What if the cake is a lie? to use the joke in Portal. I looked at a Twitter analytic and put in various names that appear on the ‘top’ educator lists. Let me qualify that by saying, the ones who actually have a Twitter account. Many don’t, despite their commentary on the power of social media and connectedness, a platform they use to criticise and lament the state of education. It is clear from this little query that almost all of those who Tweet have less than 5% return conversations with the mortals.
As was pointed out to me, the good thing about being a Thought Leader is that you don’t need to exhibit much activity to qualify – @iusher (UK). So why do we pay these people any attention. Few actually teach, even less help anyone outside their immediate job requirement or without fee. What makes them rank so highly in pop-culture?
I think that its another form of discipline in the Victorian idea of using technology to discipline the masses. It wasn’t cheap mass printing that changed society, so much as the improvement in communications – namely being able to move print from factories to people. Much of what was in print was aimed directly at the mass audience, whom it considered worthy of entertainment, but didn’t for a moment think it was intellectual. It was a great way to inform people what to think, but didn’t little for the common man to think for himself.
If the cake is a lie – and I think it is, then who decided any set was the top-20 anything. The web was supposed to bring greater freedom of information, and allow more people to participate in both consuming and creating it. Instead, we are given leaders who enjoy tremendous influence – based on their history, rather than their present.
For example, do schools kill creativity? I don’t think so, but that message has echoed though education and has been used as to discipline educators. Every week, teachers new to using social media and technology are told to follow people. Another form of disciplining them. In Australia, a whopping 11% of the population uses Twitter, so I can only imagine what percentage of teachers use towards ‘building a PLN’, which is in itself another form of the D word. So let’s assume you follow 1000 educators, what percentage of them do you actually do real-work with – outside of your immediate job? I’d say for most people it would be less than 10. Those ten are the leaders in your set – and that set knows more about both the problems and solutions than any A-lister – who incidentally won’t reply to anything you offer, let alone join your set. This 10 is important to me, these 10 people can achieve more by focusing on what they imagine to be useful, rather than live in a state of low self-efficacy. Imagine if you took 5 people in your set, and then started doing something together – something that hasn’t been done.
Who gives a stuff if this isn’t the democratic norm? If what those 5 do is good enough to attract kids minds to it, then they are more powerful than any no-reply Twitter genius. Sure, get a PLN of a 1000 people, or rather feed yourself the opinion of a 1000 people. But at the end of the day, a group of 5 is going to be the core-dna of activism. It worries me greatly that time is wasted reading the opinions of people who will do nothing for your local community without a fee (even if they are do-ers) – when the same time could be spent working on doing something wonderful.
5 people organising a gathering is just what the meme wants. 5 people organising something that kids can’t get at school today – and solving it – that is what the kids need as far as I can tell.
The cake is indeed a lie, as a marketing channel to pursade, Twitter is utterly brilliant – but as a place to follow leaders – people who will lead you somewhere other than the conference chair, TED videos or their books – few and far between.