Something happening here

Something is happening at my institution. I seem to be connecting with more of our faculty on Facebook and Twitter. Interest in blogging among faculty is growing, and every week I am hearing of another faculty person starting to blog or tweet.

What is both interesting and encouraging is the topic of conversation in these spaces. They are talking about teaching and learning. They are sharing links and resources. They are connecting with each other and talking about their craft. They are developing their PLN’s, and it is very cool to see happening.

One striking example of what I am seeing occurred recently where I took part in a conversation on Facebook with an instructor who posted the following status update:

How do I measure student engagement in my classroom? How would I evaluate them if I decide not to use exams anymore?

There was a great response from his colleagues and a rich discussion ensued. But then something interesting happened. It wasn’t just other faculty who were responding. There were staff, his friends, his Dean — and students. Students who he was FB friends with weighed in with their opinions on what kind of strategies they thought would engage them. His students were responding to his question, and posting their responses to what others were suggesting.  Talk about a rich formative evaluation, done completely informally and naturally, prompted by a simple question posted as a status update.

I am not sure what is going on. Perhaps we are reaching a tipping point where there are enough people now engaged with social networks that  where this type of interaction is possible. Perhaps it is because we have a new Dean in Arts and Science. He blogs. He tweets. He connects with his faculty in Facebook. And I think he is setting the tone for his School. Perhaps his presence in these social spaces, talking about both professional and personal things, is making it somehow more inviting for his faculty. I’m not sure. But whatever the reasons, it is great to see and be able to take part in these conversations without having to wait for a once a year conference, or a chance hallway encounter.

CC BY 4.0 There’s something happening here by Clint Lalonde is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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Wrangler of learning technologies by day, Dad, cyclist, soccer fan and, lately, home roaster of coffee by night. INFJ. I am the Manager of Educational Technologies at BCcampus, working primarily on open education projects. This blog is a personal blog and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of BCcampus.

Comments

  1. I consider social media relationships in the same way I consider face-to-face or personal relationships. The first thing one builds is trust. Trust happens through emotional risk. In order to create a climate of trust, the participants in the community must begin sharing at a personal level. Intellectual sharing isn't meaningful if it doesn't advance the kinship of a community because it is so disembodied. Embodied trust requires the members of the community to integrate both the professional and the personal. Talking about teaching is a much bigger emotional risk than one might think. We go to our private classrooms and speak private things. We do this, often, because great teaching is also filled with risk. Challenging authority, critiquing knowledge, sharing the risks surrounding social justice–these things are tough to talk about because they are so easily misinterpreted. I applaud all those who take the time and display the courage to communicate authentically as embodied human beings who put their personal and professional identities forward in order to model and lead a new way of being together.

    1. Great points and well said, Stan. It's really too bad that we tend to consider a climate that enables the kind of vulnerability that you allude to as a "special" or"exceptional" environment instead of the operating norm. Imagine how much more innovative we could all be if we all felt like it was safe to take those risks and expose ourselves without the fear of rejection, failure or judgement.

  2. I have a sense of déjà vu….
    I just want to be where the students are, I can also connect with colleagues and ask questions and know someone will answer…I check my FB and Twitter several times a day and I never felt like I am losing my time…..and I certainly do not feel guilty doing so.

  3. I am seeing inklings of the same thing at my institution, only much more slowly. I wonder the extent to which leadership is important. At my place it's been a decade of what you'd call "word of mouth", but the program I created strives to provide opportunity and community to do exactly this. Yes, we have faculty on FB (and a dean), but none of them talk about teaching there — it's all personal and chatty. Few are on Twitter. So they are engaged in social networks, but in exactly the same way our students are (personal, chatty, friendly and very non-work-oriented). Our community is building inside our online teaching certificate blog, but that cuts out the classroom instructors and others who could really help with pedagogical issues. I'm encouraged to see what's happening at your place, since in many ways it's like mine!

    1. I think leadership has something to do with it, not to take anything away from those early adopters who have been doing this for a long time now because I know how influential they are at our institution. There is probably a confluence of factors at play – a core energetic group of early adopters that have been at it for awhile, the right leadership, a growing acceptance of these platforms in general, and a demographic shift in our faculty.

  4. I think Stan has made a big difference. Although the first people to jump in and comment on his blog, follow him on Twitter or "friend" him on FB were the usual suspects (Andy, you, me, Dominic), I'm seeing more and more faculty getting on board, getting interested in social software. YOU have been a big factor, too, with your faculty lists on Twitter and obvious engagement from the beginning.

  5. What it is ain't exactly clear

    I think it's time we stop, children, what's that sound
    Everybody look what's going down

    (Sounds great, BTW)

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