Network glue

A discussion I had recently keeps nagging at me.

I was speaking with someone, about how people like me work pretty tirelessly to provide useful information to educators through networks like Twitter. And I wasn’t just meaning me, I was referring to all of the key educators using Twitter to expand their knowledge base, but also the knowledge base of countless others. People who find good stuff and then pay it forward by tweeting or retweeting really useful links. These are people who don’t lurk in networks and feed off what others produce, they are altruistic in their intent and want to see others benefit from the good content out there that just might help to make us better educators.

The person I was speaking to responded that they didn’t need to do this, they knew who to ask for information.

My problem with this is that there is nothing altruistic in that. It’s almost a selfish act. It means that you become the holder of information, the gatekeeper, and only the favoured few gain from your wealth of knowledge.

I know it might be pretty naive of me to think like this, but I kind of like the idea that we’re all in this together, and sharing what we know with the many helps to make us all better. People who work like this in networks become the network glue; they facilitate connections for others and keep networks alive.

If we’re going to see our education workforce respond to our era, we need the network glue. It’s this sticky lot who will provide the foundation for the newcomer, reinforce the stayer, and educate the lurker. The stickier the better.

8 Replies to “Network glue”

  1. I think the other issue the teacher has is, when she comes across information that is totally new to her, she will not have a clue who to ask. Her network is only as large as her small world. My network is as large as the network each of my friends has. And that is a much larger network.

  2. I will certainly look at the glue stick in a different way from now on! I love to share what I have learnt and whilst I was guilty of ‘lurking’ in my early days I soon realised (and learnt) the power of being able to share and share alike in all manner of ways. Have a great week with the opening of your new library.

    1. Thanks Lynn. Do come and visit sometime soon. : ) I’ll be looking at those glue sticks differently too now!

  3. Hi Jenny
    I was interested to hear about the ‘network glue’ after I read your tweet! I can see why this thread is tugging at your core … it bothers me too! You use the word “altruistic”, I spend a lot of time talking about “professional responsibility”.
    Paying it forward is just something we should do! Good teachers become good teachers because they listen to, watch and build on the ideas and practice of others. After 20 years of teaching I am still striving to do better and be better but I appreciate that I got to this point in my career because I had a raft of good teachers supporting me … now it’s my turn to support others.
    Yes, it takes courage to put your ideas out there for others to borrow, adapt and criticize. Lurking for awhile allows you to build some confidence but eventually you have a responsibility to put something back into the collection you took something from.
    The problem with the idea that “I know who to ask” is that you haven’t met everyone yet … and if you aren’t using twitter, nings and other social networks you are limiting yourself to an incredibly small raft of support!

    cheers (*u*)

    1. Thanks Helen for your very thoughtful reply. I do understand that some people find it hard to muster the courage to share, and I suspect it’s fear of criticism that might come their way when they do so. That fear resides within me too, but I try and rise above it because I think it so vitally important to share thinking and potentially help others in the process. I hope others read your comment, and can see that it’s OK to sit on the fringes for awhile, but the real power for us all comes when you step forward and share.

  4. Jenny,
    Your post is relevant to many fields of endeavour. I have just tweeted the link with the comment “Network Glue – One could replace the word Education in this with the word #genealogy”

    As a retired educator I subscribe to yours and a number of other education blogs and share relevant posts like this with the genealogy community.

    Congrats on being such a super glue.

  5. hi Jenny,

    Great post. I agree that there are many lurkers out there and I have been guilty of this. I have now started my own blog (Ariadyne’s Thread) and hope to now contribute to the community. But in defense of the many lurkers out there, may I make the following points. Not everyone has the skills and expertise to create a blog and contribute this way. It takes time, effort and skills to create one and maintain one. Not everyone can do this or have the time, no matter how much they would like to contribute to the discussions and the body of knowledge.

    I have a Twitter account which I have been following on and off for a while although I am now trying to make sense of it in terms of contributing. It is confusing and difficult to fathom the landscape. My question – what do I have to contribute except for questions? I very rarely have time to sit on the Internet to research and find information that has not circulated the Twittersphere twice by the time I have seen it. Retweeting seems almost useless as I have few people following me and I am sure they are following people with more expertise than myself.

    I am overwhelmed by the generosity of the people who have given me (online) wonderful information, advise and direction when I needed it – many people who don’t even know they have done so. I would do anything to give back but I it takes considerable time (years?) to build my online presence to the point whereby people can benefit from my writings. I am lucky I now can come home and spend nights and weekends on the internet. How many teachers can do this after a day spend mainly in classrooms and then home to a pile of marking?

    Not everyone can contribute online but given the nature of our sharing profession, I am sure they are passing on the information in other ways. I have had many mentors during my years in libraries, people who have given me my foundation and carried me along until I gain confidence – and they did it selflessly and with great passion. I admit there sphere of influence was not great. Now I know I have been around a long time and you will say how things have changed and we need to share online, but there are still many people out who are key educators in there own way without having the online presence.
    Thank you to you Jenny and the many people who help me become a better professional.

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