Sunday, December 7, 2014

Point of Pontification

Has Twitter just become a place for people to pontificate? Do people (myself included) just like to get up on their little 140 character soap box and say stuff without engaging in a dialogue with others? Or is this something I am just noticing because of where I am in my Twitter journey? I am not sure about the answers to any of these questions but they have definitely been on my mind after participating in a couple of Twitter chats over the last few weeks and reflecting on my own use of the medium.

I realize that being a connected educator means that I have access to ideas, perspectives and resources from around the world, which is an amazing thing! I also value the friendships that I have forged with members of my PLN, who I have come to rely on for "conversations" and on going dialogue thanks to Twitter. Whether I am discussing a Lunchroom DJ idea with Brad Gustafson or reflecting on a different way to tell our school story with Joe Sanfelippo, my PLN has become a source of inspiration and motivation.  

With that being said, on the flip side, I have also seen Twitter be used as a space where individuals are just pushing an idea; or going on and on about a topic that is important to them; or simply looking to call someone else out. Whatever the case, I feel like I am noticing more and more people who are not necessarily looking to engage, discuss and deliberate, which I recognize is challenging to accomplish in 140 characters, but instead just looking for a space to sound off. My awareness to this phenomenon (might not be the right word) was heightened during two chats I recently tried to engage in - last week's #ptchat, which focused on the recent events in Ferguson and race, and last week's #NYedchat, which focused on the concept of STEAM. Both topics are ones that I am interested in and was excited to participate in but when I did, I experienced two things... 

The first thing I noticed was that some people were not looking to unpack an idea and better understand it through an exchange; instead, they were looking to react and push back on something they may have misunderstood. Granted, I realize this happens often because with Twitter tone is lost and thus at times the intent and meaning get fuzzy - this has happened to me many times. But, before we push back and react, shouldn't we engage in an exchange to deepen our understanding? Shouldn't we check our own understandings and interpretations before being offended or reacting? Doesn't deliberation help us broaden our point of view and enhance our thinking? Isn't that what we should model for our kids each day? 

The other thing I noticed during these chats was that some people were just sharing what can best be described as cliches (I am guilty of this too) and there was no tweet following the cliche to substantiate the idea. Sure, it's great to sound like the inside of a fortune cookie; sure, it is easy to point out all that is wrong with public education; and sure, it is simple to tell everyone else what they should be doing in their classrooms but what does that really look like? I am not quite sure because I am often left looking for the idea to unpack the cliche. 

In the end, maybe it's just me: My tweets; my perspective; my exchanges; and my understandings. Maybe I am guilty of the above and I am just becoming aware. Not sure what the deal is yet but what I do know is that I am going to try and avoid the point of pontification and instead, focus on exchanges that will help me enhance my craft.    


  1. The best conversations around anything on Twitter happen when we are talking to those who we have ongoing relationships with. There is a level of trust and often playfulness that allows us to explore our own ideas without worrying too much about writing something poorly or it being taken in the wrong way. This, of course, makes it very difficult to find new people that we should be engaging with. At some point we just need to throw stuff out and see who engages and alternately need to try to engage with others who may be pontificating.

    1. I agree with you on both points and the operative word being ENGAGE... be open to engaging in an exchange even with someone who may be pontificating!

  2. Tony, I get where you are coming from. I find that the people I enjoy the most on twitter and feel like I've gotten to know them beyond the 140 character limit are those who have blogs or those with whom I'm in a Voxer group. I think having a focus to use twitter as a way to get better at what we do will keep it a place where action (and not just words) can result from the learning. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Reflecting on the interactions on Twitter is a healthy thing to do, but Twitter is not the sole tool for collaboration. My best relationships with my best collegial sources are relationships with people who I have layered connections with. In addition to twitter contacts, I read their blogs/books, interact on Skype or Google Hangouts, talk on the phone, or converse face to face at any opportunity. I have found that the best people to trust most are those who have a portfolio of education philosophy. Twitter promotes pithy statements that sometimes sound profound, but the real education thought leaders have a history of education philosophy that goes way beyond 140 characters.

  4. I've always tried to keep my Twitter experience a little uncomfortable (at least one side of it) and continually change who I follow and the topics I follow. Twitter is a space where interdisciplinary comes to cross-pollinate, and this takes constant dabbling on the fringes of my interests and my familiarity, and thus constant refinement. PLNs are nice, but there's always the danger of them expanding to dominate the whole network, turning it into a community - which is fine in itself, but not really why I use Twitter, nor is it the best use of the medium as I see it.

  5. I use Twitter to make me think and ask questions. When I am done with a Twitter chat, I hope to have a handful of questions that I want to investigate. I also use the star and retweet to be sure good tweets are easier to find!

  6. Hi Tony! I have noticed the same. It makes me want to engage more. I try to find someone on every chat to talk to or interact with, with varying degrees of success. Let's do it together!