Tag Archives: kyle hamstra

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?

Three Reasons YOU Should Be Hashtagging Your Curriculum.

Late last school year, I jumped feet first into a project called #hashtag180.

First proposed by Kyle Hamstra, #hashtag180 encourages teachers to grab and share images and video of either the work they are doing in their classrooms or the real world application of content that they are expected to teach.  The key, however, is to then add a hashtag representing the specific curriculum standard that the content being shared represents.

Here’s a sample:

Do you see the #sci6p31 hashtag at the end of the message?

THAT’s what makes #hashtag180 work different from the sharing we have always done in social spaces.  It represents the specific curriculum objective that my Tweet was designed to teach — and by adding it, I’ve made this content searchable by standard.

That means when I’m teaching this same content next year, I can easily find the strategies that I used to engage my kids.  Just as importantly, that means OTHER TEACHERS who are teaching the same content can easily find the strategies that I’m using to engage my kids.

So why should other teachers consider hashtagging their curriculum?  

Here’s three reasons:

You will learn your curriculum inside out:  If you are anything like me, you probably don’t spend a ton of time in your standards documents.  You know what units you are expected to teach. You have a good sense for what topics need to be addressed in those units.  And if you’ve been at it for a while, you even know the activities that you use to teach each of those topics.

But here’s the thing:  If you aren’t regularly reviewing your curriculum, you may be making a whole ton of faulty assumptions about just what it is that your kids are expected to know and be able to do.

Just because you’ve taught a unit or a topic for years doesn’t mean that unit or topic is an essential part of the required curriculum for the kids in your care.

When you start hashtagging your curriculum, however, you are automatically forced to revisit your curriculum documents to ensure that you are adding the right tag to the messages that you are sharing.  That constant revisiting means you will always be fully aware of whether or not the content you are teaching is actually in your curriculum — and that’s a really good thing.

 

You can build a digital portfolio detailing your mastery of your content area:  Regardless of the state, province or country that you work in, there’s a good chance that your teacher evaluation protocols require you to demonstrate a deep and meaningful understanding of the content that you teach.  You are also probably expected to have a strong sense of content specific pedagogy — or the best ways to teach the concepts in your curriculum to your students.

Every time that you hashtag your curriculum, you are creating evidence — sorted by standard — of just what YOU know and can do with your curriculum.

Imagine walking into your next teacher evaluation meeting with your supervisor or your next interview with a new school and being able to quickly search for specific examples of your teaching strategies by each individual standard in your required curriculum.

Or imagine how impressive you would be if you created a digital portfolio like mine that included every #hashtag180 post you’ve ever made — and they were all sorted by the standards you are required to teach.

Talk about an impressive professional behavior, right?

 

You can begin sharing engaging academic content to your school’s social media profiles:  Go take a look at your school’s Facebook page or Twitterstream.  Now, check out what pops up when you use your school’s dedicated hashtag.

If your school is anything like most schools, there are probably a TON of calendar updates and/or generic celebrations.  Your band guy has probably posted a picture of his jazz ensemble at a competition.  Your athletic director has probably posted the final score of the most recent basketball game.  Your principal has probably posted a picture of a smiling kid walking in from carpool.

But can you find anything that is directly and explicitly tied to the way that teachers are delivering the required curriculum?

That’s interesting, isn’t it?

And that’s one of the reasons that I share every one of my #hashtag180 posts to our schools #salemproud stream.  The way that I see it, if parents are able to see me thinking about and explaining my curriculum in our social spaces, they will begin to see our school as a place where curriculum is just as important as the jazz band competitions or the final scores of our basketball games.

Sharing academic content that is directly connected to the required curriculum sends the message that (1). academics matter here and (2). our teachers are geeked about their curriculum.  Those are important messages to share.

Long story short: There are a thousand reasons why hashtagging your curriculum make sense.  It’s a practice that every teacher ought to think about embracing.

#thanksKyle


Related Radical Reads:

Will You Join Me in the Hashtag 180 Challenge?

More on My #Hashtag180 Work.

Turning #hashtag180 Posts into a Digital Portfolio

 

Advice on Teaching and Parenting for Kyle Hamstra!

11/08/2017

Dear Kyle,

I’m thinking a ton about you tonight — wondering, really, whether or not tonight will be the night when you become a PARENT for the first time!  

That’s an interesting word, isn’t it?  Parent?

A new part of your identity — something that will define you more than any word has ever defined you before.

Sure, you’re still a teacher.  You’re also still a friend and a colleague and a husband and a son.  You’re still a guy with conservative values from small town Indiana.  You are also a blogger and a Tweeter and a thought leader in your school and in our county. And of course, you’re still the #hashtag180 guy and a STEM guy and an #edcampwake guy.

(You birthed that too, didn’t you?!)

But you are also going to be a PARENT — and that changes everything.  You’ll see.  I’m not sure you believe us yet, even though Chris and Melanie and I have been gently nudging you towards that reality for the past few months.

I thought a lot about what to “get” you to celebrate Baby Hamstra’s entry into your life — and then realized that nothing that I bought from the Baby Barn could rival the advice that I have to give you about being both a parent and a teacher.

You see, there’s a ton of things you need to know, now that you are joining the card carrying ranks of teachers who are also parents.  There are practical things to consider — like how to rearrange your morning AND afternoon schedule to fit within your day care’s drop off and pickup times or how to pack the perfect bag of stuff to keep your kid busy as you sit through teacher workdays for the next 18 years of his life.

You’re also going to have to get REALLY good at writing sub plans — and at watching those 85 sick days of yours get whittled down to 14 because your kid has “hand, foot and mouth disease” or head lice and isn’t welcome back into day care or preschool or first grade until they “aren’t exhibiting symptoms” anymore.

There are also heartwarming things that you are going to need to learn — like finding places in your classroom to hang countless finger paintings made by YOUR kid.  Who cares if they don’t look like anything recognizable.  You’ll recognize them and hold on to them and smile every time you see them.

So will your students, by the way — who are going to LOVE hearing stories about both you and your child.

You’ll become even more to them now — moving from “that cool young teacher” to a real live DAD.  Let them see you with your kid at school functions.  Tell them about dirty diapers and fun weekend outings.  Pull up pictures on your phone.  Every personal story that you share will make you more real to your students than you have ever been before — and real teachers are worth their weight in gold.

You also need to know that being a Dad is going to change who you are as a teacher, Kyle.

You are going to start questioning everything about our “system” of education.  As you are scrambling around the house after a long day looking for a freaking shoe box to make a last minute diorama for a social studies project, you’ll start to question why you ever thought that homework was a good idea to begin with.

As you are listening to a teacher share their concerns and complaints about your kid’s inability to sit still, you’ll start to question why we ever thought it was a good idea to ask kids to sit still for 6 hours a day to begin with.

As you look over report cards that tell you next to nothing about what your child knows and is able to do, you’ll start to question the role that grades play in your own classroom.

And as you think about the interactions your child’s teachers have with him — pushing him, challenging him, inspiring him OR belittling him, embarrassing him, holding him back with crazy rules or ridiculous policies — you’ll start to question every interaction you’ve ever had with a student in your own classroom.  Better yet, you’ll start to strive to be the teacher you know your own kid deserves — and that will make you even better and more beloved than you are already are.

You are going to become FAR more tolerant and FAR more understanding of every kid and every family in your classroom — and that’s a good thing.  But you are also going to become FAR less tolerant of practices that we’ve accepted in education — and that’s going to make you uncomfortable on a good day and disgruntled on the worst.

But you also need to know that you are going to have to give a lot up, too, Kyle — starting with your insane levels of involvement in and commitment to your school, our district and the social spaces that we all know that you love.  

Until now, being chased out of the building by the janitors each night was a sign of your commitment.  Until now, attending every #edcamp within a hundred miles of Raleigh was a sign of your passion for improving education.  Until now, Tweeting and blogging and Voxing a thousand times a day was your way of both staying involved and of giving back.

But starting in just a few short hours, all of those things steal moments from your OWN child and from your OWN growing family.  A minute on your phone participating in a chat is a minute that you aren’t reading a book or building a fort or climbing a tree.  A few hours on a Saturday driving down to the beach to meet and learn from your peers in another part of our state is a few hours of cuddling or laughing that you’ll miss out on, too.

And believe me — you’ll look back ten years from now and miss those moments.  Life really does in the blink of an eye once you really DO have a baby on board.

You also have to realize that “your best efforts” on behalf of your students don’t have to be Herculean. 

I get it — you pride yourself on giving your all.  Your lessons are well crafted.  Your materials are always prepared.  Your assignments are graded quickly and handed back with tons of feedback.

But here’s the thing:  THAT’s not what makes you remarkable and memorable to your students.  What they remember is that you care about them and that you are excited to see them and that you are ready to ask them fantastic questions and celebrate their terrific answers.

They remember who you are — not what you’ve planned or how quick you got their papers graded.

So get comfortable with being a little LESS prepared than usual.  Get ready to walk out of school at 5 PM no matter what — and to leave every single paper ungraded and email unanswered until you walk back in at 8 AM the next morning.  You’ll still be one of the best teachers in your building.  But more importantly, you’ll be a better husband and father all at the same time.

Giving at least as much of yourself to your own kid as you give to the kids in your classroom HAS to be a nonnegotiable for you, no matter how strange that feels to you.

And here’s the one that hurts the most:  You MAY even have to walk away from the classroom completely.

The truth is that — at least here in North Carolina — it’s tough to provide for your family on a teacher’s salary.  Sure, you’ll always have a roof over your head and food in your belly.  And yes, you’ll always be able to buy school supplies and pay for field trips.

But if you want anything more than that — if you want tutors and sleep away camp and family trips to Disney World and a new minivan with room for the entire soccer team on the way to out of town tournaments, you are going to need a second (and probably a third) job.

And take it from me:  Those second and third jobs are going to crush you.

You’ll sneak home in time to kiss your kid goodnight and wonder what you missed while you were gone.  You’ll head out early on the weekends, hoping to get home in time for a family afternoon, but knowing that you are going to miss the slow, lazy routines that make Saturday mornings so special.

The older your child gets, the harder this will be for you — because he will tell you how much he misses you.

He’ll ask you if you can watch a movie with him on a Friday night and you’ll have to tell him that you have part time work to do.  He’ll wait on the porch for you to get home, no matter how late you are.  And he’ll write you notes telling you to have a good day — which will break your heart because you know that if you weren’t working two (or three) jobs, you’d be home to hear him say those same words in person.

Things might not be a LOT different if you move into school leadership or a curriculum coaching position in the district office.  Those folks work long hours, too.  But at least you’ll know that you are being paid enough money to give your child everything that you want him to have.

I know what you are thinking right now:  There’s no WAY you’d ever leave the classroom, right?  You are, above and beyond all, a TEACHER.

It’s who you are.  It’s what you have been for your entire career.  You are proud of what you’ve accomplished.  You love the impact you are making on everyone around you — but especially on the countless kids who will remember Mr. Hamstra as their favorite teacher.

But you are going to be a DAD, now.

And that changes everything.

Super happy for you — and super excited to see what you become.

Rock right on,

Bill


Related Radical Reads:

Are Grades Destroying My Six Year Old Kid?

My Favorite Radical Heads to Kindergarten.

Welcoming the Newest Radical!