There are scouts, those who go ahead and explore the landscape and discover the possibilities. They are followed by early settlers who arrive immediately after and discover uses of the landscape and begin to build a new settlement. Following them are those who’ve heard the tales of a new world and made the decision to join the experiment. Those who remained behind had one of two options; ignore the new world developing out of their immediate sight, or become a facilitator for the development while maintaining the necessities and structures of the old settlements that supported the new.
This post started rattling around my head a couple of weeks ago while I was on the elliptical at the gym. I was reading Linked: How Everything Is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means by Albert-Laszlo Barabasi while I was trying to sweat off the pounds accumulating while I read my RSS feeds. I had begun this book previously, but left it bookmarked on the shelf for quite a awhile, until a tweet by @bokardo (his blog) that eventually led me to his Amazon list of must read books. Linked was listed and I pulled it off the shelf and stared anew. I had begun the book before I was Twitterized, even before I started to seriously blog about EdTech. The book took on a new dimension this time and my brain went into overdrive as I considered it’s message in light of Twitter, Ning‘s such as Classroom 2.0, Slideshare, Diigo, and the list goes on.
The more I read, the more I focused on my experience with my Twitter stream. I find my stream to be the place I discover much insight and wisdom, as well as information and directions to great ideas on the web. There is a large EdTech community within Twitter and the flow of information and exchange of ideas is far beyond anything I experienced as a classroom teacher for 20+ years. Since being Twitterized, I have often thought of a Tom Peters‘ quote I read in Re-imagine!: Business Excellence in a Disruptive Age,
A New Social Contract. Societies that educate their young to break the rules and invent vivid new futures.
This appears to be the attitude of the network of EdTech practitioners and evangelists I follow on Twitter. There is a strong network that has emerged and nurtured itself there, so as I was reading and running in place I grabbed my phone and tweeted the following three tweets:
I was struck by the cocktail party picture that Barabasi was playing with early in the book, using it as a description of the process of network formation. The path that information can travel seems to be something like a drop of water gathering with others to form a trickle, the trickle ending up in a rivulet, the rivulet to a stream, and on to a tributary, to a river, to the sea. There is power in the social joining of similar minds. With the Internet and social networks it happens at a significantly greater pace than that – but the idea works for me.
Barabasi’s “Third Link” brought the idea of “six degrees of separation” to the discussion in my head and this is where the thoughts began to coalesce.
“Six degrees of separation is intriguing because it suggests that, despite our society’s enormous size, it can easily be navigated by following social links from one person to another – a network or six billion nodes in which any pair of nodes are on average six links from each other.”
Now, the idea of six degrees of separation has been made somewhat trite by public media (old media primarily), but it has proven, over time, to be a reliable theory. No, this isn’t a book review, so here is the next connection that surfaced as I was reading.
I regularly pick up new links to Twitter toys via the Twitter Freaks group on Diigo (started by Lucy Gray of Infinite Thinking Machine and High Techpectations). Just prior to my reading I had been playing with TweetWheel a tool developed by Augusto Becciu and plotted my network:
I noticed some interesting things. First, some of the EdTech practitioners I followed also follow tech industry icons such as Leo Laporte, Robert Scoble, and Cali Lewis or information outlets such as Ars Techinca, but not many. Now that isn’t a big deal, just interesting. The second thing I noticed was that none of the above were following any EdTech practitioners, evangelists, or bloggers that I an following, now that I found disconcerting. The final observation was how many of the EdTech’s I was following were following each other – the web was amazing.
Here’s the rub. There is such a wonderful network of EdTech’s thinking, sharing, learning, growing within the Twitter universe (and other places, but Twitter was on my mind) . . . BUT . . . isn’t this just preaching to the choir? I remember how wonderful it was, while I was in the classroom, to run into another educator who had visions for how technology was going to re-invent the learning environment in their classroom. There is an amazing energy that is generated by that interaction. Even more exciting was the rare situation when a teacher sitting nearby would interrupt the discussion, eventually joining in, and getting excited about beginning to bring tech tools and applications into their classrooms for the first time.
It is that last experience that ties this all together. Before Twitter, I didn’t have any contact with @ijohnpederson, @mrplough07, @lsshanks or @markwagner, I didn’t know who they were much less that they were involved in the EdTech arena. Through Twitter I gained access to their current thoughts and ideas, their blogs, and most importantly I reduced the six degrees of separation to ZERO. No this isn’t a pro-Twitter rant, it is a chance to point out that not only did I reduce the distance between the people I follow from six to zero, but I also reduced the distance between the people they work with and want to influence (think the ones following the early settlers) from six to one. This network is the strongest tool possible for making massive change in the way education happens. This network is directly connected to other strong EdTech networks giving it added strength with each connection.
How can I help those in my Twitter stream or my friends at Classroom 2.0 make a difference in their educational venues? How can I allow them to enter my classroom or school and help me make a difference there? There are many options, such as responding when someone I follow is presenting Twitter as part of a Web 2.0 enhanced approach to classroom re-invention, staff development, or professional growth. I can share the links I gather using my Twitter stream + Yahoo Pipes + my RSS Feed aggregater in the most advantageous way in my building. I can print hard copies of their blog posts, as well as send links via email to teachers within my building (or that I have worked with over the years), addressing the things I have heard them talk about in the lounge, the halls, or the parking lot. By doing this, I bring these great voices from six degrees away, to one, and then to zero. I can effectively bring you, the EdTech’s from my social networks, into the classroom of many other teachers that you would not otherwise have any contact with. Hopefully, your insight, wisdom, and vision will inspire and encourage and the movement to re-imagine education will grow exponentially – that would be the true releasing of the power of the EdTech network I have discovered in the Web 2.0 world – which would change the answer to my third tweet from May 5:
We increase our listening audience by reducing the degrees of separation between good teachers and good ideas and by increasing each others sphere of influence. Barabasi said in the introduction to Linked ,
“. . . we live in a small world, where everything is linked to everything else.”
Hope you won’t mind when I link you and your ideas with other great teachers and watch how things can change.
The blogs of Twitter-ers I mentioned above:
Suggested Further Reading: