At this moment in time, there are multiple options for anyone in the learning game. In my case:
I could be writing a blog post (obviously).
I could be tweeting other people's links out to other people.
I could be having a go at being part of a large, loosely connected group in a MOOC.
I could be commenting on other people's writing - either to pat them on the back, to say "hear, hear", to divert their ideas onto a new pathway or to challenge their words with my own.
I could just be doing some good old fashioned web surfing, clicking my way from one interesting node to another. (YouTube is great for this and can soak up hours in an unproductive but highly satisfying way.)
I could be focussing in small, working out what I need to do in my current job at my current school for my current crop of colleagues and students. Or I could be wide open, solving all of the world's learning needs, re-imagining an education system that wipes all of the ills that we currently have.
I have to decide what is actually worth doing. I have to weigh up if anyone even reads what I write and whether it has ever changed anything for anyone else. I have to consider if yet another person tweeting out links, hashtags and retweets adds to learning or merely just adds more digital noise. Do I have time to commit to a MOOC? How can I expect anyone to leave a comment for me if I'm not prepared to put aside to do that for others? And does my online time have to be learning or education focussed all the time? Is it OK to goof off occasionally and watch anime, music videos or laugh at Rebecca Black memes?
At work, at home and in the spaces in between, I want to be doing something worthwhile. Not just follow-the-crowd and be-up-with-the-latest-from-my-PLN type but in a world with seemingly limitless options but seemingly decreasing limited time (I'm resisting like hell to avoid using the buzzphrase "time poor"), I'd like to think that purpose and meaning can be derived from online connections to others. At times to others , this comes across as negativity on my part but being critical of what others write, say, tweet, point to, reference, worship is an integral part of the whole deal.
Sparked by this.
I think there’s a place for both learning/education focussed activities and more leisurely pursuits online, and sometimes it simply depends on the mood you’re in, the events in your life, the commitments you have etc. Personally, I think all of those things you’ve mentioned are worthwhile. If you make a single person think more critically then I think your post or tweet has done some good. However, the bottom line is that you, yourself, have to feel that you’re contributing something worthwhile for you to commit your precious time – a bit like our students really 🙂
Amen. I have felt overwhelmed this summer trying to keep up with technology. I finally decided to let it keep up with me and I went to the beach. When I had a connection I checked Twitter and read a few things, but family fun was at the top of my list. It is very validating for someone else to write that this is ok. I am home now and have decided to focus on just one or two things for school and do them well. Thanks again for helping to make that decision and to slow things down a bit.
I am a graduate student pursuing a Master of Education in Instructional Technology in the United States (Maryland-specifically). As I prepare for a career in secondary education, I can perfectly relate to the need to be productive and doing something worthwhile. Sometimes, in my free time, the need to do something that will enhance my thinking often overcomes me. The beauty is that technology is easily accessible and it is very easy for us to take a moment to explore, converse, and develop connections that will prove enriching. Our students will depend on us to evaluate and re-evaluate our free time so that we can improve their learning communities. I appreciate your blogs.
Hi Graham and all. I’ve been reading Howard Rheingold’s NetSmart lately (http://rheingold.com/netsmart/) It’s useful for guiding what you do online. Basically when you’re online make sure you’re doing something worth doing, and not just be there out of habit. And we all know how easily that can happen.
What an amazing world we live in! Yet, I admit that I am troubled with the amount of time technology has taken from us. For something that is so convenient and so full of information, the world wide web continues to enslave us as a society.
Now that I have everyone wound up, let me explain.
Like any tool, technology should be used to make our lives easier. Tractors make farming, faster, safer and more productive; power tools help the carpenter builder safer houses faster and so on. Yet we have become a society that is so technology addicted that children have forgotten how to make up games or play outside. Go to anyplace with a large group of teens or young adults and all you will see is the top of their heads while they furiously “tap, tap, tap” away on their phones or pads- ignoring their environment as well as those around them. As a tool, the internet is great…no question about it. However, no one has ever asked if it was o.k. to just play with a chainsaw or should it only be used for a productive day of work. I know that this blog is about technology in education but like all things, we should remember to use our availabe technology in small doses. I am afraid that we are becoming a society that is forgetting how to communicate face to face. To the younger readers, I am sure that I sound old-fashioned and out of touch. However, I cannot recall 10-15 years ago of hearning about anyone dying in a car wreck because they were texting their BFF.
Thank you all for your thoughtful comments. I wrote the post because I often find myself caught between the urge to be connected and plugged into what is happening in all the nodes of learning I have selected, and the desire to take it easy and pay more attention to things that are more face to face. Stuff like family and friends, doing stuff around the house or even focussing on the nuts and bolts of my day job.
@Pam, you know me pretty well – and I embraced the whole online connected all-the-time learner for a sizeable length of time – and it is only over the last two years that I have realised that the intensity and regularity of my online participation needed to be scaled back. Basically, I wasn’t getting the same joy out of blogging and interacting with others that I did have and it just didn’t seem to be as important and urgent as my online participation seemed to be 3 to 5 years ago. I see some of the newer high profile online educators who are pumping out the blog posts and tweeting to their multiple followers and I think to myself, “I remember that. That was me a few years back. They’ll slow up eventually.” But part of me misses that intense involvement – but as soon as it feels like hard work, it is time to scale things back.
@adkmiller, I’m glad that you found some form of validation in my post. There is a real danger that social media can become overwhelming if not managed properly. We only have so much time and we do need to be sure that the time we choose to commit to online activities is more worthwhile than the alternatives we are passing on.
@Kai, good luck with your career. Being a connected educator is an advantage that not all teachers carry with them so it is important to hone those skills and build those networks – but always on your own terms.
@Michael. You are a great example of someone who knows how to achieve balance in this area. You have great expertise in online learning but never seem to spread yourself too thin. Hope we catch up some time in the near future – maybe at the next edugeek dinner!
@Mick. You’ve become one of my most regular commenters here now and the points you make are ones that educators need to really think through. Some much of society is blindly using technology (or having technology use them) without any critical analysis about what they are giving up in return for all of this digital connection. Educators have a big responsibility to keep students eyes open to the physical world. A small example today – a student was describing to me a process in Minecraft which went something along the lines of if you poured water onto lava in this game, you created obsidian, which could be altered in another way ….
Anyway, this student was so engaged and so knowledgeable about these aspects of Minecraft which is quite a complex digital environment but it occurred to me that no matter how sophisicated, a virtual environment is still only a simulation, a vastly simplified version of the physical world so the challenge for educators is how do we re-direct that knowledge and need to know how things works to the physical world equivalent so the students can marvel how that works and seek to understand that to the same depth as the Minecraft (digital) environment.
Thanks, you have all really made me think.
Great wrap of the comments Graham. It’s interesting isn’t it that there is a noticeable back-pedalling from many networked educators who are consciously questioning why they are spending so much time on line, and are devoting more time to f2f pursuits. It’s fine for those who are paid to be online gurus (I envy them actually), but it’s like many of us had to explore the other extreme before we reached a point of equilibrium. And these lessons we need to pass on to the students in our care.
Great points Graham. Life is a never ending balancing act. It seems to me that the longer the tightrope becomes, the shorter the stick we are given to help us across. I have thoroughly enjoyed speaking with you and hearing your opinions on topics that are crucial for today’s educators. Good luck in all you do!