I’ve been doing some informal research of late in my travels, asking some of the principals and administrators that I meet the following question: When you have some applicants lined up for a teaching vacancy, do you “Google” them? Seems a pretty large majority say that yes, they do take some time to see what a standard Google search might pull up about a potential hire. And some even admit to doing a cursory MySpace search to see what comes up. In most cases, they say that the intent is primarily to find out if there is anything negative that surfaces. Almost all of them admit, however, that finding positive things about their applicants, as in portfolios or collaborations or even social sites, does or could make a positive difference in the process.
But then I ask them something along these lines: So if you are Googling people who you might want to teach at your school, what are you doing to insure the kids in your classrooms are “Googled well” when they go for their own interviews? And I don’t just mean telling them NOT to post certain things online. I mean what are you doing to help students shape their online portfolios so that when their future employers or future mates run the search, what they find is not just a lack of negatives but a potential plethora of positives? Not surprisingly, the answer is basically “not much.”
If we know that it’s becoming more and more commonplace to use the Web to assess backgrounds and “social capital,” and we’re doing it in our own hiring processes, when are we going to make that connection in terms of how it relates to our kids’ futures?
Would love to hear what your schools do in terms of doing “background” searches on potential teachers.
Lots of interesting and angst-ridden writing flowing around of late about the “conversations” happening in the edublogosphere, set off in some measure by a recent post by Doug Belshaw.
The edublogosphere has changed from being about â€˜the conversationâ€™ to being part of â€˜the networkâ€™. It all smacks a little too much of â€˜keeping up with the Jonesesâ€™ and, to be honest, viral marketing of Web 2.0 apps.
The comments thread holds flashes of all sorts of emotions: frustration, resolve, anger, intimidation. It’s one of the more compelling “conversations” that I’ve read recently and worth taking the time to sift through. John Larkin captures much of it, but centrally, he says “The conversations are limited to a few but cloned by many.”
Graham Wegner weighs in as well, taking a more expansive tact:
But thereâ€™s a lot of conversation out there – one can choose to connect to the visionaries and push for meaningful change or extend oneâ€™s global staffroom to gain support, inspiration and resources in equal measure. I tend to dabble in all camps on this blog anyway – no issueâ€™s too big for me to have an uninformed go at and I want to improve what I take into the classroom tomorrow as well.
And then there was Doug Noon, compelled in some part by the “conversation” above to dive into Twitter after showing some resolve not to.
The interesting thing, and the thing that moved me to set up the Twitter account, was that with the Diigo stampede, Graham Wegnerâ€™s post about edublogging and the bigger conversation, this post about filtering Twitter so that it works more like Del.icio.us, and Miguelâ€™s expansive vision for using Diigo to build a multipurpose networking application, I began to give some more serious thought to what seems to be a changing blogscape.
And, finally, there was Chris Craft in a short little dig in the comments on my “Tweaking Twitter” post where after reading that I was trying to filter out the links from my Twitter feed he asked simply “So what you’re saying is it’s about the links, not the conversation?”
I’ve always maintained, and still do, that the bulk of my learning these days comes in the conversation, that the publishing piece, the putting myself out there in a blog post (or video, or stream or whatever) is only the first step and, in reality, is not where I learn the most. I learn when my thoughts get pushed, when I read what others have written about other ideas on their own blogs, when I engage in the conversations about those ideas. And these “conversations” are different; they are not synchronous (though they are getting moreso), they are not linear, and as just the short sampling of link above conveys, there is a lot of complexity in the distributed nature of how we “talk” in this realm. In fact I think that might be the biggest frustration that newcomers to these tools experience. It’s random, seemingly aimless, and requires a whole bunch of other skills to navigate effectively.
And now, the conversations are morphing further. There are more voices. While it’s humbling to get 160 comments on a blog post, is it better? Now I have 300 Tweets a day to make sense of, and talk about raising the frustration level. What do you do when a Tweet comes by that say “@whoever45 I am so, so sorry to hear that! What can we do?” Or “@whoever 36 Great link! Thanks!” No context. No thread to speak of. The “conversation” has to be remanufactured, or in many cases, simply let go. And Twitter just feels like the bridge between true asynchronous dialogue and the emerging, constant backchannel that crops up on streams and at Chatzy during presentations, pushing the “conversation” further. To be honest, I think I’m most off put by the backchannel not because it can be a distraction to whatever it is we’re backchannelling about but because it totally strips the reflective, thought mulling-over part from the “conversation” process.
Guess I’m getting a little angsty myself.
Basically, conversation is moving from a very static and slow form of conversation — the comments thread on blog posts — to a more dynamic and fast form of conversation: into the flow in Twitter, Friendfeed, and others. I think this directionality may be like a law of the universe: conversation moves to where is is most social…The way I am getting tugged to blog posts is increasingly as a mention within a conversational bite in Twitter or Friendfeed. I then click out of the flow to see the larger post, and offer my view in the flow — not on the blog — and then I return to the flow, where I will be spending most of my time. This makes sense: I want to talk about the blog post with the person who brought it to my attention, more so that with some group of strangers at the blog, or even the author, who I may not know at all. I also don’t think we can expect the fragmentation of the social experience to slow down: it will get a lot worse before it gets better.
Funny thing is, I like the stranger’s voice. Doesn’t that sound like it just perpetuates the echo chamber we all seem to be trying to get away from?
At the end of the day, I’m just flailing around in here like the next person trying to see how if all makes sense for myself and for my own children. The conversations are shifting, both in form and content. In the process, it gets more challenging to help others make some sense of it for themselves. But I wonder as we continue to spend more of our online conversation time in the moment if we aren’t losing much of the value that the potential of conversation with these tools can bring.
To me, it’s about both the conversation and the network. I depend on the network connections I have to filter and find and share and provoke, but without the deeper conversations among the nodes in that network, it’s feeling like the connections lose value.
Hard to pack more thinkable ideas into that short a time. But the one I love is the idea that we have to start thinking of learning like health; it goes with us throughout our lives. And the idea that schools don’t want to grow up.
It troubles me that my kids are a part of what he calls this “lost generation,” stuck in this “never-never-land” period, but I just can’t get my brain around the idea that it’s only going to take 10 years to play out. (See previous post.) If our students’ frustration really is becoming a policy issue, I wonder how we can work smarter to harness that energy for change.
Finished Clay Shirky’s “Here Comes Everybody” yesterday and it’s now on the top of my list in terms of books that explain the state of the world in a cogent, balanced, even-tempered way. It’s not a book about education, per se, but it’s a book by an educator who brings a teacher stance to the conversation. And it articulates clearly and without hyperbole the shifts and challenges that are presenting themselves right now.
Before getting to some of the more salient quotes, let me just say that I’m feeling a great deal more urgency about this conversation at the moment. Between reading the book and watching some of the videos from the FastForward blog on the future of enterprise, it just feels like the tsunami is bearing down on us and we don’t even know there’s much of a wave out there on the ocean. (Take a few minutes to watch this vid interview with John Hagel, for instance. How are we as schools developing “talent”?)
Early in the book, Shirky makes the point that while traditional institutions are facing competition, they are not going away. But they are going to have to change:
None of the absolute advantages of institutions like businesses or schools or governments have disappeared. Instead, what has happened is that most of the relative advantages of those institutions have disappeared–relative, that is, to the direct effort of the people they represent (23).
The value of the services that institutions provide is changing as individuals become more and more able to undertake “ridiculously easy group forming” and do everything from share music to create the sum of human knowledge online. That ability is what changes the rules, Shirky says, and that can be a good thing (Wikipedia) and a bad thing (terrorists). But it is profound, nonetheless.
We are plainly witnessing the restructuring of the media businesses, but their suffering isn’t unique, it’s prophetic. All businesses are media businesses, because whatever else they do, all businesses rely on the managing of information for two audiences–employees and the world. The increases in the power of both individuals and groups, outside traditional organizational structures, is unprecedented. Many institutions we rely on today will not survive this change without significant alteration, and the more an institution or industry relies on information as its core product, the greater and more complete the change will be (107). [Emphasis mine.]
Which says a couple of things to me. First, we need to move away from this idea (as driven by current assessments) that information is our core product and that second, we need to set information free in our schools. If we don’t, how will we ever be able to teach our kids how to use well the power they can now wield with their networks?
Shirky also points out that this is not going to be fast nor will it be easy.
As with the printing press, the loss of professional control will be bad for many of society’s core institutions, but it’s happening anyway. The comparison with the printing press doesn’t suggest that we are entering a bright new future–for a hundred years after it started, the printing press broke more things than it fixed, plunging Europe into a period of intellectual and political chaos that ended only in the 1600s (73).
I wonder, however, if time runs at the same speed today as it did back then. 100 years feels like an awfully long time for all of this to shake out.
There is much more to think about here, but I’ll end where Shirky ends, with some thoughts on how we first have to change our own frames before any of this will begin to truly make sense. Apologies for the long snip, but I think it’s worth the read:
For us, no matter how deeply we immerse ourselves in new technology, it will always have a certain provisional quality. Those of us with considerable real-world experience are often at an advantage relative to young people, who are comparative novices in the way the world works. The mistakes novices make come from a lack of experience. The overestimate mere fads, seeing revolution everywhere, and they make this kind of mistake a thousand times before they learn better. But in times of revolution, the experienced among us make the opposite mistake. When a real once-in-a-lifetime change comes along, we are at risk of regarding it as a fad.
…young people are taking better advantage of social tools, extending their capabilities in ways that violate old models not because they know more useful things than we do but because they know fewer useless things than we do. I’m old enough to know a lot of things just from life experience. I know that newspapers are where you get your political news and how you look for a job. I know that music comes from stores. I know that if you want to have a conversation with someone, you call them on the phone. I know that complicated things like software and encyclopedias have to be created by professionals. In the last fifteen years I’ve had to unlearn every one of those things and a million others, because they have stopped being true. I’ve become like the grown-ups arguing in my local paper about calculators; just as it took them a long time to realize that calculators were never going away, those of us old enough to remember a time before social tools became widely available are constantly playing catch-up. Meanwhile my students, many of whom are fifteen years younger than I am, don’t have to unlearn those things, because they never had to learn them in the first place.
The advantage of youth, however, is relative, not absolute. Just as everyone eventually came to treat the calculator as a ubiquitous and invisible tool, we are all coming to take our social tools for granted as well. Our social tools are dramatically improving our ability to share, cooperate and act together. As everyone from working biologists to angry air passengers adopts those tools, it is leading to an epochal change.
Read the book.