Then here are the comments I left (first very brief comment, and then the follow-up comment when Bud asked me to say more):
I wonder how this conversation intersects with the idea of “productive eavesdropping” here and here.Follow-up comment:
Well, I’m not exactly sure where this #engchat conversation is heading, but my overall sense of it is that some folks may be concerned that there’s a whole lot of talking around the various chats on Twitter (and outside the chats), but that perhaps it’s not all that useful because the talk isn’t very purposeful and doesn’t translate into change. That made me think of your earlier musings around “productive eavesdropping” and perhaps how that has a role to play in this conversation.Your thoughts?
I think we need to be careful about insisting on everything having a clear purpose. I’m in favor of purposefulness as much as the next guy, and I agree that sometimes we engage in non-productive behavior (whether in meetings at school or online). But I also think we can learn a lot in situations that don’t have a well-defined purpose; that learning (especially online) can occur serendipitously and often without a fixed, defined plan going in.
It’s awfully hard to tease out what effects my online experiences have had on my own practice, so let me use my wife as an example (with her permission). She got on Twitter about two years ago, initially very much as a lurker but more recently as more of a participant. Twitter, in turn, hooked her up to conversations on blogs and she’s now a very active user of Google Reader and just started her own professional blog. It has definitely impacted her practice and it’s fascinating to watch as she now is helping bring other staff members in her building into these spaces. The conversations, at least among many in her building, have definitely changed, and they’ve changed at least somewhat due to my wife’s “unpurposeful” (at least initially) use of Twitter. As an even more concrete example, her very experienced Building Resource Teacher decided to attend ISTE this year for the first time (she did not attend last year . . . when it was in Denver), at least partially as the result of these conversations.
I guess I think we need to be careful of dismissing the usefulness of “idle” chatter on Twitter and in other spaces. I think for many of us, we may not always be using it purposefully, yet the accumulated effect of the conversations ends up changing our practices (for the better), sometimes in small ways and sometimes in larger ones. I think that simply being involved in conversations, sometimes as active participants and sometimes as more passive observers, is an important part of the ongoing learning process, even when it doesn’t have a clearly defined purpose. That’s not to say that conversations with purpose are bad; they’re not. But it is to say that we need to be very careful about dismissing the usefulness of things that may not appear to have a purpose to us (in the learning place we’re currently occupying), but may very much have a useful purpose for someone else.