sure I can lay out exactly why it bugs me, but this is probably part of it.

          Critical friends, by definition, presupposes critical enemies (or at least critical I-have-no-relationship-with-you’s). As such, I find it has no meaning. I can offer constructive criticism whether you’re a friend, or not. Too often people like to use “critical friends” as a way to just be critical, but it’s okay because we’re “friends.” It’s another example of edujargon, where having a protocol we can name is sometimes more important than actually accomplishing something.

          I wish everyone who has been “interrogating” the use of PLN would perhaps turn that lens onto their own overly academic focus on language.

      2. And, as you know, Karl, I believe very strongly that most of what we think of as binaries are actually continuums – and we need to treat them as such. Which is harder. And worth doing.

  5. A thoughtful post, Bud. I simply don’t find Twitter the place to engage in discussion. For me, it’s a place to find good reads and links (or to send me to a place where conversation is happening.) That said, I agree with “amazing” comments. I tweeted recently that I had used the word “great” on nearly every tweet that day. I am now trying temper my enthusiasm a little, too. I do appreciate your comments about tone. So often we forget to think and pause before we hit send.

  6. I admire your ability to point the critical lens at yourself, Bud. I note that you were more able do that on your blog than on Twitter. Don’t the rhetorical conventions of Twitter promote provocative prose? Don’t we celebrate those posts through our retweets and responses?

    The expectations that readers bring to Twitter posts won’t be similar to those that readers bring to Atlantic Monthly articles, even though I imagine the pool of readers is similar.

    1. Thanks. Yes, the rhetorical aspects of Twitter can be useful. And provocative isn’t always bad. But as I’m writing this, I’m wondering if the real value in short Twitter posts is increased when its nested within a larger context or text so that the short bits are less misunderstood. Maybe.

    2. The conception of “debate” has been debased by years of scorched earth rhetorical ploys wielded by the usual suspects on FOX and MSNBC, where each “combatant” attempts to upend the other by using nuance in their arguments.

      My favorite TV moment of the last decade was John Stewart using rhetorical jujitsu to bring Crossfire “debate theater” down (CNN took Crossfire off the air soon after the confrontation): http://bit.ly/dch687.

      Stewart’s points about debate and media’s responsibility, wrapped in an ugly give and take, are useful.

      Years and years ago, after a shame-soaked tournament, I was encouraged to leave my college debate squad by my teammate. She yelled at me between damp and terrible drummings to stop trying to understand the machine-gun style points the other teams were making, and the next point, and the next point. I had nothing to say, nothing to offer, not even an articulation of my confusion.

      Stewart does not have that issue. Neither do the debaters on the NPR podcast, Intelligence Squared. They are fast on their feet and capable of helping the listener through the complexity of an issue.

      TV might not be the medium for debate, as viewers expect shows to contain domination and tension. Those expectations may eventually overtake Twitter, if they haven’t already.

      One of the most gifted speakers I ever met, now a priest, refused to squander his gift on collegiate battles. He refused scholarship money and all other attempts to recruit him to the debate team. At the time, I could not understand that he wanted to use his voice to tell the truth as he perceived it, instead of crushing other gifted speakers in verbal smackdowns. I didn’t understand a lot of things back then. There is a place for these verbal jousts, I suppose. But maybe we can evolve more tech spaces that will engage the participant-listener as much as Dan Roam http://slidesha.re/b84fon and Commoncraft http://www.commoncraft.com/

      All hail the age of understanding! All hail the comment spaces on BudtheTeacher’s blog!

  7. I often wonder if this highly polarized, he-said, she-said, black and white society in which we live is driving any sense of legitimate, respectful debate right out of our grasp, especially for my kids. I mean I remember when debate was a good thing, a respected thing, when constructive criticism or a different point of view could be given without taking it personally. Nowadays, it’s just one big screaming match. So when we do push and differ and engage in a difficult exchange, we seem to give and take it more on the personal level, not the idea level. Chris just recently turned me on to illdoc, and this video has some relevance. To some extent, I think we’ve lost the ability to have the conversation on its merits and not feel bad about it. And that is worth feeling bad about.

    Which doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be checking in from time to time, Bud. I admire your getting all meta on us; it’s healthy, and I respect you for it. But if you’re asking me if you’ve been rude or out of line…say what?

    1. Thanks, Will. No, not asking. I’m stating that I’m outside lately of how I’d like to be modeling dialogue and discourse and debate. And I want to do those things, but not if I can’t engage in ways that I think are productive and constructive. Because we do need debate and discourse and debate. Lots of it. Thoughtful. Just not destructive or overly polar.
      (I’d encourage all of y’all to watch the video Will references above. It’s good stuff.)

  8. Bud,

    I am glad you blogged about this because I think the topic, and the tweets in question, deserved a longer conversation.

    I happened to be online as the original tweets on that “amazing” presentation, and at first you were quite coy about who you were critiquing. Later, I was also watching the conversation unfold between you and the presenter.

    As I read those tweets, I had an honest feeling of dread. I did not want you to say who you were discussing in particular, and it was even harder to watch the conversation unfold further (I follow both of you, so it was hard to overlook). It was hard for me because I would have not wanted it to be me at the end of that criticism. I am in favor of critical feedback, and welcome it for my own growth. I think it is important to critically challenge what we see. That being said, the tweets came off as slightly personal, rather than a gentle interrogation. For my own guide, I take a page from studies of psychology to note that, on an individual level, change is more likely to happen from an outsider listening and constructively questioning rather from direct confrontation. I personally find that the world is sometimes harsh and uncaring, and online interactions, devoid of cues such as body language and facial expressions, carry the risk of coming across harshly. To me, this means that it is even more important to tread lightly.

    I think about the students I have taught, both adults and teenagers, and I think about how I, like or not, am a model for how to interact online. There are places and times for private kvetching and places and times to question and critically evaluate. I think that each of us develop our own philosophies on how we behave in the world, and we also develop philosophies on how we engage in conversation online. I admire the critical tweets sent out by others, but sometimes I think they go too far. I love the big conversation and the many different ways people engage in it. No one is perfect, and we all fail to meet our ideals some of the time. On a personal level, your willingness to question that is more important to me than what you did or not tweet. On a professional level, there are lots of folks looking to leaders like you to determine the ways in which they might engage, and recognizing the responsibility of that I think is at the heart of the tension here. How do we critically engage without causing harm? How do we put forth the good ideas without over-simplifying them? I’m not sure there are easy answers, but these are the questions that come to mind after reading the post and the other comments. Thanks again for your honest conversation.

  9. I applaud you for the courage to write this post. Often, we realize something we did or said was wrong, but rarely do we disclose that publicly. Everyone benefits from honest self-evaluation and your post shows a lot of character. It certainly made me feel better toward you.

    To be honest, I almost “unfollowed” you during the course of the tweets you mentioned in this post. I was uncomfortable with what seemed to be an attack. I did not have an opinion on the merit of your criticism, as I did not hear the presentation in question. It just felt like I was eavesdropping on a conversation that should not have been public. While you are certainly entitled to use Twitter any way you choose, that was the first time I had encountered such criticism directed toward an individual. I follow both of you and at some point that evening, I just stopped reading.

    Then when you tweeted a plea for people to stop using the term “our PLN”, I once again considered your statement very critical. You seem to want to use Twitter to point out what others do wrong, by criticizing how THEY use Twitter. If that term has meaning to those who use it and their followers, then why should you try to dictate the terminology. I’m not certain I even understand why it is not an “accurate or logical use of words”. My guess is that if the P is for personal, then the plural term “our” doesn’t work so well. To that, I would say “so what?”. There are things that matter, but that is not one of them. In 240 characters, a lot of shortcuts and liberties are taken. Why get picky?

    I follow you and others I have chosen on Twitter and I do so because you share content that is valuable to me professionally. I appreciate the ideas and links shared by educators and educational leaders. I do not always agree with their thoughts, but that is part of how I grow. A few people I follow cause me to rethink my own views and ideas. That is part of the value in following them. I have learned and grown over the past months as a result of those sometimes random thoughts shared by my PLN. Yes, that is what I call them. I think that’s an acceptable term, although I know some would like to see its use change.

    I look forward to your focus on a less critical tone. However, your tweets are not often negative, the major exceptions being those mentioned here. I find your contributions on Twitter to be helpful and thought-provoking, not amazing. I’m not amazed by many things or people, but it doesn’t bother me that the word is used very casually.

    Again, I appreciate the honesty and courage of this post. I’m certain it will cause many of us to consider how we challenge the ideas expressed by others.

    1. Thanks, Jo. I appreciate your kind words. I wanted to respond to a couple of your points, as they get to the heart of some of my frustrations.

      1. Yeah – the exchange was personal. But not privately so. My beef with myself was how the conversation started – not how it ended. I think folks, in general, lean to to “too nice” side of conversation in many of our professional conversations online. When the work we do is public – and I’m a public educator working in a public school district – then the criticism should be, too. Shying away from difficult conversations does no one any service.

      2. My objection to the phrase “our PLN” isn’t the second word. It’s the first. I’ve written and spoken about the power of professional or personal learning networks before – and I think they’re a useful construct – although the network and personal elements are different – and we too quickly try to show horn them into other modes or structures with which we are more familiar. But how can we, you and I, share the same, “personal” learning network? Since I make my network and you make yours (and “make” is even in question here – do we “make” these spaces or networks, or do they “make” us? Or, probably, neither.), the term “our PLN” is wicked problematic. I believe Jon Becker has written and spoken far more eloquently than I on the subject, as has Stephen Downes. As have many others.

      I think we think that everybody’s having the same experience online – and that’s not true.

      Again, I appreciate your comments. I hope I’ve been able to shed further light on my perspective here. Would look forward to a continued conversation.

  10. As I look back through your tweets for the week you’re mentioning, it seems you’ve been struggling for a while with how to draw the line between critique and curmudgeonliness. It’s a worthy thing to struggle with. I tend to struggle on the opposite side of the spectrum in walking the line between promoting complacency and providing critique. The problem’s the same, though. Without the brave souls who push us to become better, we never realize what heights we can reach.

    One of my biggest pet peeves when I ask folks for feedback is the “good job” syndrome. You know the symptoms – general positive comments given without any depth or analysis. It’s hard and scary to put your work out there for others to see. But it’s frustrating when you get nothing of value back in return. And in my mind, empty praise is as bad as biting comments if they don’t give an opening for conversation and improvement.

    I value working with you because I know that whatever we hash out together will be better because of the give and take of solid constructive critique.

    I thank you for that. And I thank you for this post.

  11. Great post..thanks for being so honest.

    I just want to say if a person wants to disagree then they should do so and be prepared to back up their points with evidence.

    If they wish to agree, then they should do so and be prepared to back up their points with evidence.

    It is that back and forth that is the very definition of finding the “truth”/ true north/ or whatever you want to call it. Rarely do I read a blog post or tweet and think “eureka” (and I worry about people who do). Rather it’s the connection between the ideas that are discussed by a variety of people which results in me thinking; “now that makes sense”.

    While you have to be careful for that back and forth to not become a game or get personal, you have to be equally careful that you don’t discourage those that disagree with you because everyone else is lavishing praise on you.

    Also, I think it is important to remember that social media is what you make it and that what it is for one person isn’t anymore right or wrong than what it is for another person. Telling people they blog wrong, they comment wrong, they tweet wrong, is just pointless…it is what the person makes of it, there is no right or wrong way.

    Be polite and appropriate always, but whether an idea creator, critic, or Curmudgeon have the courage to walk the line.

    1. Thanks, Joe. I’d agree with much of what you said – except the “pointless”-ness of talking right and wrong in terms of social media. While I’d agree that folks can use toolsets as they see fit, one of the examples I mentioned in the post originated because I saw what I believed to be a lack of attention to citation. That was far from right, if it wasn’t outright wrong. I think the notion of “anything goes” is just as troublesome as the notion of “one right way.”

      There’s lots of middle ground.

    2. In fact, Joe, I believe we’ve argued a similar issue before, via Twitter – Jeff Piontek’s failure to attribute his sources in his ISTE keynote. I think you said, at the time, something like “what does it matter where one gets their material from,” and I believe we left it there.

      It matters very much. Not referencing one’s sources is the right thing to do. Not doing so?

      Wrong.

  12. Critical thinking and and challenging ideas is important. You shouldn’t let go of that. But the tone is also important. With a harsh tone you don’t come across as someone who is willing to dialogue and hear another perspective. A harsh, condescending tone presents itself as someone who has made up their mind and isn’t interested in continuing the conversation.
    Another important thing to note: Not everyone on Twitter/blogs/facebook/etc/etc is in the same place as you are. You have been having these conversations for many years, you have made connections, had numerous dialogues about pedagogy and philosophy, etc. For many these tools that you don’t find particularly useful are very useful. They are just finding an entry point into the conversation and are working to get caught up. There is no shame in that. If you don’t find it particularly useful, it probably wasn’t created with you in mind (I apologize if that comes off as harsh). I’ll speak on behalf of the PLN magazine, it was created for those who don’t know who to follow in education, it is created for those who are just building or still building their networks. It is for those looking for a place to enter the conversation. It is for those who are testing out their voice but need a larger platform than their brand new blog affords them.
    Don’t stop the conversation, keep disagreeing where it is needed, keep challenging ideas, in the dialogue we will make discoveries that are transformational for education.

    1. “Not everyone on x is in the same place you are.”

      True. And I’m not expecting them to be. But I don’t think that we should be in the place of constantly looking backwards. There’s a time for support and there’s a time for moving forward. The same waymarkers that helped you and I navigate these spaces are present. The Internet still does the things that it does. I wonder sometimes, if in making it “easier,” we’re doing folks a disservice. Are we underestimating the intelligence and abilities of those teachers we make things easier for?
      There’s value and power in the struggle – not that all struggles are good for struggle’s sake – but owning a literacy is different than being handed one.
      And I know that sounds problematic, and it bugs me to say and hear.
      What are we doing when we use an old structure to represent new media? (Magazine as Internet surrogate? How is a static PDF like the rich vibrancy of the online space that PDF attempts to describe?)

      There’s certainly no shame in learning, or being in conversation with folks who know more (or less) than one does. Not one bit. But why, does it seem, that there is “shame” in asking folks to aim high and move forward, to reconsider the way that we/they think about their “communities” and “networks?”

  13. Kelly you hit the nail on the head; “Not everyone on Twitter/blogs… is in the same place as you are”, in fact no one is, we are all on this amazing journey on this open, free road called the Internet together and none of us are in the same place because like any journey, not every step is a step forward (nor should it be). The most important understanding is that you don’t understand, no one does. We have to be critical, but supportive friends on this journey.

  14. I can only say that the quote; ““Not everyone on Twitter/blogs… is in the same place as you are”, just resonates with me. I’m not sure that “place” is the right word (too physical and implies hierarchy), perhaps “state” is a better word to use (more mental/emotional). I just think it is important to remember that notion as we interact with people and their positions/ideas/reactions.

  15. It is about communicating more thoughtfully and offering grace to those who haven’t come to the same conclusions or assumptions. We don’t have to stop the conversation, we just need to purposefully and intentionally invite them into the conversation. We have to explain our ideas more thoroughly when questioned for those who haven’t been along for the journey as our pedagogy and philosophy has evolved.

    1. Kelly,

      My worry is that we sometimes allow that period of grace to become a crutch for folks who weren’t quite ready to join in. I’m all for helping people build their own learning spaces, but I don’t want to build it for them or make them believe that by reading an article/blog post/magazine or following me on twitter that their PLN will magically materialize.

      The reason we (and by “we” I mean any of us who’ve gotten to a semi-comfortable space with our online selves) are where we are is because we put time, energy, and effort into creating our own personal community and exploring what it means to be a connected learner. I don’t think there’s any way to jump start that for anyone in an authentic way. If others want to be a part of a community,they need to join in. They need to expect it to take time building their voice and having that voice heard by a larger audience.

      But, in a bigger sense, they have to already be ready to ask the questions that lead to greater understanding. The pedagogy behind those questions isn’t started through online spaces. It’s something I think already exists within a teacher’s own philosophy and can grow and evolve within a larger community of learners such as those we find online.

      In trainings, I used to do the “Say hi to my twitter class” kind of show and tell. I’ve stopped that recently because I find it perpetuates the magical myth that getting to the point where you have a dozen replies to a post or a tweet is easy. It’s not. To be recognized by a community you first have to recognize where that community exists for you and then engage in that community regularly and thoughtfully.

      Here in our district, we’ve built a series of “101” style course to introduce tools, resources and ideas to people in our district and beyond, but we try not to use the “get on the bandwagon” approach of training. I want people to be purposeful about what they choose to explore. And if I lead them down my learning path, I want them to spend more time questioning my assumptions about their learning than they do jumping on my bandwagon.

      I’m suspecting that’s the same thing you’re looking to do. How can we build that into our invitations?

  16. I read your blog regularly but not frequently (only so many hours in the day and we spend a lot of them at the softball field…) so I have no insight into the history of Twitter exchanges…or the presences or absence of curmudgeonly writing. My reason for taking time to leave a comment is to make a connection to the comments I see adolescents and teenagers leave in public forums. The ability to express thoughts and opinions coherently (whether verbally or in writing) is diminishing, I think, in our culture.

    I’m thrilled when I see (for example) a high school student express her opinion on the high school Facebook page about first-day debacles at school, then read the school’s reply…and watch the magic that happens when a student is heard and respected. In this particular case, the magic was that the student saw appropriate dialog modeled and matched her own to it, with a follow-up response. It’s an amazing teaching tool.

    Far too many adults are modeling exactly the behavior we decry in our students. We need to model intelligent, articulate discourse about our differences, while remembering the respect of which you wrote. We’ve been thrown into the caldron of public writing with little preparation and (on many occasions) too much exposure. When you write what you wrote here, it helps create the body of knowledge about how, why, when, and where to use the forum better.

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