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.

Lurker or Contributor, or maybe Innovator?

I didn’t get to the DEECD‘s Innovation showcase on Friday. I’d sent in a proposal for a session but it was knocked back. The fact that I teach in the Independent system and not the Public system may have had something to do with that, but that’s probably just sour grapes from me!!

Thanks to the very obliging John Pearce, who is truly one genuinely nice guy, I’ve been able to partake in some of the experience by reading through his Cover it Live embeds on his blog. Cover it Live is an application that allows you to ‘live blog’ your observations as you watch someone present. John has embeds on his blog from presentations delievered by Jason Smith, co-founder of TeacherTube and Martin Westwell, Director of the Flinders Centre for Science Education in the 21st Century.

John recounts something Jason referred to that has me intrigued; 

the 99:1 rule 

  • 90% of people in online communities are visitors, (lurkers)
  • 9% are early adopters who add to the commentary and/or content but can’t really be depended on
  • 1% are the givers who continue to maintain the innovation

I don’t know where he got those figures from, but if they’re right, they have implications for the use of social networks in schools. I know that the Ning we are using for Yr 9 has some regular contributors, but it also has a spread across the year level. I know it’s artificial to some extent because we ask the students to make contributions because it relates to curriculum, but I am heartened by the fact that forum topics are being created by students. Of the 34 forum topics posted, 15 have been initiated by the students. That’s a pretty good number posted by a spread of students across the year level.

There’s no denying also, that there are students for whom this forum is just not their thing. And that’s OK; you can never guarantee that any teaching method you employ is going to hit the mark for every kid you teach. But maybe they’re lurking?? It’s something I hadn’t really considered. I think what I need to do is set up a Survey Monkey for the end of this term to attempt to get some feedback and derive some statistics from which I can draw some conclusions.

Lurking is something that I find very interesting. By nature, I’m a participant and not a lurker, so I find it a little hard to understand why some wouldn’t want to enter the conversations. But then again, I’m the ‘E’ personality type who’d prefer to go the party rather than sit by the fire with a book. I think that translates to my online life as well. But those figures Jason referred to are mind boggling for me. I suppose if there are 90% of people out there lurking (a word I really don’t like – the connotations are sinister I think) then that accounts for the small number of comments in proportion to the number of hits on this blog. 

And as for the 1% of innovators, well I guess I can see that in the networks I operate in. When I first started reading educational blogs I had this perception that the base  was huge; I now know that is not the case.  I suppose that translates to our teaching communities as well; if you think about schools you’ve worked in, who is innovative and who sits back and lets others come up with new ideas? What proportion of your school community does this relate to and do the figures translate to the 99:1 rule?

Mmmmnn….interesting things to consider. Thanks John for providing me with a PD experience on my weekend. 

*Update – read this post re research on the 99:1 rule. Makes for interesting reading.

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