After months of harassment by my fellow teachers (@gochemonline @clonghb) I finally joined Twitter last summer. It has been a revelation. This tweet sums up how many teachers who use Twitter regularly feel about it.
So Twitter is eating at lunch in the teacher’s lounge. That’s awesome. It’s full of energy, it can get a little chippy at times, but sometimes it’s a little loud and sometimes there’s someone talking that you don’t really want to hear.
You need somewhere that feels more like home: something special that you go TO. Twitter pushes, but your home and your closest friends PULL you in- like a big hug.
So what you need is a home. What you need is a place of like-minded teachers that share your interests. You need a Ning (or a similar community). Here’s mine: The English Companion
You know those staff development days where you get an extra long lunch. Or those short days of finals or modified mornings where you have an hour or more to eat with your best teaching friends off campus. That’s what a specialized online community home is like for me. It’s like the times I go find a Taco Truck with my friend Sean Z. (@MrZiebarth)
Or I have breakfast with Chris Long, Annalise Attreed, and Justin Tripp.
The conversations are longer. They delve deeper. Far too often Twitter is nothing more than a bumper sticker. Now bumper stickers can be funny or insightful like this one:
But sometimes I want more. I want a conversation. Let me give you a specific example of the power of a Ning.
I posted a blog post about the difficulty of getting students to actually read their novels. You know the timeless class variety. Well I had one person like my post and a few people comment.
That’s cool, but look at what happened when I posted it on my Ning Page
And look at how many comments there were…
And these were not just quick “I like this comments” They were great comments like (I took only snippets from their full comments):
RG: “I keep reading where the likes of Ian McEwan and Philip Roth laugh about the “little world” of who reads them anymore. I wonder if one reason I’m hung up on books like Cuckoo’s Nest andTKM is that they seem to represent a time when the American novel was at its apex as a cultural indicator. Though great literary novelists still exist, indeed proliferate, aren’t they all marginalized by a book world driven by genre products? And so the student avidly consuming YA fiction believes with all her heart I constitute an irrelevancy as I stand there shrilling about the canon and books that matter. As perhaps I am.”
MU: “Literacy became central to Biblically-based cultures, and literacy lay at the center of schooling. One needed to understand the Bible in order to save one’s soul. Scotland did not institute universal and publicly funded education so that kids could develop a “lifelong love of reading.” They did it because reading lay near the center of what mattered in life. They did it because everyone needed to read the Bible for himself. Reading was not an end in itself, but a means to the secrets of life.
Now, there are no books that one must have read to live a good life–we decreed as much when we deconstructed the canon. We’ve also stripped literary allusions from our discourse, largely in homage to an egalitarian ethos that wanted to exclude no one and wanted to avoid any elitist pretensions.
So we now live in a culture in which books do not matter. When was the last time you heard a book–other than some how to peddling the latest teaching fad–mentioned among teachers, or in assemblies to kids, or in speeches by administrators, or at a school board meeting? One who has read nothing of our literary heritage will not often get a feeling of having missed anything.
We hear a lot of chatter in the profession about “engagement” and “love of reading” and various “skills”–but almost no serious discussion of particular books as though they matter. Books no longer lay at the center of our culture. They no longer lay at the center of our discourse about the things that matter. That status has shifted to evolutionary biology or computer science or marketing.”
Heck I could just populate my blog with various comments from the English Companion Ning and it would generate a ton of discussion.
There are other Nings out there like the Educator’s PLN
And there are even Google+ communities that are getting larger and better established.
In the comments below I would LOVE to see people link to Nings or online communities that provide a sense of home, deep friendship, and quality discussion.