“We take ideas from other people, from people we’ve learned from, from people we run into in the coffee shop,and we stitch them together into new forms and we create something new. That’s really where innovation happens.” Steven Johnson on TED
Twitter search tells me I’ve tweeted 42 times about coetail (with 49 likes). Some of the pebbles I cast into the vast Ocean of Microblog caused ripples, while others sent not a single wave across the surface. A couple of my interactions during CoETaIL, however, have given me some satisfying back and forth.
During the first course, my former colleague, Matt, tweeted at me from the Learning2 workshop in Vietnam. He had heard about a model for learning with technology which he thought I might like (he knows I’m suspicious of most models). I incorporated the concept, PATER, into a blog post (Way of the SAMR eye) and tweeted it out mentioning its author who read my post and commented on the blog.
I had a similar experience with a later blog post which I published as a video (VLOG!). The post was inspired by the works of Emily Bailin and Will Richardson. They both read my post, retweeted it and replied.
Since I started using Twitter more than eight years ago, I have tried to make it work for me. It is where I discovered the screenshot app Jing (thank you @stephenfry!); I have encountered some very inspiring thinkers who flourish in the medium (such as @brian_bilston); and I have kept up with the life events of some of my friends. During CoETaIL, I have shared my blogposts; sought inspiration for my project; supported and replied to the posts of others in the cohort. But in truth, it’s been a bit of a chore. I did not make waves. I know people who share a lot and learn a lot on Twitter, but it is only a fairly small feature in my own tech seascape. Similarly, Facebook and Google+ are not places where I have successfully amplified my professional voice.
This is not to say that I am self-sufficient in my work, nor in CoETaIL. Without the ideas and support of other people, I would not have been inspired to create my own artifacts, whether blogging, making movies and music or taking photos. One of the pleasures of CoETaIL has been the back and forth below our posts. I have kept track in this 14-page document of my comments.
I like my learning network to be within arm’s reach and I celebrate the way in which schools are microcosms of societal expertise. You want to know how to work with iMovie? Understand bitcoin? Organise a committee? There’s someone who can help you. Work with eight year olds? Exercise efficiently? Play music? They will explain it and they may even have the kit for you to borrow. Ideas for a blog? Advice on a first draft? Comments on the published version. People are there for you. But you do have to ask. And asking for help can mean making oneself vulnerable because it can seem to imply ignorance. I have seen, in my role as a technology facilitator, that a large section of my colleagues never reaches out for support (would you be surprised to know that this is more true of men than women?). I wonder if some people are less reticent to seek help online from strangers.
We should not ask: Where can I go for inspiration? but rather: Is there any place where you cannot find food for thought? Most people welcome the chance to be asked to think along.
So in my CoETaIL journey, the back-and-forth of ideas came from many places:
- CoETaIL Online7 cohort, in our blogposts and comments, and in the very fruitful skype conversations during Course 2;
- Face to face at conferences, with international educators including CoETaIL graduates;
- PD visitors to the school such as Ron Richhart who helped me develop some new teaching tools;
- My teaching and admin colleagues who represent a wide spectrum of attitudes and experiences in education;
- Students who are at least as thoughtful and expert as adults when it comes to technology in their everyday lives;
- Reading in all its many forms and exploring with other readers our differing interpretations;
- Happenstance, chance remarks, connections, anything really, which lights a spark;
- And, yes, online networks too, where friends and strangers wrestle with the same questions CoETaIL has made me ask.
We all have our own PLN, and if we neglect to include an online element, then it will be weaker, but it is just as important to honour the knowledge in our own immediate vicinity.