(This is step seven in the free Teacher 2.0 course/"experience" at Mightybell - participate at https://mightybell.com/experiences/3ff5259e1c4d9948-Teacher-2-0.)
It can be scary to think about putting information or content about yourself online. Especially if you, as an educator, have evaluated others on the quality of their written output! You might be thinking, "What if I make a mistake, or spell something wrong, or say something dumb?"
There is a big change taking place in the world, as much of the verbal conversation that we had with others in the past is now going online. If you and I were to have a conversation, you would understand if I made a grammatical error. However, we are used to "printed" content being edited and proofread and vetted, and sometimes over-worry our online contributions or conversations.
This doesn't mean that we shouldn't be careful about what we write, or using correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation. But it does mean that we don't have to write a five-paragraph essay, or labor for hours over a paragraph, when we contribute online. It will take you a little bit of time to become comfortable writing and contributing online, and while it is easier for some than others, you will find a good "voice" for you.
Again, our good friend Angela Maiers has a helpful concept here. Angela calls the combination of habits and attitudes "habitudes."
One important activity is to remind students that their words are marked online (trackable); it is great to represent yourself in the best way possible (as educated and familiar with English standards) but also to know that people won't ridicule you if you have a typo. That said, I reward my students for finding typos or other mistakes in documents I share with them: HTML assessments, shared Google Docs, etc. For every mistake they find, they get a quarter in their class bucket, and at the end of the year we have a food party with the money they make. This keeps me on my toes and they operate as editors constantly. It's become a fun activity, believe it or not. Jeff Anderson notes in Everyday Editing that it's better to study well-written models and make comparisons. I find the students often question me about comma usage and other standards in search of perfect modeling. They become curious. They try to emulate. These are the habitudes I want them to develop: to examine their own writing, to compare to others, to always strive to represent what they know with their strongest voice.
Expressive responses to blogging is as important as blogging. How can they connect with a "nice post" comment? It's so disconnected and really a copout. As more and more of my students communicate online, I've noticed less of this. Most of them walk away from non-committal convos. They respond when the blogger has a question unanswered in blog or writes a question that begs a response. I just LOVE blogging as a classroom activity! When students are hesitant, I f2f with them to find out why they struggle with it.
I want my students to feel confident when they write online. This really rules my daily lesson. How can I give them confidence? It's so difficult to uplift and yet point out areas in which they can improve without deflating them. This maybe is my biggest struggle as a teacher, to keep them engaged and confident in what they're doing. It's probable I worry over this more than they do :-) I do want them to be fearless about their opinions and sensitive to making a contribution with something meaningful, something they care about enough about to put their voice into action.
I wish I could say that was an intentional mistake, but it wasn't!
On the confidence issue. With my own kids, my mantra is "competence brings confidence," and I try to help them have experiences that allow them to grow, and then to talk about that growth and how it changes how they feel. Have you seen Larry Ferlazzo's book, How to Help Students Motivate Themselves? I really liked it: http://www.amazon.com/Helping-Students-Motivate-Themselves-Challeng....
There are no emotional barriers for me contributing online - it is part of my world. Long ago I developed the skills of 'writing online' - I even remember developing my first online course around 'writing online'. So I guess I would advise practising the art of changing your attitudes (habitudes) to develop your PWP and just getting online and doing it. ...
on the other side of me is that voice that reminds me to be authentic, professional, consistent and relevant - how do you teach that? Actually I believe people teach themselves that as they practice in small incremental steps. I read somewhere how that small space provided for a comment on a blog is more enticing to fill that a whole page. so some scaffolding is necessary for those who are not in the 'zone' yet.
we're finding that culture effects the way we do or do not communicate online - maybe its something in the water down here in Australia - it often takes a lot of effort to get teachers to contribute online. Constantly hearing that expression - "it just does not cut it for me" I'd rather meet f2f or use the phone. networking is an art form - and it comes in many guises - some small and discrete others large and public.
my advice: network widely with like minded people online - use whatever tools suits your style but get out there and start by building your network and communicating with your colleagues frequently and meaningfully - it will help boost your confidence. get into a collaborative mode and share a project - move into a cooperative mode and share your knowledge and resources - then move into a comfortable mode where the 'world is looking over your shoulder' and you are okay with that!
I generally feel OK about being a public person. Goes against the grain if I have to "sell" myself though. Always taught not to "big note" yourself. However, I'm working on that. Still feel a bit confused about my public persona - I feel it should be both professional and personal. Therefore, it needs to be split, keeping the personal to friends and family and the professional can be quite public. (Think I'm just starting to work out about how to use my blogs - the fog is finally lifting!)
Habitudes I need are commitment, courage to say what I feel and put my opinion out there (very difficult for me) and time management to ensure I am consistently updating information and making interesting reading for my viewers.Oh - and to learn the beauty of keeping my mouth shut ie not being too wordy - concise is nice! For students, especially facebookers, we need to instill in them the knowledge that when it is out there it is there to stay and to be careful how they portray themselves as this can come back to bite them. In this regard,compromising photographs and invective ahould never be used online. The internet is public so using correct terminology, punctuation and grammar and not MMS text should always be used. Then something I am guilty of - edit your text for spelling, typoes and all of the above. My messages to date on this forum have all been riddled with typoes! We also need to teach them to be discerning web users - not everything you read on the web is true - check your sources etc.
I applaud Leanna Johnson's comments below and quote her here:
"I reward my students for finding typos or other mistakes in documents I share with them: HTML assessments, shared Google Docs, etc. For every mistake they find, they get a quarter in their class bucket, and at the end of the year we have a food party with the money they make. This keeps me on my toes and they operate as editors constantly"
Great comments on the habitudes, and the confusing many of us feel about the public persona issue.
I loved Leanna's idea as well!
I know that my biggest emotional barrier to building a PWP and contributing online is fear. I am scared that what am saying is redundant or uninformed. The following quote says it well. "The best confidence builder is experience." (from Star Wars the Clone Wars) The best way for me to overcome this fear is by contributing. This is also true for students. Exposing them to the experience of 'doing' is the best way for them to become confortable. As teachers, we need to support them by teaching them the social and emotional skillls they need to be good online citizens.
Here's what I said on the Mightybell forum:
In the end, for me, the biggest barrier is fear -- several kinds of fear, actually, as others have mentioned.
1) The fear that "something bad will happen" -- the *lizard brain* fear, as Seth Godin calls it. That's the "I heard a story once about a teacher who did X online, and some parent complained, and she got fired, and now she's homeless and destitute and her own children spit on her when they step over her on the street" fear. :-) (And no, I don't think all of that ever happened!)
2) The fear of being found inadequate -- the "what if I wrote a blog post and nobody read it" fear.
3) Related to #1, the fear that someone might criticize what I wrote, and, by extension, might criticize me. That was a big factor for me when I was younger; less so now.
4) The corollary of #2, the fear of being found *adequate and competent* -- and then realizing that I have to take action, not just sit there and write things.
But they all seem so silly and pointless when you actually articulate them.
Reflecting a bit, I'm really interested in the order in which I listed these. I think it's a chronological order of which fear was most dominant in my (online and offline) life over the years. #1 was certainly an issue for me as a child and as a young teacher. (Well, actually, when I was a child and even a young teacher it wouldn't have been possible for me to HAVE an online presence! But it was definitely a factor that kept me from saying things publicly, or presenting at conferences, or sharing my expertise in public venues.) Of course, you never really get ALL THE WAY over #1, but as Godin says, you can get the lizard brain to "snooze" while you are doing the work that must be done.
Once I had stepped out and started sharing my expertise, first online (through listservs and such in the late 1990's and early 2000's) and then in F2F settings, #2 became the primary fear. It's an ego-related fear, isn't it? It's comforting to think that thousands, hundreds, or dozens might attend your talk or read your blog and love it, but it's terrifying to think they might show up and hate it. Or, worse, ignore it completely.
Fear #2 begets fear #3, or at least it did for me when I had begun to establish an "outside the classroom" professional presence. It did not help that, in my face-to-face teaching world, most folks "wait until told" (to use Stephen Covey's term) to make conference presentations. I remember a former principal, now retired, who was surprised that I hadn't been told or ordered by someone to make a presentation ... surprised, and probably a bit perturbed that a "mere teacher" would do such a thing.
And then there's fear #4, the realization that it's time to do more than just talk.I guess it brings back #1, #2, and #3 in some ways, since taking action also involves the possibility of 1) something going wrong, 2) people ignoring you, and 3) people criticizing you. But there's also the fear of success! What might happen if "it" (fill in the blank with your personal "it," the project you love but are afraid to fully commit to) really took off? What might change about your life? What might stay the same even though you want it to change?
My goodness, what a fearful person I must be! :-) I take comfort in that great definition, attributed to Ambrose Redmoon:
Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judg[e]ment that something else is more important than fear.