Thursday, July 2, 2009

NECC, mentors, and the Matrix

I am watching the first Matrix movie and reading my Tweetdeck. I was reading Ben Grey's wrap-up post on NECC and left a comment there. I found others discussing something that has been bothering me for a little while. It starts with a tweet from Steve Dembo (who talked me into starting twitter at MACUL 2009 by the way)

"If I took nothing else away from NECC, it's that we need to spend more time bringing in new choir members, & less surfing the bleeding edge."

I could not agree more. I am a "newbie." I have been a middle school technology teacher for five years, but before December, 2008 I had never heard RSS, Readers, Flickr, Twitter, Digital Storytelling, or anything Web 2.0 or 21st Century. I took a "23 Things" class through my local ISD and have immersed myself ever since. I started as a lurker reading around a hundred blogs. I have recently started blogging more myself, got active on Twitter, and commenting on others' blogs. I have started to get into conversations with some great educators.

Although I am so new to all of this I have already presented a Professional Development session on Google Reader and Delicious for middle school teachers in my district. Compared to almost every teacher in my district I am an expert! They would be lost in even the most basic sessions at NECC.

But as I commented on Ben's blog I feel like the top edubloggers have an "exclusive group" that is easier to "follow" than join into the discussion for the average classroom teacher. While I have written this Morpheus has spent the whole time explaining the "new technology"of the Matrix to Neo. He could never become "the One" without Morpheus as his mentor.

I suggest that each of the edublogger leaders take 10-15 newbies under his/her wing and actively engage with them and guide them in their struggles implementing new teaching strategies and tools. When I tweet a question usually no one answers me. I understand it takes time to build my PLN, but an expert to guide me would be very valuable.

So in answer to Sheryl NussbaumBeach who tweeted

"pondering "agents of change" who are unknown -- can one be an agent of change if those who need changing do not know about them?"

I say yes! Start with those of us who do know about you and we will share with other teachers.

I have the opportunity to be a technology consultant for one hour a day for the second semester of this next year. I hope to engage as many teachers as possible in my building with student-centered teaching using technology. So who wants to help :)


  1. Michael,

    I would say this is exactly the way to become engaged in the conversations. When I first began blogging last August, I felt exactly what you have expressed. It took time, and it took persistence, but I feel thay writing for the sake of personal growth led me to the connections I now so greatly benefit from.

    If you continue to write, and discuss, and contribute, you will find yourself increasingly more connected.

    I still distinctly remember the first time I ever sent out a tweet, and after I hit enter, I thought, "Well, that was entirely pointless. Not a single soul in the world read that."

    These communities take time to build, but the return on your investment will be more than worth it if you stick to it.

    Glad to have you as part of this conversation. Your comment on my blog has sparked an incredible conversation. Thank you for that.


  2. Hey Michael,

    Thanks for the follow! I know what you mean about people not responding - but due to volume, and the way TweetDeck (which many of us use) only downloads 100 tweets at a time, things get missed. I've noticed that many people repost their tweets at least twice, if they want to get a response.

    Keep on keeping on - you are doing absolutely the right thing!


  3. Nice post ... I made the very suggestion you are look for prior to NECC with my post: Do you have a responsibility? Check out my blog post at ... Also ... the fame aspect of the bloggers cafe is completely made up in the newbies minds ... as I had the very same thoughts as I began years before. Strangely... I write this as Neo has begun to believe!

  4. You've brought up some great points here in your post. I am looking forward to continuing to follow you on this journey. I, too, just started my Twitter/blogging journey in October of 2008, but I found that if I jumped in and asked questions, engaged others and was generally persistant, I increased my own personal benefits from these resources.

    Kelly Hines

  5. Excellent comments. And I can't add more but to second what has been posted already. Keep communicating.

  6. Thanks for all of the comments of support. I appreciate each of you for taking the time to respond to my post and tweets.

    I only hope that I do not come across as bitter, whining, or judgmental because I do have a great and growing PLN. I really just am looking for deeper connections. See next post for further explanation.

  7. I feel the same way about Twitter. About a year ago I moved over to Plurk. More conversations and the PLN is more personal.

  8. The first step in this process is to let these well-meaning but professionally-incestuous folks know how their actions appear. The ed-tech 'in crowd' talk pops up after every NECC, but it's growing each year. As a commenter pointed out, one need only follow the ed-tech cult on Twitter to see it in realtime.

    It's important to recognize that almost all in ed-tech, and education as a whole, are well-meaning. Most just don't get the case we've been making.

    We also need to remember that the focus on web 2.0 in education for years now has been "conversations" and "community." If anyone has forgotten, please reference the hackneyed claptrap of Will Richardson, David Warlick, et al. Something built on community and interaction - including an individual's prominence in a professional or social community - is going to carry with it strong personal relationships.

    In short, it necessitates a tight-knit egotism that can take over unless it's addressed directly.

    The best way to combat it? Stop reading the people who agree with you and embrace the 80/20 rule. About 80% of what/who you read should be totally new or in opposition to you, with only 20% sympathetic or familiar to you. Not only does the diversity of thought reap rewards, but it keeps you from getting caught up in the EduWeenie cult.

  9. I'm sorry that you had this type of experience at NECC. There was this kind of talk after last year too. That's why I wore my goofy LED button that said 'Please say hi!' and why I tried as hard as I could to spend some time with anyone who actually did.

    With rare exception, I have found the edublogger crowd - even the 'top names' - to be pretty accessible. If we're lost in our thoughts or talking with others, please feel free to engage us. What I saw at the Blogger's Cafe were a bunch of folks hanging out, trading thoughts, sharing stories, brainstorming ideas, and generally enjoying each other's company. If you're at NECC next year, please be sure to catch my attention!

    Oh, and if you want someone to take you and/or other newbies under his wing, I'd be happy to. Not sure what I have to offer but I'm willing to see!

  10. I understand what you're saying to a small extent, but found most of the "in-crowd" to be overly accommodating outgoing when approached. I'm a technology geek - I knew about Twitter, Plurk, Storytelling, etc... but I really knew nothing about ISTE or the Ed Tech world prior to maybe March or April of this year.

    When I got to NECC, everyone was new... I wasn't sure if they were famous or not. :-) I remember sitting in a EduBloggerCon session and quite a few of the people seemed to know one another - but when I had something to add to the conversation there wasn't any awkwardness. Some of the biggest names in Ed Tech, I later found out, were surrounding me. I went to the Bloggers' Cafe and started random conversations with tons of people who made eye contact... I wasn't going to interrupt someone to introduce myself. I remember asking Sue Waters who she was and why everyone seemed to know her... LOL - I was sitting in the Bloggers' Cafe in an Ed Tech conference and I didn't recognize the infamous Edublogger herself. I felt a little embarrassed, but kept talking and have had some good conversation online since NECC.

    I'm still working on building relationships and working my way into "the group", but I no longer feel like a total outsider. It just takes time, effort, and a few thoughts to add to conversations. Hope to meet you in Denver.

  11. Thanks Ryan
    I have heard many good things. My concern is about the effort it would take a teacher with less motivation to build a PLN as explained here:

    I am excited about this wiki that helps teachers use twitter, but wonder how a newbie teacher will find it???