02 December, 2010

"Sharing: The Moral Imperative" and Hug Your Lurkers

Sharing: The Moral Imperative

I have just watched this video by Dean Shareski. It is a keynote to the K-12Online Preconference and seems (somewhat) relevant to a couple of the points I've been making in my blog and various other blogs and groups after the end of PLENK2010.

Dean asks that teachers consider that their profession is one of sharing. That we share knowledge with our students. He proposes that the web has knocked down many of the walls teachers have felt constrained by when it comes to giving and receiving resources. In the past, geographical distances and the costs associated with reproducing and delivering materials meant that sharing was expensive and difficult. Now, with access to high speed internet, suites of tools are available to upload, download, rate, translate, comment on, edit and tweak a variety of commonly recognised and easily reproducible file-types. So there are few reasons why educators would not be able to share their resources.

Dean argues that there is actually a moral imperative to share the resources we create. Why should a fantastic resource that you have made be kept for the benefit of the students within your classroom walls? It behoves all of us to share the resources we have created. If it positively impacts on one student, regardless of their location, culture, language or age, then that resource has enriched the planet as a whole. The wider your audience, then the bigger the impact that your resource will have on human knowledge.

The link between this and my point about lurkers made perfect sense when I thought of it but now I find I'm struggling to bridge the gap. Oh well, ploughing on regardless...

One of the recurrent discussions I've been sticking my nosey beak into, concerns lurkers in PLN's. I get the sense generally that lurkers are seen as a bad thing. I dispute this as I see lurkers as people who, for whatever reason, are unable to contribute to the current learning being undertaken by the PLN.

My argument is, that regardless of the reasons, the lurkers are still learning. Their understanding of the world is improving. At some point in the future, they themselves will have the opportunity to share  (ahh.. there's the link) their knowledge and, so long as their initial experience of the learning was positive, then they are likely to share that knowledge in a positive way.

If, however, their experience of the PLN left them unhappy because their lack of activity resulted in other members of the PLN complaining, then they are not likely to share that knowledge as it will bring negative emotions to mind.

My message is simple. Anybody that uses some information learned as part of their involvement with a learning network, regardless of the amount of involvement they had with that network, is increasing the general level of knowing held by the human race.
And because of this gradual increase in human understanding, we should never discourage individuals by disparaging their level of involvement.

On the contrary, we should actively work to encourage participation, not by just saying "Go on, have a go!" but working to improve the self-efficacy of an individual in regards to their confidence about posting comments or resources online. Maybe we do this by inviting specific individuals that we know outside the PLN to contribute and by explicitly welcoming them to the group. Sounds a bit of group-hug kind of thing, but we have to work to improve efficacy before they contribute. Otherwise, individuals with low efficacy will not contribute and more importantly will not share their knowledge further down the track.

One of the summer camps I worked in the USA was for children with behavioural or educational disorders (Summit Camp near Honesdale in PA). We were routinely given a short in-service before the kids arrived. The aim of the camp was to improve the self-efficacy of the kids as, outside of camp, they were at the bottom end of their peer group on any number of different scales. Our job was to ensure that every interaction was to be as positive as possible, so that the kids felt encouraged to participate in activities.

It's time to build a castle
The counsellors in the camp had a video that demonstrated a great metaphor using poker chips as a tangible substitute for the amount of efficacy held in a particular situation. Those kids who had high efficacy (a large number of chips) would be more inclined to buy into an activity because they could afford to lose some chips and so could cope with failure more easily. However, those with low efficacy, or a only a couple of chips, would be inclined to horde, and not participate. Conversely, they bet big, blow their entire stack in a last ditch effort to get back in the game, and having lost it all, throw a major tantrum.
As counsellors, we had to dispense as much positivity as possible, so as to increase the kids' efficacy or stack of poker chips. I've remembered this 5 minute seminar for 13 years and still have my original blue poker chip! If anybody knows of a link to the original video and could post it here that would be wonderful.

Much thanks to Troy Adams at Camp Summit who posted me the link to the video. He says they still watch it every summer!

This simple interaction is the reason why social networking sites have pokes and hugs and welcomes. They serve to increase the efficacy of individuals joining the network and encourage them to believe that the community or network is going to receive their input favourably.

New members of your network need to be hugged or if you aren't as in-touch with your nuturing-self have their metaphorical hand warmly shaken. If this happens on a regular basis (increasing an individuals store of poker-chips) they are more likely to invest in the effort of contributing to a discussion and more likely to share the resources they have already created or will create in the future.

We all have the opportunity to teach.
We should all feel the imperative to share.
We should also acknowledge that that imperative may be overwhelmed by low self-efficacy in the face of unfamiliarity with the amazing technologies that we are faced with.

Don't encourage members of your PLN to share. Just encourage them to feel welcome. They will share when they feel welcomed enough.

group hug

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