Let’s talk about connectivity for a moment: what it is, what it isn’t, and how not having a Twitter account doesn’t make you a bad person.
The first instance of “unconnected educator” that I can find is from Tom Whitby’s blog in 2013, which describes the unconnected educator thusly:
“The unconnected educator is more in line with the 20th century model of teacher. Access to the Internet is limited for whatever reason. Relevance in the 21st century is not a concern. Whatever they need to know, someone will tell them. If they email anyone, they will follow it up with a phone call to make sure it was received.”
This sounds like the educator doesn’t connect on social media but uses word-of-mouth, email, and phone conversations to connect, yet is still labeled as “unconnected.”
I recognize that I am not the first to take a semantic issue. Sherri Spelic opined,
“As I read more and more posts concerning how to get more educators connected, the best way to initiate the uninitiated and essentially how to get more folks to jump on said bandwagon, I’m getting a little frustrated. I think it’s the labeling we are using to frame the dialogue: connected vs. unconnected or semi-connected, initiated vs. uninitiated. After reading these terms I have essentially asked myself: What’s the price of admission? At what level of output do I get to call myself “connected”? How many tweets until I become “a really useful educator”? It seems to me that the purpose embedded in so many labels serves to determine exactly this. If I make enough of my learning public through particular online forums (of which there are many, many), then I get to officially board the bandwagon and become its latest new ambassador.”
Like Sherri, I agree that “connected” versus “unconnected” carries negative connotations and that being connected requires a certain output or number of followers.
But these are not my only issues. The assumptions made about “unconnected” educators are damning. These educators, Whitby states, do not care about relevance or growth. If you use social media, you are therefore relevant and are growing. You might be wondering, “Geez, Samantha, that blog post was, like, two years ago. Let it go maybe?”
I counter with these tweets from today:
In two years, this notion is still alive and well: if an educator does not use social media, he or she is digitally illiterate and irrelevant.
I wholeheartedly disagree, and here’s my analogy:
Let’s say I want to be connected to the Internet. How many ways can I connect to the Internet? My desktop at work is hard-wired into a network, but it also has wireless capabilities. My tablet connects automatically to the WiFi at work… and the nearest Starbucks. If our Internet is down at work (and Starbucks), I can use my phone’s 4G connection. If I choose to go home, my devices (Chomebook, work tablet, phone, TV, BluRay player, Chromecast, Wii, Xbox 360, broken iPad) connect wirelessly. If I want to connect to the Internet, I can do so in a lot of ways.
If someone were to then tell me that I could only connect to the Internet through my phone, and I wasn’t really connected if I didn’t use my phone, I would smile at that person and bless his heart. If that person then went on to tell me that because I didn’t use my phone to connect to the Internet, I was irrelevant and stagnant, I would probably stop talking to that person because my blood pressure doesn’t need people like that around.
Educators connected way before social media, and they will continue to connect using other venues in the future. I love networking at conferences, and I am still connected to educators that I met years ago at real-life events, no Twitter required. Lunch breaks and planning periods are some of the best times for colleagues to connect face-to-face and solve current, pressing issues. Social media is certainly not a requirement for effective teaching or collaboration.
Let’s stop using the term “unconnected educators” when we really mean “teachers who choose to connect in ways different than what I chose,” and let’s stop assigning terms to them such as “uninitiated”, “illiterate”, “irrelevant”, and “incompetent.”
For the second part of this two part rant, I’m going to describe some “unconnected educators” and then some actual unconnected educators so that we can clearly identify edu-hermits and be kinder to our colleagues who are, in fact, trying their hardest and doing their best.