Tuesday, November 6, 2007

the most expensive round of drinks

Do you remember when you would send out emails to ‘select faculty’, inviting them to meet up after school at a local lemonade stand? The people you invited were the ones you wanted to be around. The group was a hand-selected lot and the selection process screamed ‘elitist’.

Do you remember going to said lemonade stand and having a really good time? You would tell your spouse that you would only be out for an hour or two and four hours later, you were well into your Friday night with a new group of friends. Good times.

Do you remember returning to school two days later and hearing the mumbles and grumbles of coworkers excluded from the invite list? They wanted to be invited. They wondered if you would send out a whole faculty email next time around.

And you did.

And come Friday, they were nowhere to found. A lemonade-less lot.

And you vowed never to send out a faculty wide invite because it was a wasted endeavor, meaningless altruism.

It’s not that I disliked the idea of a whole-faculty outing, but I knew that any real or tangible social value resided in the consistency and tightness of the group.

A greater level of selectivity is integral in fostering and maintaining meaningful relationships. Behold:

I follow 18 people on Twitter.
I read 14 blogs.
I float around in one ning.

Edtech circles should strive to remain relatively small because too many connections creates too much verbal static.

Here’s a handful of fun thoughts about these online communities:

Involvement in a ning is professional development; the place where you can sit next to select people, doodle and pass notes back and forth, and when the whim strikes you, contribute to the purpose of the gathering.

Blogging is a department meeting; a room full of people whose sole purpose is the advancement of a unified goal. Keeping a small blog circle is crucial. Remember the one about too many cooks?

Twitter is happy hour. Keep it short and sappy. Great for the social scene. Go with a select group. Have a good time. Talk shop. Vent. Keep going and next thing you know, everyone thinks you need to surrender your keys.

No one invites 300 people to happy hour. It violates maximum occupancy laws.


Farfisa said...

This personage respectfully disagrees... I like to collect ideas, many many (too many) ideas. And then I make connections. It's how I learn. I think it's also how I create and share.

Maybe it's because I deal with such a small group of people every day, and that I grew up in that environment, but I love "big parties" while appreciating how much easier my work is at our own "happy hour."

Kristin Hokanson said...

Has been a long week and I am quite grumpy and behind so allow me to be controversial and point out your hypocrisy....If you believe the circles should be small...why mock this?

kenrodoff said...

@ farfisa: Collecting ideas is great, and in truth, the same tools I reference in this post have provided me with many ideas. This blog probably would not survive if I was left to my own devices. Maybe I'm just naturally introverted and big crowds 'clam me up'. Or maybe I'm thinking about how my students have so much difficulty analyzing the information in front of them. Our job seems to be one of helping them learn how to get through the muck and select the good stuff. Better yet, to empower them with the skill set to find the good stuff. We teach our students to create small, meaningful, rich, and valuable circles of knowledge. I just think seeing so many 'followers' and 'follow-ees' on Twitter can turn into a diluted mess.

@hokanson: Hey there, grumpy gills, someone has a case of the Mondays! Thanks for checking in. I enjoy being labeled hypocritical; especially from someone other than a family member.

any-who, I mock the follower-following scale for the same reason I have trouble with really large circles. I don't doubt that, as Farfisa states above, that big groups can open up some connections and subsequent learning. I just worry about putting my proverbial ear to the floor in a room full of 300 people because odds are I'm going to get trampled.

And then what good am I to anyone?