What we do in the shadows

I have a nickname in my family. It was given to me by my niece who, at the time, was 3 years old. My nickname is “Lurker.” The reason behind the nickname is simple. One summer day, my niece got back from Trader Joes, turned to her grandmother and said, “I’m going to go and find Simon. He’s usually lurking around here somewhere.” Lucky me, the nickname stuck. Now I’m not sure if she had my Twitter handle, or if she looked up my Reddit ID and realized I have made a grand total of zero posts since joining. She had me pegged though, my name is Simon Dobson and I am a lurker.

My excuse has always been one of caution, “I’ll just wait until I understand how to use this newfangled doohickey and then I, oh yes I will, be unstoppable in my posts. I shall become a posting machine churning out enthralling comments that shall make the masses laugh and weep in equal measure.” This reality is yet to materialize, perhaps if I stepped out of the shadows and actually became a contributor, or even a creator, I would stand a chance.

After reading, What does it mean to disconnect? (Utecht) I realized I currently spend all of my time online consuming media. I’ve always been proud to part of the 99% up until this moment. Now I am left questioning who I am online. If only 1% of people who view content on the internet are actually creating it then it stands to reason that we are incredibly limited in our digital consumption. I really appreciate what Utecht says about the importance of “Creating creators” in our students. It’s a principle I strongly believe in and a keystone of my personal pedagogy. This article, however, has made me think about how I need to lead my students by example. They all have the confidence to share their creations with me, their peers, and their families so why don’t I? I am quickly coming to the realization that it’s time to step out of the shadows and become part of the 1%.

The 80/20 rule or Pareto Principle mentioned by Utecht is an interesting concept. I had the chance to witness this first-hand in my computer programming class. The students were working with Microbits and Sam Labs tools. They began by following the directions given to them each week to learn the basics of coding. Quickly though there was a splinter group formed of roughly 20% of the students. They started to “Geek out” over what we were learning. They began to ask if they could spend more time working on their own creations and trying to figure out as a team how to create things such as a coffee machine. As the Living with New Media (John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation) article suggested these interactions were “highly social.” They did research online, asked teachers for help, and worked with one another to share their knowledge quickly becoming experts amongst their peers. These young creators could not wait to share their learning with others. I was reminded of Sugata Mitra’s TED talk on children teaching themselves.

Our students have the motivation to work with and teach one another skills they learn both digitally and offline. They are proud to demonstrate their learning and their creations with each other in ways that they can take charge of. It is time for me to do the same. I am looking forward to emerging from the shadows and sharing my creations with the COETAIL community and others. My first step came a few weeks ago with my first blog post shared on Twitter. This is my second step and my pledge, I promise to stop just lurking and to become a contributor and creator. I might need some help along the way but it seems as though I have already have some folks I can look to for guidance.

3 Replies to “What we do in the shadows”

  1. Admitting that you are a lurker is the first step (and most important) to moving toward becoming a creator and connector. Congratulations for reflecting on how and why you need to change to become part of the 1%
    The COETAIL Community has got your back and are here to help and support you in this shift.

  2. Hey Simon!
    That highly social component of ‘geeking out’ is super fun to watch. It happens when students are gaming as well — particularly our middle schoolers. While I see the social value, I just wish I saw more of it in an academic context, as you have been lucky to experience. Good luck on your journey! I’m here with you!

  3. Hey Simon,
    Thanks for sharing the SAM Labs, looks like a great tool I would love to try out. Also love the “math class needs a makeover” so so true, as we continually push for all these amazing learning opportunities and deep learning to take place across all classes- especially those we push into for support.

    As for honoring home languages, I completely agree it is great to do and celebrate them- while at the same time we strongly encourage only English spoken within the classroom and even during lunch/recess with the idea behind- it’s the “inclusive” language, that when students are only speaking something else, it excludes all those who don’t speak it, especially in small group work. The only time where we actually say to use it, is if it’s around helping another student understand something better in class, like a concept or directions and translating it into their L1 is helpful for that student. I think finding that balance could look different for schools or even divisions just for the main thing to be constantly ensuring no student is being made to feel singled out or isolated.
    Thanks Simon

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