Are You Really Connecting If You Are Not Giving Back?

cc licensed (BY-SA) flickr photo by mrkrndvs:
http://flickr.com/photos/113562593@N07/13713874174
 
Alan Thwaites posted the following tweet and it got me thinking.
Not just what you Tweet Aaron, but watching how you use Twitter has been very clarifying for me. I appreciate it mate.
— Alan Thwaites (@athwaites) April 6, 2014
How is it that I use social media anyway and more importantly, what does it mean to be a connected educator anyway?
 
In a recent post about the benefits of blogging and being a connected educator, +Tom Whitby outlines some of the many benefits associated with sharing online. He states:

The difference between writing a blog post and writing a magazine or journal article is the immediate feedback in the form of comments or responses. Before a blogger puts words to the computer screen the audience and its reaction are a consideration. The blogger will strive for clarity in thought. The blogger will strive for clarity in the writing. The blogger will attempt to anticipate objections.

What stands out to me in Whitby’s post is that the whole process revolves around its reciprocal nature, that is, as a reader you not only take in various ideas, but also respond and add back. One of the big problems though with being ‘connected’ is that for some it simply means lurking in the background. Although they may draw on the dearth of ideas and information out there, there is no impetus to give back in anyway, shape or form. My question then is whether this is really connecting at all?
 
Whilst perusing the net a few weeks back, I got involved in a twitter chat with +Bianca Hewes about the matter of sharing. Hewes was ruminating about the one way flow of information that too often occurs online. Those situations where others ask for resources, but fail to offer anything in return. She tweeted:
It kinda irritates me when I’m a member of a fb group for teachers and people only ever post to ask for stuff… rarely offering stuff 🙁
— Bianca ‘Jim’ Hewes (@BiancaH80) March 12, 2014
If you read the ensuing chat involving Hewes, myself, Dick Faber, Audrey Nay, Teacher from Mars and Katelyn Fraser, there were a breadth of responses provided. Some of the concerns raised included the apprehension associated with looking like a dill and some people’s fear of sharing. A topic that +Chris Wejr has elaborated on elsewhere in his post ‘Not Everyone is Able to Tweet and Post Who They Are‘. On the flip side though, there were some really good suggestions provided, such as lurking for a time until comfortable, sharing something small or even simply re-tweeting something to add to the flow of information.
 
Thinking about all of the these great responses, I feel that there are three clear ways that we can respond and give back. They include the ability to share links and ideas, adding to a conversation by writing a response or remixing an idea creating something new in the process.
 

Sharing Ideas

There are many ways to share, whether it be using social bookmarking, such as Diigo, where you might share with a particular community, or using social media, such as Google+, where you might share out into the world. This is something that I have elaborated on elsewhere. One of the easiest ways I find to share ideas though is on Twitter. Most applications offer the potential to post to Twitter with a click of a button, making it quick and easy to read a piece on Zite, Pocket or Feedly and then share it with the others.
 
There are many different perspectives associated with Twitter. For some, it is too much. How could you possibly keep up with each and every tweet posted by those that you follow? However, +Darrel Branson put a different spin on it in Episode 238 of the +Ed Tech Crew Podcast, where he suggested that mediums like Twitter are great to just dip into whenever you have the chance, not necessarily something to be hawked over 24/7. Branson suggested that if an idea is significant enough it will be shared around, re-tweeted and reposted enough that you will pick up on it in the end. What is important then is actually sharing good ideas and keeping the river flowing.
 
In addition to sharing, Bill Ferriter wrote an interesting piece on the importance of not only sharing, but also recognising whose content it is that you are sharing. One of the problems with many applications is that they allow you to quickly share the title and web link. However, they fail to provide any form of attribution to the actual creator. Therefore, I always endeavour to make the effort to give credit whenever I can. This has led me to use applications like Quozio in order to turn quotable pieces of text into an image in order to fit more into a tweet. To me, this means that while perusing something like Twitter, you are able to continue the conversation with creator, not just the curator.
 

Commenting and Continuing the Conversation

In addition to sharing ideas, another great way to give back is add a comment. Whether it be a video, an image, a blog, a post on Google+ or a tweet, writing a response is a really good way to continue the conversation. Too often when we think about commenting, there is an impression that it needs to be well crafted thesis, however it can be as simple as a confirmation thanking someone for what they have shared. Some other possibilities for comments include posing a question about something that you were unsure about, sharing a link that you think made add to the dialogue or providing your own perspective on the topic. The reality is, we often learn best through interaction and dialogue with others, a point clearly made in Whitby’s post.
 

Remix and Creating New Beginnings

A step beyond sharing and commenting on the ideas of others, is the act of remixing. Using someone else’s idea as a starting point, remixing involves adding something and turning it into something new, an idea in its own right. This blog itself can be considered as a remix, bringing together a range of different ideas in the creation of a new beginning. A great exponent of the remix is +Amy Burvall, whether it be using Mozilla’s Popcorn Maker to mash-up text and videos or using the paper app by Fifty-Three to create images to capture her ideas. Remixing ideas not only allows you to continue the conversation, but also start a new one as well.
 
 
Now I know that everyone comes from a different perspective and have their own view of what it is meant by digital literacy. A topic that I have explored elsewhere in my post ‘What’s So Digital About Literacy Anyway?‘ However, I find it hard to believe that there can be any example of being connected that does not include getting involved and giving back. A point clearly reiterated in Mozilla’s Web Literacy Map. The question then is how are you giving back? Is there something that you do that I have missed? What are the problems that you have faced along the way? I would love to continue the conversation, so feel free to leave a comment below.

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Aaron Davis

I am an Australian educator supporting schools with the integration of technology and pedagogical innovation. I have an interest in how together we can work to make a better world.

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Are You Really Connecting If You Are Not Giving Back? by Aaron Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

4 thoughts on “Are You Really Connecting If You Are Not Giving Back?

  1. Well provocated (hey spell check I know that’s not a word, or is it? make up your mind…), Aaron. I agree in spirit, yet I might wonder about the expectation of what “giving back” looks like.

    You do list some good examples of ways of doing this, but I expect most to think it means being a big voice in the internet room, or comparing themselves to others they see as “better” sharers.– that sharing must be blatantly visible, that it makes no sound in the forest.

    I believe there are ways of giving back that are not overtly visible. A direct message, a private email. Maybe a coffee conversation, .e.g “Did you read that post on common sense by Aaron Davies? Let me tell you why I think…”

    Additionally, I like to think that all of us are on an evolving path of *becoming* connected- there is no “she is connected and he is not”, that it’s a growth state not a destination. I mean we are always refining the ways we do this.

    I’d concur with Alan (great name, correct spelling) Thwaites’ in admiring your way of tweeting because you do the thing that many people crave and never seem to get enough of- acknowledgement. Not like “credit” just when someone, without provocation, says “I see you”. That is so small as to not seem significant, but in ties we were constantly reload our screens to see if we’ve been heard, it matters a lot. Real acknowledgement, not “nice post, Aaron”. Even a disagreement can be acknowledgement– I read your ideas but disagree, and here is why — is not a bad thing at all.

    So giving back need not be just being the loudest tweeter in the room. I want folks to find their own ways of doing this that feel genuine, not trying to share like Aaron (well that’s not a bad model, but model the models but make them your own)

    And I see all of this works better as modeled than proclaimed.

    Nice post 😉

    1. Thank you so much Alan for your thoughtful response.
      A similar point was made to me by a colleague at school, who said that she often shared my posts. That this sharing was not attributed means nothing. This fits with your argument about becoming. This is particularly pertinent as many choose to move to closed spaces.
      What is interesting is that like many of my posts, I tend to disagree with myself from the past, continually becoming something else. With so ideas hardening and others softening.
      I think that if the strength of the room is the room then we somehow need to celebrate the village, not Aaron and not Alan. What that is or becomes I will continue to wonder and explore.

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