Tag Archives: Commenting


Those of you who have been following my blog for the last few days, know that there is a pretty healthy/heated conversation going on at the It’s About Acculturation post. The back and forth in the comments section has left me pretty well-spent, but thankfully I have learned some  important lessons about digital citizenship, online communities, writing and most importantly, I have learn a bit about myself. I wish that these ideas were original in some way, they are nothing more than what we tell kids everyday, or that they were better articulated (I toyed with the idea of turning them into Haiku, but Friday afternoon exhaustion vetoed that idea) In the end, I brainstormed a list, in no particular order, of the lessons I feel I have learned after my “review” of #beyondlaptops and the affect my post and the conversation that grew from it, had on others.

  • Our words have power.
  • Our ideas affect others in ways we may not intend or even recognize.
  • We should think about the people in front of our words before, during, and after we write them.
  • Don’t write from frustration when what you write about is entwined with other people.
  • If something feels negative it is.
  • What you feel is explicit may have implicit meaning for others.
  • There is a reason why we teach things like tone, intent, and word choice.
  • Don’t be snarky or smug unless there is a reason for it.
  • Praising something only to follow it with a but, is annoying and not constructive.
  • Half-baked ideas can be misunderstood.
  • Online communities are complex and made up of people with different view points.
  • Passion can burn– sometimes a little time and distance may help objectivity.
  • Don’t take it all so personaly.
  • It is not always an argument to win, but a path to walk together.
  • We are on the same team.
  • Blogging (thinking, writing, communicating) can be exhausting.
  • We are figuring it out, this take time.
  • Being understood takes time and practice.
  • It is hard to say what you mean.
  • If you are going to engage in conversation with Adrienne bring extra water. (Good example of being snarky)

Thanks to everyone who was involved in the conversation. I hope that we are creating spaces where all of our voices matter. A place where we are not intimidated or made to feel vulnerable to the point of silence. I don’t know about you, but it is Friday and I am ready for the weekend.


Do You Love Me?

If you blog for long enough, I suppose, you will eventually begin to repeat yourself. It can feel like a never-ending cycle of repetition, but who is to say that revisiting themes is necessarily a bad thing? So I apologize if I have written about this topic before, but my good friend Ari over at We Buy Balloons recently emailed me a link to this article with a request to write on the subject with careful consideration, as the affliction mention in the article is the same from which he claims to suffer. Although, I have linked to the article itself, I will quote it at length below, so please stay with us till then end. In short the post claims:

The Internet measures everything. And I am a slave to those measurements. After so many years of pushing much of my life through this screen, I’ve started measuring my experiences and my sense of self-worth using the same metrics as the Internet uses to measure success. I check my stats relentlessly. The sad truth is that I spend more time measuring than I spend doing.

I used to feel an immediate sense of accomplishment when I wrote an article or came up with a joke that I thought was good. Now that feeling is always delayed until I see how the material does. How many views did my article get? Did it get mentioned the requisite number of times on Twitter and Facebook. I need to see the numbers.

And I define myself by those numbers.

I judge the quality of my writing by looking at the traffic to my articles. I assess the humor of my jokes by counting retweets. My status updates, shared links, and photos of my kids need a certain number of Likes to be a success. How am I doing? That depends on how many friends I have, how many followers, how much traffic.

What David Pell describes in his post, what bothers my friend Ari, and those of us involved in this game called social media is the feeling that our thoughts, our art, our creations, our words, and in turn ourselves are only as valuable as the amount of attention they receive from the network of “friends” we have been able to cull from the web.

Before I try to offer up answers or justifications of why this need for affirmation isn’t as big of a problem as many think, let me first admit that I check my stats.  I am pretty stoked to be nearing 3,000 followers on Twitter. I google myself often and enjoy hearing my voice echoed back to me via the web. The question I suppose we are left asking is, is that a problem? Is wanting/needing affirmation a bad thing? Is it vain or needy to place your self-worth in the hands of others? Before we get to that answer, I want to make a claim that this discussion has little to do with the Internet. (*The need for acceptance and identity creation has implications for our students. I will try to touch on this idea at the end of this post.) Sure the Internet has made it easy to see how much attention each pixel of our collective self receives via Re-Tweets, views, Likes and other affirmative statistics, but I claiming that the need to be heard and accepted has always been a  part of our human psychology; the Internet has only exacerbated  our ability to monitor it.

I think the need to be heard and told we are valued is not only at the core of human psychology, but intricately connected to the very purpose of art. Yes, I understand that much of art is personal and cathartic. Why the artist creates is a question that we will never answer, but we can all agree that while some artists create art for the sake self-healing, many also create art to connect to others. Art is the ultimate act of sharing and openness. Audience is an inherent part of art. It has to be. The dance between creator and observer is what makes art so powerful. Let’s face it most people who create, write, paint, perform are needy. We have a void in our souls that can only be filled when others connect to our creations. We feel alive when our art helps others see who we are.

by Ari Zeiger

I have had this need to share and connect with people for as long as I can remember. Does this make me vain or needy? Lacking in self-confidence? Perhaps. But that is the nature to which I have grown fond. The spaces between a robust self-esteem and crippling anxiety is tenuous at best. The difference between the vain rock star and the nervous introvert can be nothing more than a pair of sunglasses and a bottle of whiskey. What I am trying to say is that, while the Internet magnifies our anxieties about whether or not we matter, most artist have always needed to be told they are relevant. Before the Internet did not authors worry about book sales, artists by number of guests at openings and paintings sold? While stats, numbers, sales, and reviews have always been a part of sharing, statistics have never slowed art down. I am sure the first caveman looked for a round of grunts and nods after he first sketched a picture of the hunt on the cold stonewall.

When I was younger, in my twenties, I would scribble poetry, stories, and other random observations into journals. These thoughts were very similar to my current blog posts, Tweets, and other ideas I share online. Back then I would scatter these journals on coffee table tops and would love when people would flip though them at parties. I would watch them wrinkle their faces in confusion or smile in understanding. I could feel them entering my consciousness through a shared understanding of not only who I was, but who they were. I was just not smart enough to leave a little comment box at the bottom of my journal pages, because I wanted more than anything to hear what they thought.

It is true that the web can enhance our neurosis and self-doubt. It can cripple the act of creation if we allow it to magnify our fears and misgivings. It can force us to place our self-worth in the hands of a fluctuating audience, and yes this can have disastrous effects, but this is not the fault of the web. This neurosis is rooted in our collective human psychology of needing love and acceptance. There are people much smarter than me with more letters after their names, who I am sure can write much more intellectually than me on the subject, but that has never stopped me from offering my opinion.

Each person must decide how their self-worth is derived. Each one of us has to decide what we are worth despite the Internet not because of it. Some days we feel like we can carry the world, while others we need to be told we are special. Understanding this dance and going with the flow is the most important thing an artist can learn to do. This was true before the web and it is even truer now.

It is nice to have a post re-tweeted and shared and “liked” and commented on. It makes us feel like our ideas are important and that others “get” us. It is great to make a film and get a couple thousands hits on Youtube. It feels warm in the heart to watch people connect to you words. It feels great to recieve emails from people who say they get what you are doing. Saying they respect you and your work. It is nice to go to conference and have drunken peers say they admire you. It is great to have fans. It feels good to be loved. How can it not? But the question we must ask ourselves is how much of what we do is for them? How much is for me? And how much is for us?

I could get wrapped up in the numbers, and I admit that I sometimes do, but I am learning that I  share and let spill what I cannot hold inside. All I can do is hope that others connect. I have the audacity to write  a book about my life and think people will care. That is the biggest cry for attention I can think of and that has nothing to do with the Internet or numbers, but I have found the less I worry about the numbers and focus on creating honest work filled with energy and passion the more the numbers tend to rise; the more comments I receive. Someday this fragile network I have cobbled together could all dry up and I could end up writing a blog no one reads, or scribble back into journals I leave on coffee tables in vacant rooms. A book no one buys. Either way, I know that  sometimes I create art to help lighten the load and guide me through the darkness and sometimes I share what I share for you dear reader and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Show me you understand. Show me you love me. Show me I matter. Leave a comment. Re-Tweet. Like me on Facebook. Let this post get a 1000 hits. Let it go viral and get me a book deal. Let it shine a light on all the world and make me a god! Or just skim it, mark it as read, and chalk up to more gibberish coming to you through your informationally overloaded brain. There will be more tomorrow. I am valuable whether you tell me I am or not. How do I know? Just a promise I made to myself as a child. It is not too late make yourself that promise right now….let’s see what you got!

I will save the my thoughts on how young adults deal with the dance between confidence and anxiety and how the new online social reality is affecting their identity creation for another post, or maybe in the comments. But I will say that right now I am listening to the Beatles and this is a great first step to helping young people understand how to deal with the world wide web:



Mired In The Age

To the Students of Zachary Chase in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, (Or any other class whose teacher came across this post and wants to participate.)

A few days ago I shared, on my blog, the fact that I had finished the first month of a yearlong project in which I would take a photo everyday for a year. Why did I feel the need to broadcast this information with what we affectionately call the World Wide Web? Not sure. I tend to share anything and everything that leaks from my life. The photos the songs, the tweets, the insights, the rubbish, the random thoughts trickle out and dribble into a vast abyss I am old ends somewhere with you. Well in this case your teacher Mr. Chase.

You see, Mr. Chase commented on my blog:

Do you mind if I use some of these as journal prompts?

To which I responded

Yes, please feel free to use them as prompts, would love to read what kids write. Maybe if they post on blogs, they can leave their links as comments on Flickr. Would love to follow the stories of these photos. Could be a fun project.

Hmmm….brain turning for new ideas.

Mr. Chase:

Alright. Just posted the journal assignment to moodle. I’m curious to see how this turns out.


Cool. Sounds great. Would be cool to have a small collection of short stories or poems based on these images. Would love the interaction.

Sounds simple enough right? No big whoop. We are, after all, mired in the age of the social web, where people are connecting and creating all over the world. My question, however,  is are they? Are you? Is this an everyday thing for you? Because while we all talk about collaboration, I am always floored when it happens to me. I was very moved by your words, your poems, your creativity and your engagement. I stayed up passed midnight watching your comments as they came pouring in. I had goosebumps and at times nearly cried. Take a look the comments for this blog post for a deeper look at why I find your action so important.

I just wanted to let you know that while, quickly typing a few words on some random Flickr set may not have been much more than a class assignment for you, your actions meant a lot to me. So what of it now? What happens next? Well that is up to you. I hope that this introduction can be a way that we continue to explore the power of art and words and connections. I was a born teacher and student, I would love to continue to teach and learn from you. Are you up for it?

I know teachers tend to throw out mixed messages, “Be open, share. Be careful, be scared.” I hope you use your judgment and the experiences which you have been taught by the more than capable teachers at SLA to move this project to the next level. This could be an authentic real world experience to create something beautiful with a larger group of people than those within our immediate community. (I invite other teachers to share this Flickr set and this post to see where it can go. Ask your class to leave poems, stories, haikus, comments anything. Maybe we can write a book, record an album…)

There are many things we can do with the images, the words, the connection. I hope that at least a few of you will share a few ideas in the comments below. I don’t know who will respond, but that is the beauty of sharing in whim, if you throw enough out there, occasionally something beautiful will come floating back.

After receiving your words, here is what I will do: I will scour your words mining for verses to a song, which I will sing and record. I will contact you soon about maybe singing a collaborative chorus. What else can we do with the words, the images? Who else is on board?


Singing Hearts

I was going to beginning by saying that I have another Twitter Tale for my readers, but really when I look at how the following events played out, I realized that Twitter was but only one of the tools that allowed for a group of eighth graders in Missouri to connect with my three year old daughter in Qatar.

Like many stories of connections made across time zones, cultures, and age groups this one involved some risk taking, some curiosity, some opened minds, and I hope some learning. Let me lay out what happened:

A few days ago I started reading The Last Child in the Woods. It sparked in me a sense of panic and guilt about the amount of time my daughter spends outdoors connecting to nature, getting fresh air, and exploring. I decided I wanted us to begin exploring our surroundings together. Even if our immediate surroundings was an empty dry desert field covered in garbage and construction refuse.

We went outside with our cameras in hand to see what we could discover. I wish I had a field recorder, so I could have recorded her excitement and enthusiasm. We spoke of the wind, the setting sun, and how plants can grow with little water. We spoke about the power of art to make the ugly appear beautiful. We asked questions of each other. We guessed at answers. The two of us were a mobile outdoor classroom. Father and daughter in an empty field in the desert.

When we came home I asked her if she wanted to see her pictures on the big screen of the computer and talk about what she had seen. The result was a very simple photo essay. Being the proud dad that I am, I decided to share the experience with my Twitter network. I thought that was the end of it, until last night when I noticed several comments come pouring in. After a quick request as to who was responsible I found out that @wmchamberlain had shared Kaia’s blog post with his class. I suggest you go and read some of the 43 comments.

I immediately got in touch with him through Twitter, and he told me that a few of his students were curious if we had electricity in Doha. I told him, if he was interested, I could Skype into his classroom and answer some quick questions. So there we were, a small classroom in rural Missouri and me in my kitchen talking about our surroundings. We were following our curiosity. We were discovering new things. We were learning, beyond classroom walls, because we had all decided to take risks and be open with our lives. I told wmchamberlain’s students that since Kaia is only three she may have a hard time reading their comments and really grasp what is going on. I suggested they create some video comments. Which they did:

The next day Kaia and I sat in our kitchen and watched their video. She is still too young to really grasp the connections that she is making, but in a few years these connections and this type of interaction will be ubiquitous in her life. I hope that her teachers are ready to help her continue on this journey.

Later I found another comment from a teacher in New Zealand and a Tweet from another teacher in Alaska who was impressed by the work she had observed unfold on Twitter. This story would be pretty cool if it ended here, but I hope that other teachers and other classroom will share this story with their classrooms and parents communities. I hope that this story could not only be a springboard for starting discussion about open pedagogy, taking risks, and connected classrooms, but I also hope that it will open people’s eyes to the themes presented in The Last Child in the Woods. I would love to see people share their stories about how they are taking their kids outdoors. I hope that classrooms will begin to share how they are reconnecting with nature. The irony being that they are using technology to weave their stories together.

In closing and on a different note, this experience was also eye opening for me as a parent, because having Kaia exposed like this made me hyper aware of how vulnerable I am making her. I am sure many of you read Alec Curosa’s post a few month back about his Flickr stalker. I started to think about how much trust we ask that parents put in us as teachers. Kaia’s blog started as a way to share photos with family, it has quickly become a way that we are documenting her life. And now, it is becoming a way that she is connecting with people throughout the world. This is scary. Part of me wants to pull back and keep her our little secret. But if we want our students to feel comfortable and be cautious online, we must be able to do the same with our own children.

As teachers and technology evangelist it is easy to ask parents to allow us to expose their children to a variety of experiences online, but as a parent it can all seem so scary. I agree with many people that if we choose to live open lives online, we must trust that the positive experience will outweigh they dangerous ones, but there is nothing like seeing pictures of your daughter on a youtube video created by someone else to spark up the paranoia. Where can this go? Will I always be able to control it? Should I be able to? These are all important questions to ask as we push the boundaries of our lives and our learning online.

What do you think? What is the value in this experience? Is the risk of exposing ourselves and our children online worth the connections that will be made and the lessons that will be learned?



Comment Challenge Day 5, 6, 7

It is only day eight and I am overwhelmed by the comment challenge. I dropped the ball sometime around day five or six. This is embarrassing because I don’t even have a job, but not only have I not written a quick post highlighting the lessons I am learning by commenting, I am not even commenting. I am not sure if I even have the energy to make excuses. So let me catch up:

Day Five-Comment on a post you disagree with and Day Six- Comment to engage in conversation:

I left the following comment on The Science Bench. For personal reasons, I am very passionate about the idea of professionalism and online identities:

This idea of how teaches should or shouldn’t act online seems to be a popular topic these days, and one that I am personally very familiar with. I was recently asked to resign from a private international school because of a parent complaint about material on my Flickr page. Unlike the teachers from the Washington Post article, I feel I have a good grasp of what is on my various sites. I keep a clean Facebook. I actually invited parents to view my personal blog because I wanted them to have a fuller picture of who was teaching their kids; this brings me to my point:

I am a language arts teacher who is very interested in using technology and Web 2.0 in my classroom as a tool for student self expression. I use these tools myself as an artist, a writer, a photographer, and amateur filmmaker, and as a human being, so what happens if I don’t do anything “stupid” online, but a parent still finds fault with my taste in books, my politics, or religious views. I am an atheist, should I hide this fact to the world, even while I teach my students to be open minded about people’s religious beliefs. What do teachers who do not use these tools tell their students when asked, “Do you have a Youtube page, or do you have a Flickr page?|

It is one thing to judge young teachers who are being flagrantly “inappropriate” online, but who decides where the line is to be drawn. I am a grown adult who loves teaching, loves kids, and loves what I do. I don’t want to have to hide who I am because some parents may think that I am inappropriate. My point is that there will always be someone who doesn’t like who you are and what you stand for, so how do teachers who feel are doing right by their online identities react to being told to be careful, or worse to not engage in online activity.

I have lost my job and have since been re-thinking my stance on all of these questions, but I know that the day of the teacher being a robot of professionalism is dying. Teachers like all professions are made up of eclectic people; we should celebrate this diversity, rather than forcing the educators of our children to be forced into some strange homogeneous fake world of conservative expectations.

I teach my kids to use Web 2.0 to create, share, exchange, and build networks, how can I not be doing that myself…as myself?

Day Seven- What have you learn do far:

I have learned that I don’t like the pressure of this challenge. I am not sure if staying on schedule is good for the quality of my comments and subsequent blog posts. Take this last post for example. I was looking for a blog with which to disagree; I am not sure how natural this process is. I do, however, see the value in keeping these lessons with me as I move beyond this challenge.

The most important lesson I have learned early on, is that commenting is the most important activity for establishing and fostering online relationships, which will only strengthen one’s network. I have already met several bloggers with whom I am regularly interacting with on my blog and twitter, simply because we exchanged a few comments.

I hope that I will continue to comment frequently when the pressure of this challenge has subsided. I am off to find a blog outside of my niche. I’ll let you know how that went.