Today Ben Wilkoff shared his plans for a new project: Comments for Community in 2015. I encourage you to read his full post and the rationale behind his plans, but essentially he will be commenting on something - blog posts, Tweets, Google+ posts – every day, in an effort to not just share his thinking, but to engage people in conversation.
Cool, right? Yeah, I think so. But as I read his plans for this project I got wondering a bit more of the how. In particular, the how of finding things to comment on that would otherwise go unseen, or un-commented-on. Now don’t get me wrong, as someone who has become much more connected online in the last year and developed a pretty strong PLN, I can vouch that everyone likes a comment or response to the things they share – regardless of # of followers. We all like to know that someone is listening, that the thing we poured our minds and often our hearts into and then submitted for anyone in the world to see had some kind of value to someone else. Perhaps there comes a point in your connectedness where you have just enough eyes on your posts that everyone assumes you’re already receiving feedback, and therefore provides none? It makes me think that I could do a better job of seeking out not just people but content that is valuable to me and then making sure the writer knows the impact it had on my learning. I’ll have to think more on that…
In any event, I started to really think about the impact we might have on those who are new to social media for education. I wrote the following comment on Ben’s blog:
I love this commitment to creating community and providing thoughtful feedback to those who take the time to share openly. I see you’ll be using Flipboard, Zite, and G+ to find “articles that are off the beaten path”, but I am curious how you’ll do the same for Tweets, blog posts, and other shares that may be a bit “quieter” in nature and won’t show up on Nuzzel or your favorite blogs that you already follow. How/Will you be looking for the educator who is new to blogging and doesn’t have many followers, or the person who shares humbly and isn’t necessarily seen by lots of viewers or using the most popular hashtags, maybe because they don’t know about hashtags yet? I ask for 2 reasons. First, I am always looking for ways to support those who might try their hand at Twitter, blogging, tumblr, or other SM so they can find their voice and their people within a caring community, but it can be tricky to seek out the people who may not be super connected yet. Secondly, I remember just how encouraging it is to receive comments and be pulled into engaging conversation, and how transformative it can be when those people are highly connected educators who you look up to. I know anyone you follow or find in your endeavors this year will be grateful for their conversations with you, but I am hopeful that some of those people will be the teacher who has had an aversion to blogging but tries anyway, or the educator who doesn’t yet know how to find *their* PLN so the new Twitter account they signed up for becomes an integral part of how they learn, share, reflect, and connect. Your ability to immediately level the playing field and remove titles, # of followers, and other statistics so that conversations are truly just about the people and their ideas is pretty powerful, and I suppose I want to see others positively impacted by that in the same way that I have been.
As I wrote my comment I started realizing that I, too, can have that impact…we all can. I have seen something powerful modeled for me in the last year by people like Ben who have engaged with me online. They helped me see that my voice as an educator was valuable, that I wasn’t crazy for the things I was doing – that I no longer needed to feel isolated in my work, and that someone cared and found value in what I was doing. These connections gave me confidence and re-ignited the passion for education I had started to lose sight of. I am so ridiculously grateful to everyone who has been part of my journey in becoming a more connected educator over the last year, because that journey has meant so much to me personally and professionally. In reflecting on where I started this journey and thinking about the year to come I feel compelled to be that spark for someone else – whether it’s a brand new teacher, an educator who is new to the online space, or those of us who have become more connected… We all need feedback, ideas, encouragement that keep us going and help us stay grounded in what matters most for our work. I’m not exactly sure what it is going to look like yet, I’ll have to think more and get back to you, but perhaps one of my commitments in 2015 is to seek out and comment on work by those who may otherwise go unseen, and to make sure they become part of the conversation just as much as those who have 1,000 eyes on their profile each day. After all, I was once that person and the feedback and kindness that a few people gave me changed, well, everything.