Joining the Conversation…

Over the past few months I have delighted in meeting so many excellent educators through their tweets and blogs. So many people contributing their genius out in the digital world! A few are amazing writers, but many of us are not. But you know what? I’ve found it doesn’t matter!

Is writing the most important contribution people make in their lives? No, of course not. Does it have to be the most important mark you leave on the Internet? No, it doesn’t. You don’t have to be a great writer to be effective.

Your contribution is not a polished five-paragraph essay or creative writing assignment. Your job when you join the digital conversation, should you choose to accept it, is to create, contribute, connect, collaborate and curate.

All those things can be done without Pulitzer prize-winning prose! Let me tell you about an example that happened in my class recently. Nicole, along with Leah and Kim, created a silly video as they tried out a new tool called Animoto. She wrote a quick paragraph explaining a contest related to the video.  (And they painstakingly checked it for proper English conventions, I might add.) Here is her blog post.

Next,  she sent it out to the world using Twitter and the hashtag #comments4kids. Fourteen seventh graders, Mrs. Sigler’s first graders, and a sophomore Spanish class accepted her challenge to write a story about the video she created. You can read the stories here. Look at the number of lives Nicole touched. Look at the people who practiced literacy as a result of Nicole’s 21st century contributions.

Finally, we created a digital prize on Xtranormal. You can watch it here and at the beginning of this post.

Was Nicole’s greatest contribution her writing? No. She wrote, but she also did much more. Look at all the things she accomplished…

  • created–the initial video and digital prize
  • contributed–added her blog post and made it a contest for the world
  • connected–sent out the link to the world
  • collaborated–worked with Leah and Kim in the classroom, worked with me on Xtranormal
  • curated–this is an elusive one. Nicole and all of us need to not become overwhelmed with the wealth available to us online. Nicole didn’t just launch a random monkey blog post and leave it. She organized her online world. Even though she was busy, she approved the comments, read the stories, determined the winner, and followed-up to complete the task.

I am so proud of her and my other student bloggers. They are becoming 21st century learners and using technology to create, contribute, connect, collaborate, and curate.

Is there a benefit in doing those things online, as opposed to doing them in the regular classroom? Yes, there are many reasons that I am just learning about. One thing I have become convinced about is the fact that we have the chance to be accepted in a new way. The bullies and the bullied, the straight-As and the strugglers, the cool and the nerdy, the introverted and extroverted, the acne-ed and the brace-faced, the too thin and the too round. It doesn’t matter what we look like or how we are perceived on our campuses. Online we can all be on a level playing field. We can all make valuable contributions. Even the weakest writers can do the work of the 21st century when they share their own genius.

Be anonymous

Don’t get me wrong. I know we need great literacy skills; we should not be lazy about literacy development in ourselves or our students. More than ever, in this digital age, we need to be strategic readers and effective writers. (At the least, everyone can proofread their own writing or ask a friend or teacher to help.) However, I believe blogging, joining the conversation, 21st century teaching and learning–whatever you want to call it–is about doing those five C’s: Create! Contribute! Connect! Collaborate! Curate!

So, whether student or teacher, you can join the conversation. In fact, as Angela Maiers says, “You are a genius, and the world demands your contribution!” Please join in the conversation. We need you.

Will you please leave a comment telling how you were inspired to join the conversation?

10 thoughts on “Joining the Conversation…

  1. As people we all want to reach out and on the internet, this is mostly done via text. I agree that even as we strive for ‘perfection’ – or the best we can be, we should not wait until we’re there to start reaching out. Redefinition happens throughout the journey. I do believe we get better at writing the more we write.

    It’s good to do our bit and I was greatly humbled when somebody actually wrote back to me “Thank you for making your good thinking public”. And that’s just a little note within a book that she authored and posted to me as well. Read more about it here as this post was really a tribute to all those who, in making their thinking public, has inspired me, and continue to do so.

    And one last thing about geniuses….I love this Einstein quote I recently read:
    “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

    1. Mayln, thank you so much for adding important thoughts here. We do get better at blogging the more we proceed through the process, don’t we? It’s real life revisions, so purposeful. Thanks again. I will be checking out the lure of Kathleen Cushman’s blog next!

  2. Hey Denise,

    Blogging was something I’d done on and off when I was younger and was something I wanted to get back into. Especially considering technology in the classroom just seemed to be looming, looming, looming and rather than being a ray of sunshine for me was this horrible dark cloud. I was so afraid of the downpour I just got in my car and drove away trying to escape the cloud. But no, it kept following.

    So one day I decided to do a rain dance and bring on the rain. I wasn’t afraid anymore. The cloud didn’t scare me. It rained and it poured but then eventually it slowed and spinkled and finally the sun came out. I could see the flowers and the green fields and it felt like a renewed, renergised place.

    I guess that’s my metaphor for blogging and connecting with others online. It’s made me appreciate that I am a good teacher and that there are people out there who want to support and help me become a better teacher and person.

    My favourite motto: “Act despite the fear”. I was afraid of being rained on but in the end I didn’t care. Now I just wear gumboots to protect my feet 🙂

  3. Karla,
    What a delightful metaphor! I love it. I can appreciate that idea of the Web 2.0 cloud dropping a deluge. Like you, after a few months, I find I am less overwhelmed with all the possibilities. I’m just finding my own little way through and enjoying it!
    Thanks so much for visiting,

  4. Hi Denise

    What a wonderful post!
    I love the Xtranormal presentation and the way you have shown us the value of using twitter to reach a wider audience.
    Thank’s for drawing my attention to the word “curated” too. That’s a good one to include in the conversation.


  5. Penny,
    Thanks so much for visiting and joining in this discussion here. Yes, I think that curating is so important. We can easily be lost in the deluge, as Karla described it above.


  6. Dear Denise,
    What an excellent post! While my students are new to blogging; I am already seeing how engaged and delighted they are to be using digital mediums – which they are already using outside of school. Some have taken off soaring, while a few still struggle. The beauty is that ALL of my students still WANT to blog. How neat is that? They love comments and are “joining the conversation” as you so aptly put it.

  7. Joanne,
    Thanks for visiting. I think it is interesting that many students really do struggle with digital media, even though we tend to think they should all be good at it. We seem to have a false notion that because they are “digital natives” they don’t need to be taught the complicated process of blogging, using Google Docs, Glogster, etc., etc. Then to learn to use these tools well and curate all our accounts and files is a whole additional issue. Much to learn and much to teach in the 21st century.

    I just added your shining stars to my Cool Classes blogroll. Hopefully before our year is done some of my big kids can go visit your students’ sweet blogs and leave comments.

    Were you near any of the tornadoes in your area?


  8. Denise,
    Your students’ efforts should be applauded and what better way to applaud then blog about them! It’s funny but I was just thinking about the last post that I wrote because I didn’t think it was ‘creative’ enough. But does that matter – no – the idea that I wanted to share was conveyed. You have taken some of the pressure off us all! Thank you! (Now, I guess we should take some of that off our students too!)
    Your other point about the playing field being leveled is so true. No judgments or assumptions are being made about the writer, commenter or reader. The ideas then become the sole focus of the conversation.
    (Love the use of Xtranormal too!). Great job to you and your students!

  9. Nancy, here we are again. It is so wonderful of you to stop in so often and join me in conversing about this sweet profession we are in!

    What a delight to read your thoughts on my blog post. It is so much about connecting and contributing, isn’t it? Not all about creativity. Good point about taking the pressure off our students too.

    Today my seventh grade students commented on a class of third graders’ blogs. It was so delightful to see their responses to them. They were so engaged and busy the whole period. I finally had to get out my camera. Here is the

    Take care and thanks again,

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