Lesson Learned: Influence is Personal

If you spend any time in Twitter, it would have been impossible to miss the whirlwind created earlier this week when Education Next released their list of the “Top 25 Educator Tweeters.” 

In a nod to inevitability, Education Next stumbled into an argument over who the REAL thought leaders are in the educational conversations that are taking place online. 

Comment sections and Twitter conversations were full of plugs for people who were left off the list, questions about who exactly some of the people on the list were and criticisms of the metrics used to judge influence in online spaces.

The real lesson here is a simple one, y’all:  It’s impossible to develop a SINGLE list of influencers because digital spaces allow us to join together in customized groups with people studying the topics that WE care the most about. 

Translation: The list of the “Top 25 Educator Tweeters” I generate might be completely different than the list that you generate—and that’s EXACTLY how it should be!

Social media spaces allow you to network with people who share YOUR passion—and as long as you’re reaching out to influence—and to be influenced by—others, you will learn more no matter what your Klout score is. 


Want to know who is influencing my thinking a ton right now? 

Russ Goerend, Matt Townsley and Paul Canceilleri are pushing my thinking about grading and assessment.

Chris Wejr is pushing my thinking about honors assemblies.

Justin Tarte and Bo Adams are pushing my thinking about school leadership.

David Cohen , Nancy Flanagan and Alice Mercer are pushing my thinking about education policy. 

Want to know what they all have in common?

They are all thinking and sharing about the topics that I’m most interested in at the current moment. 

Translation: My grading practices aren’t very progressive, I’m sad that some kids get recognized more than others in schools, I know just how important effective leadership is to success, and I think teachers need to understand how current policies are destroying our profession.

That makes Russ, Matt, Paul, Chris, Justin, Bo, David, Nancy and Alice PERFECT follows for me right now.  They are openly sharing provocative thoughts about their personal interests that are challenging me right now.


Does that make them “good follows” for you? 

Only if you, too, stink at grading, run horrible honors assemblies, need to know more about effective school leadership and feel like fighting back against piss-poor educational policy. 


Does that mean that Russ and Matt and Paul and Chris and Justin and Bo and David and Nancy and Alice will ALWAYS be the “Top Education Tweeters” in my PLN?

Probably not.  I mean, the odds are that my interests will change over time—and when they do, I’ll work to find other bright minds that can challenge me.

And while I’ll always stay connected to these guys—lots of meaningful interactions over time has made each more of a friend than an avatar in my Twitterstream—they might be dropped from my list of “Top Tweeters,” however hurtful that may be. 


Long story short:  Influence is personal—customized by your current circumstances, interests and preferences. 

Just like the most effective PLNs.


Related Radical Reads:

The Importance of a PLN

One Tweet CAN Change the World

Twitter as a Tool for Professional Development

5 thoughts on “Lesson Learned: Influence is Personal

  1. Bill Ferriter

    Hey Derek—and all yall:
    Thanks for stopping by. Im jazzed that my post was provocative.
    I think one point that Id like to make clear is that Im not opposed to lists at all—no matter how theyre generated!
    In fact, in some ways, Im as offended by the attacks against Education Next as I am the notion that there can only be 25 Top Education Tweeters.
    You see, ANYONE has the right to create a list of their Top Tweeters. Whats more, ANYONE has the right to create that list using whatever criteria they want. And finally, NO ONE has the right to tell another person or group who should or should not be on their lists.
    We have no right to tell Education Next who should or shouldnt be on their list of influencers—-just like they have no right to tell us who should be on our list of influencers. Just because you arent equally influenced by the people that I choose to spotlight doesnt mean that they arent influential.
    People need to take lists—no matter who generates them—for what they are: Opinions that may or may not be useful to others.
    Whenever I see lists, Im thankful because they introduce me to people that I may have never considered following before.
    Any of this make sense?

  2. Hatcherelli.wordpress.com

    What an awesome post! You have definitely hit the nail on the head, my friend.
    Learning is personal and must come from within. The people who give you inspiration will change based on what it is you want to learn.
    I was disappointed to see that the score was being counted with respect to educators using Twitter. I guess this practice is similar to evaluating teachers based on how well their kids do on standardized tests?

  3. Brad Patterson

    I really like the way you’ve approached this Bill.
    I was disappointed to see to what extent “klout” was given importance in that list. My favorite comment on the EducationNext post was a twitter buddy of mine, @ddeubel:
    “The tide moves the earth yet no one hears it or knows it….Good education is happening despite all the noise.”
    Thanks for sharing your influencers 😉 Cheers, Brad

  4. Jeremy Inscho

    Bill, this goes well with the recent comments you shared with me about PD becoming more and more personalized through the PLNs that we develop for ourselves. Can you imagine though, an education system that allows and gives the responsibity to the students to “follow” the teachers that they think have something relevant, interesting, and meaningful for them? #powerful

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