Social Media — A Love Hate Relationship

 Teacher Development  Comments Off on Social Media — A Love Hate Relationship
Mar 092013
 

Keri majakasWhen I joined the ELT community online some years ago, I was extremely happy as I didn’t have a real staffroom experience. I was mostly on my won working as a freelance teacher. The community, particularly the Webheads, and then, the developing Twitter community have given me a lot. I learned heaps about educational technology, for instance.

Then, I removed myself a bit from it all…

One reason was having overdone it. For some time, all my work was online. I was also very active in the community, designed and moderated online courses, some alone some with online colleagues, and I used  Twitter excessively.

Another reason, as mentioned previously, was my being busy with MA coursework and reading,, working full-time, and having neglected my personal life.

But yet another reason was the that I started to feel like the community was “suffocating” me a bit. I don’t believe this has much to do with the people I interacted with; they are all lovely, generous, kind souls. I rather think that it was becoming a bit like how a young person might feel about their family, who they love but who they also feel they need to escape from for some time to see the world, to meet people outside the familiar circles, to have different experiences not filtered through the family culture, etc. I needed to break out of it all for a bit. Socialising is a good thing including in one’s professional life but it was becoming too much. I have an introverted side, too, and need to be alone with myself occasionally. More importantly, it seemed that suddenly discord started to break out in the community here and there over what someone had said or hadn’t said on their blog or elsewhere… and I was certainly not interested in any of that.

At the same time, I have to admit, I was also a bit tired of everything and everybody being so awesome, incredible, brilliant, marvelous all the time.  And then there were the “thanks for followings”, “thanks for retweetings”, “thanks for ffs”…. Not that any of this is bad. To the contrary, it shows what generous, kind souls educators and others online are.

Also, the flood of information on Twitter and elsewhere is fantastic (there you go, another of those superlatives), and when I started with Twitter and blogging, I hadn’t started with my MA yet, so I had the time and the will, interest, and energy to follow up conversations and links to resources and articles. Later, I didn’t. Also, I didn’t have much need for random information streaming into my view from Twitter. I had more than enough to read for my MA courses and to interact in the course fora.

Over the past two years, I reduced my online activities drastically to the essential bit. It was lovely to be friends on Facebook with many of my online colleagues, but even here, I had my phases of inactivity.

So what?

I think I’m mainly writing this for myself but I also know that this kind of experience with social media and online communities is very typical. It makes me smile when new members join the community and dive into social media enthusiastically and can’t stop praising all the benefits. It’s true; it’s a blessing. But there are pitfalls, which are not always mentioned in teacher training courses on social media. One lesson I have learned is: It’s important to occasionally allow myself to remove myself from the community, take “creative” breaks and look elsewhere for inspiration and ideas, and then, go back to the community with perhaps a different outlook on and approach to things.

Is Blogging in ELT out?

 Teacher Development  Comments Off on Is Blogging in ELT out?
Mar 082013
 

A well-known teacher trainer in our field has recently commented that blogging in ELT might not be in anymore, that fewer teachers continue blogging.

I myself had had a rather long break from many of my online activities but particularly from blogging and Twitter. Doing an MA while working full-time and working on other non-teaching projects, I simply had no time left to keep up with everything in the (excessive) manner I had done before.

Twitter

I won’t go into details here why I almost entirely stopped using Twitter. There is a lot to be said about how Twitter can be used for a teacher’s own development and for language learning. Here, it shall suffice to say that I used Twitter extensively for two years or so and did find it enriching then. Now, it’s simply not a tool that meets my current needs. I believe that in different phases of our professional lives, we need different tools but that the choice of tools is also very much a personal choice. I might write more on this in a separate post.

Blogging

I started blogging in 2008. It was a personal blog but set up for the purpose of trying blogging for the first time to see how it worked and whether it was something that I wanted to use with students. After this initial experience, I’ve created several blogs, some personal but most for professional purposes.

My first professional blog was Teaching in Second Life. I started it to reflect on and share my experiences learning to teach in the 3D virtual world of Second Life. As it is a niche topic (still) in ELT, it has never drawn the masses and many comments  but, over the years, I’ve received many emails from teachers who have used the information for their MA or PhD dissertations. I rarely update it  because, 3D worlds are  not my focus at the moment. There is, however, still a lot going on in 3D worlds in terms of teaching and teacher training. So, occasionally, I will hopefully find the time to add new posts.

Another reason why I completely stopped blogging in the past one or two years is that I only had the Teaching in Second Life blog to write about my work and professional development. I had always wanted to create a “hub” (including a blog) for all my online activities, materials, and websites but simply didn’t have the time to set this up. Now, after finishing my MA, I’ve created this hub.

Is blogging out?

I don’t think that it is? I believe that among the many tools and activities that have emerged on the Internet, blogging is here to stay as one of the “staple” tools. However, just like with Twitter and many other tools, when they are new, many people want to try them out. Then, some stay with a tool and some move on.

There are also different types of bloggers. Some teachers set out to blog a certain number of times a week.They also try to keep up with reading other blogs and commenting on them regularly, as this is supposedly what blogging is mostly about.  However, for many, including me, as much as this might be desirable, it’s not sustainable. I guess it also depends on one’s purpose for blogging. In my case, I sometimes like to reflect publicly or share information or discuss ideas, but I don’t depend on “traffic”, though I’m always happy, of course, when visitors come.

Blogging and other types of writing

My Teaching in Second Life blog helped me a lot when I wrote my first published article Starting a Second Life. The article was basically a summary of my blog, and the posts, which I wrote immediately after my lessons in SL, helped me “remember” essential information. The article basically wrote itself.

However, with all the blog posts and micro-blogging I was doing (including following links on Twitter), I also sometimes thought that this kept me from writing articles or book chapters, simply because I didn’t have time for it all; and, at least in my case, I need to have long stretches of focused time to write longer academic pieces.

I guess, in my case at least, it’s a balancing act to, on the one hand, keep up with developments in the world and engage with the community and, on the other hand, to take a break and isolate myself a bit in order to reflect silently and write in different modes.

Hello again (online) world!

So, after a long break from most (not all) my online activities, I’m now planning to come back to it slowly, in a more measured pace, and with occasional breaks to retreat into my own world.