Two weeks into the new school year, and a feeling of disillusionment and alienation is creeping in. It wasn't until today and reading Paula White's blog post, Disconnected (And Feeling It!), that I started putting my finger on what the problem was.
I spent a lot of my summer learning about Twitter, among other things, gradually getting more and more positive about its benefits to educators around the world. So far, I've mostly been on the receiving end of wonderful ideas and links that are filling my del.icio.us account. In due course I hope to be able to reciprocate and become a more useful contributor myself. All through summer I got more and more overwhelmed by the selfless online sharing, assistance, inspiration and kindness that is hard to come by in the course of hectic daily lives at school!
Back in my 'real' school life, it's a totally different world. Many of my colleagues have spent the long summer break not giving the slightest thought to school or education. And they have every right to totally kick back and relax. As it is, though, I find it best to keep my Twitter and other online existence mostly to myself. I must admit it's hard sometimes when I've learned so many cool things from my PLN that I'm dying to share them at school. But I know that, should I ever open my mouth about it, I would only be labeled even more an alien from outer space than I am already. For the time being, my flock is not at my school.
Funny enough, apart from Paula White's, I have just recently read several other blog posts describing similar situations, both here at home and internationally. The underlying problem in all those posts has been that virtual contacts are not considered 'real' by the vast majority. For example, art director and designer, Marko Teräs, blogged about a leading Finnish business magazine's article that predicted the collapse of Twitter and Facebook in the near future, which would give people back 'their real lives' and make them read newspapers again. Prejudice, suspicion, feeling threatened, resistance, fear, dismissal... So many negative attitudes towards people, who are curious to grab the opportunities of sharing through social networks. People react in such different ways to the rapidly changing reality, denial and clinging to safe old solutions being a very understandable protective mechanism. If only these people realised what a lot they are missing out on!
In the discussion that soon followed after Paula White's post, she concludes:
I do however, feel some distress over the fact this post has resonated with so many, as it supports the fact that social networking for professional reasons is the exception rather than the norm now.
I'm looking forward to when it IS the norm!
So am I! But what can we do about it in the meantime? My approach will be to discreetly promote the sharing culture instead of the traditional working alone in isolation ethic of teachers. For example, at the beginning of the school year I introduced my colleagues to social bookmarking. Sharing my account and links has at least made some English teacher colleagues have a look at it, and hopefully realise its multiple uses in education.