Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Web 2.0 is an Education Conference

In the real world, what is the best way to network and exchange ideas? Where do you meet the most contacts and exchange the most ideas? Probably a conference right? You have all the people coming to one place. Then they break off into classes or panel discussions around a more specific idea or topic. People jump around, they go to different places they meet new people they catch up with old friends. People talk nonsense and people talk industry with individuals and within smaller groups. People introduce people to other people. You make contacts, you build networks, you build your Personal Learning Network, you find people that can help in specific areas. People go out and party. There is a lot of noise at a conference, there are a lot of breakout sessions that don't apply or don't interest you. There is a lot of knowledge gained and exchanged. 

THIS IS TWITTER. This is also Facebook but more richly immersed in the technology. Twitter is a constant conference. Where you hear a lot of noise but you can always break out and a network will form around a particular idea. You can eaves drop on conversations around a particular topic by searching a term with a "hashtag" (example: #education). You will make new friends and reconnect with old. You will exchange ways to connect at anytime (like phone numbers, or business cards for conferences - email address, facebook page, or just becoming a follower within web 2.0). 

What helps break down the noise is the 140 characters, the "#" symbol, and "@" in front of a name. What keeps you in sight of your connections are the everyday proclamations you don't have to worry about forming perfect thoughts around such as: "no seriously, will someone please let the old lady know where the beef is?" It's like the really funny guy of the group who you also treat as a subject matter expert. While you're talking industry with him, he's probably going to say a few funny things or gripe about the Cowboys in December (or rave about them if it's January 2010). It's off topic, but you don't lose respect for his knowledge, and in fact, you are more connected to him now because you know he's an avid Cowboys fan.

This is an idea that I think marketing experts haven't necessarily tapped into yet. They are very concerned about the brand, about the polish, and the professionalism (which they should be) but are still trying to apply the "Press Release" principles to social media. We don't often connect with someone just because they are "all business". We really start to rely on someone and form a real bond when we understand more about who they are outside of their business. That person becomes more approachable. This is what social media has changed in the world of marketing. It's making marketing people become educators. They now need to provide more than coupons to their restaurant, they need to toss out a recipe every once in a while. Make the owner write a blog about what it's like to run a restaurant. When a person is plugged into social media, they will ask questions of the person they are most connected with. I think this is why only 4% of the world's largest companies are on Twitter. But they do have workers on there who "socialize" for the company. 

---here's a tangent--- (oops, be aware, I just used a weapon of math instruction)
How does the marketing aspect apply to education? Well, marketing is essentially education - it's about educating as many people as possible what the company does, what they are about, how fast they work, even where they are located, and in the case of prescription drugs - why exactly you need their drug and what questions you should ask your doctor in order to manipulate the doctor into getting that drug.

Often times we as educators can even follow on the heels of what marketers are doing. Create the need or the buy-in, the reason for listening. Then fill in the backstory, why other people need it and how they've used it. Then how to use it yourself, and where to apply it. Why do you think Lowe's and Home Depot host classes on home remodeling? They must know I can google how to put my sink in. They aren't the library concerned about your knowledge base that's for sure.

So put that in terms of math. Put that in terms of science. Put that in terms of history. It just keeps applying to the teacher and the student.

In conclusion: 
A.) Twitter and Facebook are relevant and WILL advance your knowledge on a need to know time schedule. ***It's a constant conference.***

[tangent conclusion] B.) If you need fresh ideas for teaching a tired subject, if you aren't having fun (and I can assure you, your students are in turn not having fun either) then read up on some of the latest trends in marketing and follow suit. You'll look like a genius and all you did was figure out how to give those cheesy Kay Jeweler commercials some meaning in this world ("every alphabet begins with "A")

...Okay, I still can't save that one.

Disclaimer: After re-reading this post I decided it is quite stream of consciousness. So I've also decided not edit it. If I wanted to write and essay, I would have printed it... And then turned it in for a letter grade :) This is a blog, and therefore my ideas - however I see fit to spew them. 
Disclaimer for the Disclaimer: With "Educational" topics, we are often "required" to write as if we were John Dewey. I have found, however, that this is an unnecessary hurdle in moving information forward. I am only required to express my idea***there's a new blog topic*** hence the effectiveness and relevance of the text message***hey, there's another blog topic***  
Disclaimer for the Disclaimer for the Disclaimer: Not really, this one is a joke. Not that the other two are uber-serious. Just saying.

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