Category Archives: Web 2.0

Microcast #001: Publish > Polish

Aaron Davis got me thinking this morning with a bit on sustainable blogging.

One of the things that I dig about Aaron’s bit is that he included a microcast — a short, unpolished audio reflection — in his post.  

Gritte

That simple microcast got me to thinking about sustainable blogging all by itself.

Perhaps people would be more willing to reflect if that reflection could be done through recording instead of writing.  Recording, after all, is almost always less labor intensive for the creator than writing.

It also got me thinking about whether or not one of the barriers to motivating new bloggers is that many established bloggers create and share highly polished content.

Have we gotten to the point where “blogging” no longer means messy reflection in the minds of most people?  Is there now an expectation that blogs have to be filled with content that has been carefully created and “spit-shined?”And if so, does that discourage new bloggers from ever getting started?

So I decided to start my own microcast series here on the Radical. 

Here’s the first post:

Listen to “Publish > Polish.” on Spreaker.

My hope is that by modeling quick, unpolished reflection, I can remind readers that blog entries don’t have to be perfect in order to have value.  

Looking forward to hearing what you think of this idea.

__________

Related Radical Reads:

Three Tips for Novice Bloggers

Lessons Learned from a Decade of Blogging

Audience Doesn’t Matter

 

 

 

More on the Role of Audience in Social Spaces.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a bit here on the Radical begging people to STOP pushing the notion of building an audience as the primary reason for blogging and sharing in social spaces.

My argument was a simple one:  When we push audience as a primary reason for blogging and sharing in social spaces, we forget that MOST participants in social spaces will never build significant audiences — and if they’ve heard people preach about audience as a primary reason for writing and sharing, they are bound to feel like failures.

That’s when Bob Schuetz — a longtime Radical reader and fantastic thinker — stopped by to push back.  

Kyle Glenn

Here’s a part of what Bob wrote:

Audience causes us to raise our game, take pride in what we share.

You speak eloquently because an audience is listening. You post and tweet in the hopes it makes a difference to someone besides yourself.

Normally I dig your riffs, however in this rare case, I can’t agree with your title or premise.

I am part of your audience, and we do matter.

In a lot of ways, Bob (and Kyle Hamstra — who’s thoughts on audience sparked this conversation) is right:  I do write and think and share differently because I know an audience is listening.

I proofread more than I would otherwise because I know an audience is listening.  I am also far more reasoned — “tempered” — in my positions online than I am in person.  I don’t want to put my name on a piece that is riddled with grammatical errors or a piece that fails to consider multiple viewpoints because I know that what I create becomes a permanent representation of who I am that others will be able to find forever on the web.

Those are tangible benefits of knowing that I am writing and sharing for an audience — and tangible examples of how having an audience changes everything for me.

The BEST example of how audiences change everything, however, is Bob’s comment — and this subsequent post — to begin with.

Because I shared publicly and because Bob took the time to push against my thinking, I’m sitting here this morning reflecting on and revising what I believe about the role of audience in the lives of those of us who write and share on the web.

That intellectual give and take between writers and readers is where the REAL potential rests in a “Web 2.0” world.  Before comment sections and social spaces, the thoughts of writers went unchallenged by readers.  Today, challenge CAN be the norm rather than the exception to the rule — and challenge is the “refining fire” that ideas must pass through in order to be fully polished.

But here’s the thing:  That intellectual give and take is painfully absent from today’s comment sections and social spaces.

Need proof?

Find your favorite blog right now.  Click on five posts.  How many comments do you find?  More specifically, how many comments challenge the central argument of the author?  Do the same thing with a few of the people that you follow in Twitter.  Check out their Tweets and Replies.  Chances are that you’ll see a TON of simple sharing and maybe a bunch of affirmation — “Great post!” or “Loved this!” or “Brilliant ideas!” — but challenge and true discourse will be nonexistent.

Need MORE proof?

When was the last time YOU left a comment challenging the thinking of a blogger or content shared by someone you follow in social spaces? 

I’ll bet the answer is the same:  You do a lot of reading in social spaces, but you rarely comment — and when you DO respond to the thinking of the people you are learning alongside, those comments tend to celebrate rather than challenge the authors.

Now, I’m not judging you.  People can use social spaces in any way that they want to.  It’s not for me to decide whether comments that challenge should be a core expectation of the people who are living intellectual lives online.

But we’ve got to stop telling people who are new to social spaces about the “power of audience” because the truth is that most of today’s audiences are muted at best, choosing consumption over participation in nine conversations out of ten.

Now, if you’ve read this far and you are STILL passionate about the power of an audience, here are a few tips for building one:

(1). Bring Your OWN Audience:  When people talk about “the power of audience,” they are generally referring to the hundreds of thousands of teachers all over the globe who are blogging and sharing in social spaces.  We stand in awe every time that we make a connection with someone a thousand miles away.

And don’t get me wrong:  That IS pretty darn cool.

But the most powerful members of your audience are those people that you ALREADY have an intellectual relationship with.  Maybe they are folks in your school that you have lunch with every day.  Maybe they are buddies from other schools in your district that you meet for beers a few times a month.  Maybe they are colleagues that you hang with once per year at teaching conferences around the country.

Those are the people who are the most likely to stop by your blog or respond to your Tweets and challenge your thinking — so instead of trying to build a huge audience of strangers, concentrate on building a small audience of peers.

(2). Be a Participating Member of Someone Else’s Audience:  The funny part of this whole conversation to me is that people in today’s social spaces are hell-bent on building their own audiences, and yet few recognize the importance of being participating members of someone else’s audience.  I see that as incredibly selfish.  We want the benefits that come along with having an audience without willingly passing those same benefits along to others.

What does that mean for you?

Start commenting on the work of others.  Start responding to people’s posts in Twitter.  Let people know that you are listening and learning from them.  Show gratitude for the time that they put into thinking and sharing transparently with others.  Provide challenge to their core ideas — and then push those ideas out through your networks.

Not only will you give someone else the intellectual benefits that you want for yourself, chances are that you’ll gain a new member of your own audience.

Do unto others, right?

(3). Draw attention to the ideas of your audience:  I want you to think about my buddy Bob for a minute.  He took his own time to read my original bit on audience.  Then, he took even more of his own time to craft a reply that challenged my thinking and articulated concepts that I hadn’t considered. Instead of spending that same time on his own growth, he was making an investment in me and in our intellectual relationship.

That matters, y’all — and I need to respect that investment in some way.  So I decided to sit down this morning and respond to his thinking here in a new post on my blog.  Not only will that give Bob’s thinking some of the attention that it deserves, it shows him that I’m listening — and that the time he spent challenging me really did have value because it led to a longer conversation.

The result:  Bob is more likely to comment on another post at some point in the future.

Does any of this make sense?

I guess what I’m trying to say is that building a big audience feels pretty pointless to me.  Given the option to have thousands of followers who I rarely interact with or ten readers who regularly challenge my thinking, I’d take the active audience any day because my goal in spaces like this is to learn — not to be recognized.

#nuffsaid

——————-

Related Radical Reads:

Audience Doesn’t Matter

Comment More.  Like Less.

The Digital Equivalent of Strip Malls.

 

Audience Doesn’t Matter.

In a bit of a serendipitous moment, Kyle Hamstra — a good friend who works up the road from me — reshared a post that he wrote back in October called #audiencematters.

In it, Kyle wrestles with whether or not we should focus on audience when we are sharing content — whether that sharing happens on blogs, in other social spaces, or in face to face presentations.

Nicholas Green

Let me answer that question for you:  For MOST* of us, audience DOESN’T matter.

Stop talking about it.  Period.  End of conversation.

Here are two reasons why:

(1). Focusing on audience draws attention away from the real reason that people should be blogging and sharing in social spaces.

For the vast majority of us practicing educator types, blogging and participating in social spaces is about reflection, plain and simple.  Every time that you sit down behind the keyboard for any reason — whether that’s to join in a Twitterchat, to read bits that appear in your social streams, or to create a new bit on your own blog, you are an active learner.

Articulation of ideas — whether it comes in the short form of a Tweet or the long form of a blog post — requires you to think carefully about what you THINK you know.  Finding the right words to express your core notions about teaching and learning forces you to wrestle with what you actually believe.

Every time we make the argument that audience matters, we forget that reflection matters more.  Our goal shouldn’t be to #becomepopular.  It should be to #becomebetter.  Blogging and sharing in social spaces can help us to do that whether anyone is listening or not.

(2). Focusing on audience is bound to leave writers discouraged.

Are you ready for an interesting confession:  “Radical Nation” really isn’t all that big!  I average about 120 views a day on my blog.  Yesterday, I had 37.  Today, I’ve got eight.  I have about about 400 subscribers.  When I share content out through Twitter, an average post gets ten clicks, five likes and three retweets.

And that’s for a guy who has been blogging for over a decade, who has written over a thousand posts, who has 25,000 followers in Twitter, and who has pretty strong connections to a bunch of really high-powered influencers in the #eduverse.

Do you see what that all means?

If audience is the metric that I use to judge the value of the time that I spend writing and sharing, I would have quit writing and sharing a long, long time ago.

The fact of the matter is that I spend about five or six hours a week on this stuff — including two or three hours every Saturday morning.  I get up at 5:30 AM and am banging away at the keys in the back of a Brueggers Bagels or a dirty McDonalds by 6 AM.  Every single week.  For over a decade.

All for ten clicks, five likes and three retweets?!

Try selling THAT to people new to blogging and sharing in social spaces.  “Hey!  If you spend five hours a week for a decade, you, too, can have days where you get ten clicks, five likes and three retweets!”

That’s why I hate it when we talk about audience. 

It focuses people who we want to encourage to join us in social spaces on the wrong end goal.  Worse yet, if they don’t get the traffic that they see other people getting, it leaves them convinced that they have nothing important to share.

What rookies in social spaces don’t realize is that “getting traffic” isn’t easy to do.  What us blogging old-timers learned a long time ago is that just because you are writing and sharing doesn’t mean that people are going to see the content that you are creating.

Audience is a function of the content that you create, the consistency of your creation patterns, the length of time that you’ve been creating, the opportunities that you have to be in front of audiences in the real world, the relationships that you have with people who have audiences larger than you do — and, as frustrating as it may seem, serendipity.

Content takes off sometimes because the right person happened to pull out their phone at the right time to see your post in their stream.  Similarly, really great bits are overlooked because they are missed in streams that are filled with thousands of other people who are creating and sharing content, too.

But if you don’t care about audience, none of that matters.

If you believe that the value of the time you spend behind the keyboard is measured in what you know and what you believe and what you can articulate to others instead of in clicks or retweets or likes or followers, you are WAY more likely to keep investing in your blog, in your social spaces, and in yourself.

#nuffsaid

 

(*Read: “Anyone who isn’t trying to build a career supporting schools from beyond the classroom.”)

____________________

Related Radical Reads:

Three Tips for Novice Bloggers

Lessons Learned from a Decade of Blogging

Why Blog?

Transferring Facts v. Building the Future Together.

Over the last five years, I’ve really been wrestling to understand the changes that are needed to create the schools that our students deserve.  

For me, that wrestling started when I realized that it was becoming harder and harder to truly engage my students in the lessons that I was teaching.  Instead of being active participants in class — something that I’d never struggled with before — my kids were increasingly passive and disconnected from the work that we were doing.

Sure, they were still playing the “grade game” — turning in tasks that showed mastery of the standards.  But there was little to no real inspiration in their efforts.  It was clear that they saw school as something to be endured instead of enjoyed.

So I started thinking about the differences between ENGAGING and EMPOWERING learners.

The way I saw it, traditional schools stripped learners of any real agency — and learners without agency are uninspired.  What’s more, I want kids to leave school convinced that they can change the world around them for the better — to see themselves as people with both the capacity and responsibility to be a positive influence their communities.

That’s when I started tinkering with purpose-driven learning — the notion that kids are most motivated when they are wrestling with causes or issues or problems that are meaningful and purposeful beyond the classroom walls.  If I could use problems as an invitation to learn the required curriculum — an idea that Garfield Gini-Newman calls “problemitizing the curriculum” -I could meet the expectations outlined in the required curricula while simultaneously creating learning experiences that my kids really WOULD care about.

But I’ve always struggled to explain in clear and simple terms what this change in education should look like — and that’s kept my thinking from spreading widely beyond my own room.

It’s easy to SAY that empowerment trumps engagement and that purpose should stand at the center of the classroom learning experience, but what exactly does that MEAN?  How would learning experiences be restructured if that shift stood at the center of the work we did with kids.

That’s why I was jazzed to stumble across this Erik P.M. Vermeulen bit describing the expectations of millennial learners on Hackernoon in my stream this morning.

In it, Vermeulen writes:

“The world has really changed. Education has become less about the transfer of “fact”-based information/knowledge and much more about exploring and building the future together with the students.”

That’s SUCH a powerful statement, y’all.  Read it again.

And then ask yourself a simple question:  Are the bulk of your learning experiences about transferring facts or about exploring and building a better future together with your students?

Chances are that if you work in a traditional school, you’re still transferring facts.  And if so, chances are your kids are bored.

How do you fix that?

Constantly remember that transferring facts is a heck of a lot easier and more inspiring when it happens as a part of an attempt to explore and build a better future together.

Kids need purpose, too — and all too often, that purpose is missing from the work we do in schools.

#trudatchat

If you want to learn more about using causes as levers for learning, consider checking out Creating Purpose-Driven Learning Experiences — my latest book for Solution Tree Press.

——————

Related Radical Reads:

Should We Be Engaging or Empowering Learners?

How Engaged are YOUR Students?

Why Can’t THIS Be School?

 

 

Simple Truth: Your Attention Has Been Hijacked.

Here’s an interesting confession from a guy who has been a tech enthusiast for a long while:  I HATE smartphones. 

Like legitimately hate them.

My animosity towards them has been growing and growing over time.  It started when I caught myself laying in bed every night and opening Instagram to see whether anyone had liked the photos of my daughter that I used to share there regularly.

I’d anxiously wait for the number of new notifications to be updated — and often, I’d be upset that I didn’t get as many notifications as I wanted to.  I really felt ignored at times, trying to figure out why some people would have 60 or 70 or 80 likes on pictures of their kids and I’d have four.

Then, I’d start looking at the people in my network who had liked the pictures of OTHER people in my network.  I’d see that people I considered friends were actively liking content shared by each other, but they never seemed to like or favorite content shared by me.  “They are shunning me,” I’d think.

I’d even play games where I’d go in and like and favorite pictures with increasing regularity.  “Look, I’m here and I’m saying I like your content!” I’d think every time I’d drop a like or a comment on pictures of other people’s kids.  And then I’d wait to see if they’d reciprocate — reloading my stream tons of times each night to see if anyone had noticed me.

If they did, I’d go to bed relieved.  If they didn’t, I’d go to bed feeling sad.

How crazy is that?!

Only adding to my animosity towards phones has been the impact that they have had on the people around me. 

I’m a pretty social guy.  I love being with and around others and engaging in deep conversations with them.  But I started to notice that every time I was with other people in a physical location, there were fewer and fewer sustained conversations because people were CONSTANTLY checking their iPhones or their SMART Watches.

Heck — a few years back, I ponied up a bunch of cash and went to ISTE and couldn’t BELIEVE how little attendees actually interacted with the people they were sitting with.  At one point, I was taking a break in a seating area on a really comfortable couch.  There were ten other people in the same area.  None of them looked up from their devices a single time.

I see the same trends in my family life, too.  Our living rooms — places where we used to gather to connect and to laugh and to enjoy — have grown increasingly quiet as people pull out their phones and sift through their streams instead of invest in each other.

That pattern has strained the relationships that I have with people in my life who pull out their phones the most often.  I just don’t enjoy being around them anymore because I know they are going to turn away from me and turn towards their devices every time that we are together.  Seeing their phone out makes me resent them — and, given how frequently they keep doing it, I’m not sure they even care.

Here’s what’s REALLY evil:  The people who are designing social apps are TRYING to “hijack” your attention.

Need proof?  Check out the details in this article on the Guardian.

Did you know that app designers are attending $1,700 seminars on how to “manipulate people into the habitual use of their products”?  Does knowing that the person responsible for the next update of your app has probably studied the role that anticipation and craving and triggers play in the human mind — and are intentionally using that knowledge to develop features that take advantage of those inner needs and impulses.

And can you spot the built in features of the social apps that you use the most frequently that exploit your inner needs and impulses?

Here’s one:  The “drag to refresh” feature on so many of your favorite social services is intentional.  From a purely technical standpoint, you could see your new notifications immediately when you open an app, but by requiring a drag to refresh, app designers are manipulating your need for anticipation.  It’s like the feeling you get when you pull a handle on a slot machine.  You can’t wait to see what comes next — and because that anticipation is so strong, you are likely to KEEP dragging to refresh all day long.

Sometimes, you’ll be disappointed because you won’t have any new notifications.  That will cause angst.  You’ll work harder to create and to share content in those social spaces that people WILL like and share.

Other times, you’ll hit the jackpot.  A post will take off and you’ll see it shared and liked over and over again.  And every time that you drag to refresh, you’ll feel the rush that comes along with seeing dozens of new notifications.

Either way, you’ll keep coming back to your social service.

You’re a digital moth, y’all.  And drag to refresh is the flame.

#sheesh

Should we blame social services for trying to turn you into a habitual user?  

Of course not.  They are creating a product that they need to profit from.  If they didn’t think through how to best capture your attention, they wouldn’t be acting in their own interest.

But we should be aware of the fact that they ARE trying to manipulate your attention — and their goals have nothing to do with helping you to be a more complete person.

So what are the solutions?

Here are mine:

(1). You’ll never see me checking any social apps on my phone while we are together:  That’s a promise I made a few years back to the people in my lives.  I may pull my phone out to check the time or answer a call from my kid — but even then, I’ll tell you what I’m doing so that you know that you are more important to me than any social stream that I may be swimming in.  We owe that to each other.

(2).  I’m uninstalling MOST social apps from my phone:  The challenge with social apps is that we use them most frequently while we are on our phones.  Here’s why that’s a problem:  Our phones are almost always with us.

Hanging out on the couch with your partner and/or your kids at the end of a long day?  You probably have your phone with you, too.  Sitting at Thanksgiving dinner with relatives you haven’t seen in six months?  You probably have your phone with you, too.  Visiting with friends who you value at a local brewery?  You probably have your phone with you, too.

So the times when you should be the MOST present are also the times when you have a device full of services that are trying to pull you away.  And given that it’s difficult to resist the tricks being used to manipulate you into using those services, you are far more likely to allow your attention to be hijacked — and by default, to turn away from the people who you are physically present with.

But if there aren’t any social apps on your phone, that social interruption can’t happen. Better yet, over time you will rethink your relationship with your device.  You won’t see it as a tool that feeds your need for anticipation or craving or triggers. It will be easier to ignore if it isn’t the primary source of reward and anticipation and need and craving in your life anymore.

I’ll always keep Twitter on my phone.  That’s because it is a place where people reach out to me with questions about the professional work that I do.  But I don’t need Facebook or Instagram or Snapchat or Untappd on my phone anymore.  Those are purely social services to me — and in order to prioritize the social interactions that I have with the people around me, I’m going to intentionally turn away from having similar interactions with people on my my phone.

Does that mean I won’t use social services at all?

Nope.  It just means that I’ll have to dig my computer out to participate in those spaces — something I’m far less likely to do when I’m on the couch with my kid or at the bar with my friends.  I’ve got Twitter open right now in a tab on my browser — but I’m also sitting alone in the back of a Bruegger’s Bagel Bakery banging away at the keys on my computer.  If my attention is hijacked, it isn’t being stolen from people that I care the most about.

(3). I’m going to nudge the people in my life — my peers, my relatives, my students — to take the same actions.  I’m going to teach them about the manipulative design features in social services that are pulling them away from one another.  I’m going to encourage them to think through the consequences of divided attention — on their own happiness, on their relationships with other people, on their ability to learn.

I’m going to ask them to think about whether or not it is ethical for companies to design products that intentionally leverage human behaviors to steal their time and attention without being explicitly clear about their intentions.

These are conversations that we need to be having.  Otherwise, divided attention and intentional manipulation through app design become the new normal.

And I’m not OK with that.

Does any of this make sense to you?

______________________________

Related Radical Reads:

Banning Smartphones in Class May Be the BEST BYOD Policy

Are YOU Teaching Students about Attentional Blink?

I’m Going “Topless” in 2015