Public or Private?

If you’ve been reading my blog, you know I’ve had some great opportunities to learn recently. (See What I Did On My Summer Vacation).  I’ve also read some great books and am busy trying to assimilate all of that, along with the many conversations I have had with many, many educators! So as I’m thinking (and thinking and thinking and thinking. . . ), I’m trying to figure how all of this is going to fit into my classroom, my school, my behaviors with peers, etc. for this new school year. My main struggle right now is with microblogging, or setting up a community online.

Let me explain. . .

I use Twitter daily for professional networking and have learned a tremendous amount through it as well as met many people I now consider colleagues and friends.  For me, Twitter does indeed allow me to participate in the groundswell, and it feeds my need to “connect, create, stay in touch and help each other.” (Groundswell, p. 49.)  I have, as stated in my blog, Twitter Makes Me, become more world-wise through my connections with people all over the world.

Our local school system has embraced Twitter in many ways, and we have had a very quick influx of our educators join.  Some have found it incredibly useful, others have found it confusing. It is clear that our Superintendent and School Board expect us to teach using today’s technologies,and they have supported us doing so by opening social networking sites (such as wikis and Twitter.) That’s not to say anything is mandated or forced–just encouraged through modeling and usage.  So, a fair number of us use Twitter for building/maintaining parts of our PLN.

Yesterday an instructional coach started a Yammer group for our district. I can’t figure out whether that’s necessary or not–not whether it’s good or bad, but whether it’s necessary.  See, we already have SchoolNet established in our district. SchoolNet provides us a place to set up groups, have threaded conversations, follow people and be followed (they’re called colleagues) and  do much of what I think my limited exposure to Yammer  shows it can do. We’re literally one day before teachers return–and invitations are being sent out to folks to join Yammer–rather than encouraging folks to get involved more deeply in the many resources we already have on SchoolNet.

Here is a {SOMEWHAT EDITED} part of an email I sent to a buddy today talking this one through with some of my questions:

A question asked over Twitter the other day (from an Alan November talk Kevin Jarrett was sitting in, I think) was “What does a Lifelong Learner in the 21st century look like?”

Do our teachers know?

I think you do, because you see the power of Twitter—which is simply ONE tool for engaging us in conversations with educators and others ALL OVER THE WORLD.  You have spent time building a PLN that encompasses ppl outside of your tiny world of our school system.

And, what bothers me the absolute MOST about responses to my questions about Yammer? It wasn’t the defensiveness (or perceived defensiveness).  It was the response that this was SAFE—it was all about being in a situation with people you already know—one said-”I like this better because I know you guys.”  another:—”It’s NOT a closed system—anyone in K-12 can join and invite others”  (Unsaid—BUT ONLY FROM our school system. How is that NOT closed?)

Someone else then goes on to ask-”who knew you could use schoolnet this way?”  DID ANYONE START A CONVERSATION ASKING SOMETHING LIKE: Hey, guys, if we were to get teachers on a smaller scale using something like twitter, what tools are out there? How can we get out teachers involved in social networking on a smaller scale for those whom Twitter will overwhelm?

Once again, leaders have thrown something out there that could overwhelm. . . Yeah, I understand experimentation—but as coaches—as leaders in our division, who looked at the BIG picture here? And who is thinking about how to transfer ppl over to Schoolnet, now that you (collective “you”, NOT you personally) KNOW Schoolnet does this?

PLUS, Schoolnet allows me, as a teacher, to join (or lurk on) a conversation about the “Daily 5” with my local peers and when I hear something, I can go to Twitter to ask @Linda704 or @AngelaStockman, both of whom I know know a LOT about literacy, to join our conversation—or say to another Twitter buddy, “hey, we’re talking about those kind of resources here—can you join us?”  Then I can slowly introduce others to our teachers and SHOW them the power of a world wide PLN.

Yammer does not allow that-it IS closed . . .

I go back to my question—because I have taken it from Alan and made it mine—What does a lifelong learner look like in the 21st century?  I say she’s NOT looking for closed communities. I say she’s not looking for safety in her local peers.  I say she’s not looking ONLY to learn from local people.  I say he IS looking to connect and contribute, looking for learning and wanting to know how to do that safely on the WWW, and needing to feel honored and respected by more than a local community.  I believe our learners are looking to “connect, create, stay in touch and help each other.” (Groundswell, p. 49.)

What have you said about Twitter? It validates your thinking, it has helped you grow, etc.

Does Yammer do that?  Yes, on a small scale—but does it allow us as teacher leaders to paint pictures of global connectedness through modeling and bringing those others in?  No—but Schoolnet does.

Did anyone explore Edmodo?  It’s another microblogging tool that also could be used with kids—so we could be modeling as well as sharing a tool teachers could then use with kids.  Can Yammer be used for microblogging or grouping conversations with kids?  Can Schoolnet?

I don’t know the answer to either, but my guess is Yammer, NO–SchoolNet, possibly.

These are the kinds of things we, as teacher leaders, need to think through before we jump into something. . .

Am I advocating jumping ship on Yammer?  Absolutely not—it looks like it’s growing quickly, and that’s a good thing– but slowing down and having some conversations—honest conversations–about what we want and looking at purpose FIRST, not letting it emerge, may be necessary. Then guiding invitations on Yammer may (or may not) be helpful.


For me, it’s not an either/or. . . or good/bad–it’s a matter of making life manageable and trying to minimize all the different ways it pulls us. . .and if we already have an avenue for teachers talking to one another, why are we encouraging the use of yet a different tool rather than involve them more deeply in the one we have and share the potential?  As the teacher above said, “Who knew SchoolNet could do that?”

And, the proponents of Yammer say that involving teachers FIRST in a private network may be the stepping stone some need to then try a larger network such as Twitter. That sounds logical, but is there any research to support that, or even anyone’s experience?

I can’t find any. Do any of you have any research OR personal stories that say that’s true?

The power of MY PLN is the diversity–the various viewpoints coming from all grades, all countries, all kinds of schools–it’s often the differences that make me think the most. .  not the like-minded folks using the same curriculum and same materials who are in situations similar to mine. . .


YOU, my readers, see my confusion, my questions, my wonderings. . .

When we introduce/encourage the use of social networking to adults, in an organized, big way, what questions should we ask ourselves? Is “public or private” one of them?

8 thoughts on “Public or Private?

  1. Paula, This is my blink response. I’ll add more thoughts later. I do worry about overwhelming folks… but as I share with folks face 2 face or via emails about tools, I always say… find what works for you. Feel free to experiment and learn by playing with some folks that you are comfortable with. I tried doing just that in my school last year and got shut down… (not going into details here) Now.. having said that, I am guilty of being impulsive. Yes, I may share out of excitement… it’s a major flaw I suffer from. “the blurt factor”. I try to model risk-taking and I always say, I’m testing the waters for others to swim… with the hopes that someone will jump in the water!!! The river of knowledge is always flowing and at our fingertips. (love the river of knowledge analogy for twitter)
    So… it’s a new school year and I see movement. I see people willing to play with tools and branch out slowly…they are in familiar waters and paddling gently. Not necessarily to the wide world, but beyond their classroom and hallways. Some are connecting with folks across the division that have never done this before. This I perceive is a good forward step. Yeah.. I’m transparent on the http://WWW... but many folks aren’t like me. Some folks think I’m over the top with twitter, facebook, wikis, etc. But… as needs arise in their lives, I see them slowly gravitating toward collaborative tools. They have to have a purpose. In our school district, I see movement toward some things that I’ve been doing and appreciating and learning for a while now. It’s great to have colleagues participating in new tools and sharing in new ways. So… how do we settle on a tool? How do we know what is the right tool? When we commit to something, can we change without overwhelming and confusing everyone? I don’t know. So… maybe mistakes and impulsive behaviors have happened… but we are all thinking adults that need to choose what works for us. I agree that we must explore our tools that we’ve committed to as a district, but we must also not stop looking at all of the possibilities it can offer us a dynamic learning community which is constantly changing. Again… we must model the capabilities of this tool and I believe we have just started ! so much for a “blink”. Wow… school is starting tomorrow. I can’t wait to see how the school climates feel as I move into new buildings as a coach. Thanks, Paula, for asking hard questions.

  2. Paula, I agree with Janelle that people should use what works for them. I would however ask you take a closer look at Edmodo as it’s built for Educators by Educators. How do I know that? I am the co-founder 🙂 I worked at a school district for almost 10 years, my wife is a high school science teacher and my co-founder Nic also has worked for a school district and we have built it to meet the needs of Educators.

    Edmodo is very collaborative in nature, and students and teachers alike seem to love it as it is very similar to social networks they are already using outside of the classroom such as twitter and facebook.

    If you ever have any questions I would be more than happy to answer them.

  3. And thank you for your thoughtful response. I can always count on you to speak forthrightly. 🙂

    I agree we need to explore tools and keep ourselves open to possibilities and potentials.I’d just like to see us do so thoughtfully and with purpose. As @beckyfisher73 says, “I’d rather make small mistakes as I go along than costly huge ones. 🙂

    So, as we roll out new tools, what questions should we model for teachers who have to think through the use of them (perhaps) with students? You and I both tend to jump in and try something and figure it out as we go along-a style I appreciate in you! LOL.

    I worry about the people like the teacher who wrote “You’ll have to give me a tutorial–I’m not as tech savvy as you.” or the ones who join and never come back. . or the ones who think it’s a closed community somehow (not speaking to the closed program here, but a closed community, as one of the initial folks saw it as a coaches area.) We’ll always have those various players, though, and I’ll always worry. . .

    My question really is what questions should we ask. . of ourselves, of each other and about the tool or use before we make big splashes with it?

    Looking forward to hearing the coaching stories. . let me know how I can help.

  4. Hi, Jeff,
    Would you be willing to skype with me tomorrow afternoon and do a mini tutorial on Edmodo with me? If so, DM me your skype contact info and give me a time after 12 to call. 🙂


  5. I will definitely explore Edmodo as well. Thanks, Jeff. Can elementary students use Edmodo without having a personal email is my first question. Paula, It will be great to compare and share.

  6. Janelle, Edmodo is a great tool! Jeff & Nic have really outdone themselves with the 3.0 update. Students do not need email to register. Once you, as the teacher, set up your Edmodo, your site is assigned a code, and students just need the code to sign up to your site. I’m thinking you could also just sign students up yourself, and assign them a name and password (depending on age of your students). I started small, and use Edmodo with my district team of paraprofessionals and coaches. I’m really hoping to get some teachers on board this year. 🙂

  7. If we wait for “the perfect tool,” we’ll never accomplish anything. This is called technology paralysis. However, looking for multiple tools that play well together might help you accomplish a lot. Yammer even seems to play somewhat well with Twitter in that you can feed Tweets to Yammer. The more tools you are asking folks to play with, the more you’re expecting of them and the greater risk you run that someone will be left behind, though. Yammer is intended to be “enterprise microblogging.” It does what it is intended to do well as far as I can see. If you want your enterprise to learn from itself and with itself, this seems to be a fine tool.

    Yammer might be a final resting place for some people and it might be a launching pad for others. I guess that’s a personal call. Perhaps some folks who use Yammer will be happy sticking there (resting place) and others will want to branch out to the world (launching pad). If the goal is to have teachers interact with each other, it can be met in either scenario.

    The public/private question is a different can of worms. Many of us sing in our cars as we drive down the road, but only a few of us will take the mic on karaoke night. Learning is very personal and people should have a lot of choice in how they go about it. Teaching is very public and we should be mindful of the fact that there’s a world out there, though, and we have a lot to offer it.

    I applaud teachers for reaching out to other teachers and will use the Yammer platform to help extend that reach beyond our own community. I hope our Yammer members will take advantage of the Twitter connectedness to grow a more global PLN and pull resources from the outside in as their comfort with and commitment to “professional” social networking increases over time.

  8. Paula,
    I wish we worked in the same district. You ask the kinds of questions I wish more people would ask from both a resources and a human perspective. I appreciate that you consider both to be important.

    “I worry about the people like the teacher who wrote “You’ll have to give me a tutorial–I’m not as tech savvy as you.” or the ones who join and never come back. . or the ones who think it’s a closed community somehow (not speaking to the closed program here, but a closed community, as one of the initial folks saw it as a coaches area.) We’ll always have those various players, though, and I’ll always worry. . . ” These comments could have been written by folks in my district.

    It is a struggle when technology tools come and go and evolve so quickly and people learn and adopt at different levels and rates. The important thing is to keep asking these questions, supporting users where they are and nudging them along to the next level, and to do it in a way that is responsible and as forward thinking in terms of needs and tool compatibilty as possible.
    Thank you for this post.

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