Sunday, July 14, 2013

Is It All Smoke and Mirrors? #ISTE13

I'm leaving on a jet plane.... Scratch that. I'm flying on a toy plane. Sitting on a two hour flight with about sixty other people for two hours, I figure I have time to play catch up on my blog. 

Of all the things I missed most as a result of not attending ISTE this year, it was the conversations. Oh, how I love the conversations. So very much so that I had planned and scheduled an intimate conversation with a couple of friends that Sunday night. Since that conversation never had a chance to materialize and I'm much too impatient to wait until we are all back together again, I've decided to start that dialogue here. Interesting thing about a dialogue.... It really needs to have more than one voice, so please add yours!

The conversation planned for that Sunday night was the result of hours of conversation with Rafranz Davis and casual chats with Jessica Johnston. Over and over again I found myself visiting this topic always more intrigued and perplexed by it everytime it was brought up. The original conversation centered around this idea of Twitter superstars and Twitter fame. The very concept annoys the fire of of me. By definition, it creates an "us" and "them". You don't have the followers, numbers, etc. that I do so you aren't awesome like me. Hogwash! Educators are doing amazing things in their classroom and they may not even be on Twitter. Maybe they are but it isn't the medium they chose to communicate or they just aren't as good at it. Why further create a divide but separating them into "not a superstar"? *Stepping off soap box.**

Going back and forth with David Jakes trying to get him to join the conversation (basically I was tying to sell its importance), I caught some annoyance with a topic so silly. Well yeah, it was.... Kinda. I really just hadn't done a good enough job of verbalizing the bigger picture. It wasn't this eighth  grade mindset of twitter fame and superstars.... No, it was the fake context and environment in which it operates. These often self-proclaimed superstars are such because of the super amazing things they say are happening in their classrooms..... ALL THE TIME! Ah! That's more about what I wanted to talk about. Success. 

Why do we share successes? Not a rhetorical question. Go ahead and think about it. Why do we share successes specifically within education? Got your reason in your head? Good. Now answer me this. Why don't we also share the struggles, trials, obstacles, and all the crap that goes wrong? Why have we all grown up to be a plastic ? For those that don't click the link or get the reference, a plastic is a perceived queen bee always perceived to be perfect.

For a good amount of time, I really thought about throwing in the towel. Obviously I was doing this whole education thing all wrong. I wasn't getting the amazing results that (fill in twitter superstar) was. My students didn't always turn in the best work known to man like (insert twitter superstar here). Heck I had even tried what (insert twitter superstar here) said they did in their class and it was a miserable failure in mine. What gives? 

I was comparing my dress rehearsals and behind the scenes to their final production. That's all I had. That's all they shared. They never shared THE PROCESS with me. I never saw their mishaps. I was never privy to the flops, oops, and outtake reel. That's the conversation I really wanted to have. Why do we do this? Why do we only share our shining moments and never our own learning? Isn't that what we always ask out students to do? We want to know about the journey that resulted in the finished product. We want to see the process. Are you sharing your processes? 

Dialogue welcome!


  1. I've been thinking a lot about this topic of "twitter stardom" quite a bit lately. It kind of messes with your mind when you start sharing. "Am I not as good as Person X?" And that's not what all this is about. It's about sharing to become a better educator and help others do the same.
    I really want to believe that that's everyone's motive but I'm coming to believe that it's not. Some are trying to 'build a brand' or 'create a platform' so they elevate others to stardom and in turn are told "No, you're more awesome!" It's like a new iteration of brown nosing.
    I recently shared a post about training my Social Studies department. The day did not go as planned. I first thought, I really don't have anything new or interesting to share. But I went ahead with the post for two reason: 1. to highlight resources I had used so others could be helped and 2. to process the day.
    I think that's what we overlook at times...the processing.

    1. Thanks for commenting Aimee and I agree about the processing. So very many behind the scenes messages and DM chats go back and forth proving frustrations, aggraations, etc. but then we only share the great. Why? Why don't we also share the not so great? Thanks for sharing your processing and joining the conversation.

  2. Wow! I never realized the damage I might be doing by giving some pats on the back. I know that I have been trying to be supportive of my PLN and to help grow mine as well. After all the power of my PLN is in the variety of opinions and experiences I glean from it. I have referred to many of the Tweeps I follow as "Rockstars" or "EduHeroes" but that was mostly as a sign of appreciation. Do I use it with all of my tweeps, no, but I don't think I use it as a status symbol. I usually reserve the term for the people that I follow most closely and for those that interact with the most often. I do follow what you share Kristy and I think you share great things. We haven't interacted too often, but we have a couple of times. I assume you don't follow me because you are not that interested in what I share. Its ok, I'm not offended. Our PLNs are there for us to grow with and make connections that can be supportive emotionally and cognitively. I think you share ideas, experiences and opinions that help me grow, so I follow you.

    I really do love this post. It has made me be a little more reflective of the language I use and how our endearing terminology could be sending an unintended message. As far as the not sharing failures or mistakes, well, I think I have, but I also understand why many people will not. This is still a public place. It can be viewed by employers and possibly by future employers. Many education leaders are not in a place to be understanding of educators that have made mistakes. We are in a High Stakes era of education and many employers aren't looking to take many risks. It's sad really, but I am afraid it's true. Yeah, I have made some, and I have tried to share many of them here. If the conversation gets too specific, then I tend to steer the conversation into a Direct Message or even an e-mail. Some people are still guarded about sharing too much dirty laundry over the interwebs. Still, I see your point. If we are to grow from failure, we should be able to share our failures and let others learn from them as well. I hope we get to that place in our society. By the way, when you are Bill Gates or Warren Buffet, it's easy to admit past mistakes. The rest of us still need some income rolling and want future bosses to believe we are infallible.

    1. Thanks for the thoughtful reply.
      I'm still on the fence about the general reaction that is created when one person calls another a superstar. However, when people shamelessly self-promote as such, it seems it pushes people away. Off soapbox again.

      I do understand the many reasons educators have for not sharing more freely. While I don't agree with this oppression of sorts that society has placed on educators, I get it. But it makes me sad. It makes me angry. As a community, educators are being oppressed. We would all learn and grow exponentially if we could have these honest, open conversations. Other fields are heavily depedent on sharing work including successes and those that aren't. Imagine the medical field if doctors weren't given liberty to share their collective knowledge. My goal is to look more deeply at the WHY this has embodied our society. It really needs to change. We shouldn't be forced to operate in fear!

      Thanks again for your thoughts.

  3. I think you touch on a very important fact -- the fact that this is HARD -- super hard -- and our "successes" and "triumphs" do not come easily......but often the blogs we read only talk about the Final HURRAH rather than the steps so necessary to get there.

    I, myself, right now am in a huge place of learning!! Our campus is moving from Windows XP and Office 2003 and a FULL PC environment to Windows 8, Office 365, and purchasing Macs.....and I have 4 weeks to conquer all of this.....and I am overwhelmed. Plus, returning to the classroom -- and feel stretched and paddling like crazy to keep my head afloat.

    Will I share this on my blog -- yeah, probably -- because that is what this is all about -- sharing not only the "YEAHS" but the hard times as well.

    We do a huge disservice to anyone who follows us if we make it look way too easy.
    We do a huge disservice to our students if we make this look way too easy.
    We do a huge disservice to ourselves if we don't admit that OFTEN that this is super hard.

    And for your comments about superstars......some people just don't get it and dismiss it as just junior high mentality. We are not going to convince them that perhaps there is something much more there to explore....So I just smile, and continue on. :)

    They do exist but what makes them different is that the super"stars" enjoy the status -- and the super "people" continue to show us their journey -- no matter how simple or difficult.

    THANK YOU for this post.
    Thank you for letting me share my thoughts.

  4. Thanks for this.

    Having just wrapped up my first year on campus, I have spent a good deal of time analyzing both successes AND failures from the year. Was I just "off my game" for some parts? Was I wholly engaged at some times and just tired/frustrated/distracted/etc. at other times.

    For the things that didn't work, was it as simple as I was asking too much from a group of 1st graders that quite simply did not have enough context or prior knowledge to succeed?

    The answer to the latter, I have decided, is simply "yes". Who knew the concept of email would be above a first grader? Heck - they know enough words to write. BUT - what I failed to take into account was that a large portion of my class gets computer access only when they are with me for 50 minutes a week. There is so much groundwork that needs to be in place that I was simply unrealistic in my goal. Not giving up on 1st graders emailing - just a new plan for next year.

    The flip side to that is handing ANY K-4 an iPad and asking them to get their friend to talk about our school while they recorded it. NOW we are talking. One total sweety ( and usually quiet in class ) suddenly became an investigative reporter that would shame any major media network. From quiet to Barbara Walters +, with just the equipment - and the power - in her hands.

    Kristy - you are SPOT ON! Certainly we should share our successes (and for new folks like me it is just because we are so darn excited that it worked), but more important is WHY we think that it worked, and how it could work even better.

    It is just as important to share the classes/activities that went bust. As humans, our first thought is "What did I do wrong?" - but there are multiple reasons that we may have flopped : the tech did not work like planned, the kids where not engaged because after their time in my class they were leaving for a field trip, or like my 1st graders they lacked context and background that took for granted. Hearing from others in an open discussion about the good and the bad will only make us better educators.

    It's not all bad - as K-4, I know that the kids I see really care. On the "fateful" 1st grade email lesson day, I went out for dinner. Well, actually my spouse was going out for dinner - I just wanted a rita while I tried to re-group for the next day.

    As we were shown to our table, I got a call-out from another table - "Mr. Davis! (aside to family) Dad, that is Mr. Davis. He teaches me computers!."

    I went over to say "hello" and meet his family. Ready to re-group.