Technology Lover with Acute Social Media Phobia

I am a librarian at Hunterdon Central Regional High School, the school Will Richardson wrote about in his blog post “Willing to be Disturbed.”   He visited our school over the summer (the same school where he taught English) and heard our Superintendent, Dr. Lisa Brady, read Margaret J. Wheatley’s piece of the same title to the folks in our one-to-one pilot group (of which I am a part).   She also sent a copy to every staff member and quoted from it during our opening day “ceremonies.”  I am very lucky to have educational leaders who support being disturbed.  You see, we are currently in the midst of sweeping and dramatic changes.  We are asking folks to allow themselves, their teaching, and their philosophies to be disturbed.  If anyone needs proof that I’ve been disturbed, they need look no further than this blog.

Let me explain…if I were to diagnose myself, I’d be a technology lover with acute social media phobia or TLw/ASMP.  I really do love technology – love learning it, using it, playing Bookworm on it.  After my initial fear of destroying everything on the computer was allayed, I became pretty experimental.  Granted, it was mostly with programs (I don’t like to go behind the screen if you know what I mean), but I would never consider myself a technophobe…until it came to social media.  Oh, I now have a Twitter account which I initially used to be a lurker; I’ve just recently begun dipping my toe in the Tweetsea.   However, working with the pilot group this summer (amazing, open-minded folks that they are), collaborating with people from the Science Leadership Academy (SLA), and listening to and/or tweeting with people like Will Richardson, Chris Lehmann (founding principal of SLA), Damian Bariexca, and Buffy J. Hamilton (just to name a few) have changed me profoundly.

Before you say, “well, you grew up with technology…of course, you are comfortable with it,” just know that I did not buy my first computer until I was in graduate school and you have no idea how frightening it is for me to be writing this, much less thinking about posting it on Twitter.  My husband, Brien Gorham, has had a blog for quite some time, Virgil’s All Night Diner.  He was out there commenting and creating while I just looked from the side and said “no way” until now…

Why do something I find so terrifying?

For my students…how can I expect them to blog if I don’t have one?  How can I engender a collaborative spirit in my students if I only watch from the sidelines and lurk on Twitter?  How can I help them become generous generators and sharers of knowledge if I don’t do it myself?  How can they begin to create their own Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) if I don’t start to do so myself?

For myself…how else can I learn from so many wonderful people without at least attempting to join in?  How can I establish a PLN if I just lurk around like some stalker of knowledge?  How can I better myself if I don’t embrace the changes I see around me?

For my colleagues…how can I be an advocate for classroom use without being there myself?  Maybe they’ll be brave enough to dive in if I’m there to swim with them.

So, my friends, here I am…feeling “digitally naked” but so very excited.  Yes, I will still make my husband read this before I post it (geez, it’s only my second post after all), but I will post it.  And I will put it on Twitter and maybe even Facebook.  Heart beating frantically?  Absolutely, but the time has come.

I would love to know…when did your time come?  Please consider commenting and/or sharing your story.  What made you become a blogger/social networker, and how did you enter into the “conversation?”  Was it or is it still difficult to put yourself out there?  What advice can you give to new folks, like myself?  I can’t wait to hear your stories, and I’d love to share them with my students and colleagues.  I hope to hear from you soon!

17 thoughts on “Technology Lover with Acute Social Media Phobia

  1. For me, the biggest roadblock at the outset was myself. It took me a little while to get over the feeling of “but who cares what I have to say?” and just dive in there and get my thoughts down in writing.

    Commenting on the blogs of others (and leaving a link back to my blog) helped me immensely – people who read my comments on more established blogs clicked through to my blog and began commenting there. Developing a network via Twitter was also very helpful, although I admit it was a bit lucky that I happened to discover Twitter around the same time as much of the rest of the educational blogging universe in that summer of 2007.

    I set myself a goal of trying to average 3-4 posts a month (didn’t happen this August, but trying to get back on track for Sept) – everyone feels differently about quantity of output, so go with what you’re comfortable with (even if it’s just when inspiration strikes).

    Just added you to my RSS reader – looking forward to furthering the conversation with you!

    • Thank you for being my first commenter and for the advice about leaving a link back and # of posts. It is folks like you that help novices like me join in!

  2. Heather, I can’t wait to share this with my students! Like you, I am also feeling really uncomfortable, but the biggest reason I have started my own blog and started working on our learning project is your willingness to go through this with me! You are an amazing role model for me and for my kids who are just as scared about putting themselves out there. The best part is, we’re all contributing to this global conversation about learning, and I’m so excited for the possibilities!

    Damian, I like that advice about leaving comments with links to your blog. I’m going to pass that along.

    Best of luck, fellow bloggers!

  3. I admire your courage towards taking the leap into Social Media. You are correct that as teachers and administrators of today’s digital natives, how can we lead the way through 21st century technologies without understanding them first-hand. That is the spirit in which I first embarked upon my Social Media journey. My first Tweet was less than 5 months ago, but it has been quite a learning experience. I needed to immerse myself in the world that students live in today to better understand their needs and make more informed policy decisions regarding Web 2.0 in our district. The time and effort has paid off, and I feel very connected to my PLN of educational experts from all around the world, as well as having the first-hand experience of what Social Media is all about. I encourage you to continue your quest, and wish you all the best in learning and leading.

    • Hi, David! So glad to hear a success story! It makes me feel better. I’m very lucky to already have such supportive people to help me along. Thank you for sharing your story!

  4. Terrific post! I’m with you–I love technology but was relatively slow to warm to social media. Once I realized that it was going to be necessary to keep up in our field, I started using it, but rather slowly. The social bookmarking was an easy sell and I did blogging/wikis with Urban Studies classes for their Chicago History Fair projects for 2 years & have my own (admittedly not too exciting) blog for my HS library that no one reads :).

    I never really got into twitter until this past summer when I had more time to play with it. At first I found it confusing with the hashtags & whatnot (which I still don’t really use yet). Once I somewhat got the hang of it, I discovered how much I like it–that said, I only follow a few people & only a few follow me. But it has led me to informative and interesting things (including your new blog) and while I know I’ll never be on the bleeding edge with web 2.0, I feel confident enough as a user that I know I can use it to enhance my professional development and my work with students & teachers in my school.

    • Hi, Kris! It’s funny, but Twitter was the thing that brought me in this summer. I, too, do not have a very big network at this point, but I have learned so much. When I found out that I could follow some of my library heroes, I was thrilled though it still took me a while to participate. I still have yet to do social bookmarking only because I’ve focused on other things first. It’s nice to know that there are others like me out there!

  5. Oh, by the way – I’m not familiar with Buffy Hamilton’s work, but to be mentioned in the same paragraph as Will Richardson and Chris Lehmann? HUGE honor; thanks!

  6. I have to admit: I’m a lurker. I’ve been a lurker for a very very long time. I’ve wanted to blog; I’ve even created several blogs. But I usually don’t get beyond more than two or three posts. I’m just too busy soaking in everyone else’s thoughts!

    So, one of my goals for this semester is to join you, and many of the others at our school, at moving out of the “lurker” realm, and trying to become a more active participator.

    By the way, I absolutely LOVE that this site allows people to leave audio comments. I have to admit that I haven’t seen that on any blogs before.

    Thanks for putting yourself out there with this blog!

    • I admit! I love being a lurker! I adore the phrase you used, “just too busy soaking in everyone else’s thoughts” because that is where I am happiest. I love learning stuff, and now there is so much that I sometimes feel overwhelmed by it. I wonder how I can have time to do both. Plus I realize that in order to truly learn, I need to get out there. We’ll see…I’m so glad you’ll be joining in!

      As far as the audio comments, I think they are only allowed after you become an Edublogs supporter. Then you can track stats and do all sorts of other stuff. I think it was 39.95 to do so for the year. You can also make it snow on your page, but I didn’t think it was seasonally appropriate. It just gives more freedom and more stuff to play with to suck up your time, too :).

      Please send me a link to your blog when you get it going. I’d love to read it!

  7. I started my first blog not quite two years ago. It started out slow and I’ve worked up to posting a couple of times a week. Any more than that is just too much!

    I just started on twitter last week, yep, just last week. I thought about using it for my college students but I’m teaching 5 different classes so I haven’t figured out yet how that would work. I do think I need a separate twitter account for students than the one I use professionally.

    Then there’s my personal blog that went great at first, posting 5/7 days a week. Now I’m lucky to get in two days!

    The thing to remember about visiting and commenting on other blogs is that it takes time. Don’t just go commenting and leaving your blog ULR willy-nilly and then never return. Find blogs that you’re really interested in and where the majority of postings fit in your PLN.

    Then set up google reader and add a few blogs to that so you get updated posts as they’re written. Then you can read the posts and go comment on the blogs if you like. This is how you make connections and that’s what social networking is all about, connections.

    Over time, as you read more blogs regularly and post comments regularly, your readership will also grow. And those connections can be quite rewarding. I’ve met quite a few really great online colleagues through blogging, and now hopefully, through twitter (1virtualrpof).

    Happy blogging! I’m adding you to my google reader RIGHT NOW and looking forward to more posts!!

    • Hi, Leslie! Thank you so much for sharing your story and for the fantastic tips. You should seriously post this on your blog as well. It has such great advice for a beginning blogger! I’ll be following you and adding you to my reader as well. Take care!

  8. Like you, and like many others who’ve commented, I’m just starting with using social networking as a learning tool. I began reading educational blogs a few years ago, visiting blogs to check for updates every few days or weeks. My next big step, last year, was using Google Reader to aggregate all the ed blogs I read.

    But only this summer, for the first time, have I started really participating in social/educational media, by beginning to tweet, use Facebook status updates, and start writing my own blog.

    And I’ve started incorporating a few of these in the classroom (most I cannot, since they are blocked by our school district’s internet filter, with an unsympathetic ear turned toward all unblocking requests I have made. My students use a wiki to compile digital portfolios of their projects in engineering. And I have begun a Facebook fan page (inaccessible at school) for folks to stay updated on our engineering program.

    But I’m still a beginner, and look forward to learning new strategies for using social media in school!

    • Hi, Nick! Thank you for sharing! I would love to see the digital portfolios. A teacher and I are considering digital portfolios for students, but we aren’t sure which tool to use. Any information you can provide would be greatly appreciated! Take care!

  9. Pingback: Confessions of a Newbie Blogger: Audience | Flying off the Shelf

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