In the UK there are two first days to secondary school. The first first day is actually whilst you are still in primary school, and its a visit so you know what secondary school is like before you get there. The second is the actual first day of the new term. I remember two separate incidents on these days. On the first first day, I was playing short tennis (like tennis but with a soft ball and on a badminton court) and I said to someone “ah, pass my ball please mate”, to which they replied, “im not your mate”. I didn’t really care, in fact I think even at that age I recognised that someone who replied “im not your mate” to a simple comment probably wasn’t worth being your mate anyway, but since that day I haven’t finished a sentence with “mate”, “friend”, “buddy” etc.
On my actual first day of school, there was a girl I had noticed on the first first day whom I had a crush on. The first words out of my friend Daniels face was, “HE FANCIES YOU!”.
Trying to create a successful PLN has been like my first days of secondary school. A slow, awkward fight to get just a few people I might like to notice me, with sometimes little help from my friends! In courses 1 to 3 I didn’t make a huge amount of effort with my PLN, and I have always struggled with being outgoing on social media. However, with the final project I was pursuing such a big project I thought it would be good to generate some reactions from other educators to get ideas and help around how it was developing.
I got very little. The best development towards my PLN was whilst presenting at the Vietnam Tech conference I added about 50% to my follower total on Twitter. Engagement continued to be low however. I did get retweeted by phet sims though, which was cool.
My most successful tweet was an update during the running of the unit. Students were pictured doing everything they needed to do, but were doing it in a massive amount of different ways. Two retweets and 12 likes, but more importantly to me there were no comments or questions asked about what was happening. Dialog was the hardest part of the PLN and engaging people enough to do more than just click like was very difficult. In fact during the stages of the project where I was rapidly developing the website I asked for specific feedback on what educators thought would be fun elements to add to a system like this. Whist it was liked by #sardemporium, a gamification twitter user, there were no comments or suggestions made.
The other avenue for peer discussion was my blog, and I wanted to use this to post a mid-project update. Smaller updates along the way I kept to twitter, but I wanted to do a big post in the middle. Hoping I would garner some comments there – which I did:
I got only one reply – which is more understandable than the twitter engagement (its a longer post and few will have my blog on their RSS reader) and the post itself was useful as it forced me to think about my site in a different context – i.e. how it could be used in the elementary school.
I even tried to engage with famous educator Dylan William. In my previous school we transformed the assessment of students following his teachings about formative vs summative, and so I thought I would try to engage him on an article he retweeted which touched on some of the material we learned in Course 1 about what it means for something to have artificial intelligence. The reply appeared to make no sense.
The crux of all of this however is my own engagement with other peoples work. I know I am a leecher and opposed to a seeder. I look at and use content but contribute little towards extending it. Sometimes this is a confidence issue, sometimes it is an issue of not just repeating what others have said, and some of it is just not wanting to only be saying ‘Great, well done!!!!’. Together they make me a user of content and much less a contributor. I contribute my own projects, but contribute less towards other peoples. Moving forward this is really something I want to change, but honestly also don’t. Whilst I do want to take part in these conversations and learn how to improve my practise, I don’t want to have 50+ notifications on twitter, or have lots of unreplied to comments on my blog. This sounds stressful, and looking at Dylan William’ reply to my comment, does having a large twitter following make it difficult to keep up or contribute in a coherent way? Dylan William has 70000+ followers, is it feasible for him to reply to all of his followers? Can this help him extend his learning or thinking on subject matter when there is so much going on? Obviously I am almost as far away from this as I can be, but its a consideration as this develops further.
So I am unresolved. I tried what I felt to be legitimately hard to build my twitter following this course, and I tried to engage with the community when I felt it could be done in an authentic and useful way, however the lack of response was disheartening. I think I will continue to try and grow this, purely for the connections I would still like to make to other physics teachers. My RSS feed for example has been excellent this year, as I followed some fairly prolific physics teachers bloggers which I have learned a lot from. For me this might be the way forward, and I have enjoyed my blog posts over this year. Its been the first time I have blogged, and I have enjoyed actually having something to blog about. So perhaps I just need a new thing to blog about… maybe COETAIL 2?