Wednesday, December 31, 2014

#WeirdEd: A Reflection on Openness

Fair Warning: This blog is as much to get my head straight as anything else. So read it because I'm talking to you, but I'm also talking out loud to see how I feel about the topic.

To question or not to question, that is the question.

Tonight's #WeirdEd was about Letting Go and Planning. Because I like the chat to reflect the theme of the night I didn't plan anything. I picked the topic and then, because it was about planning, didn't plan. I like it when a chat come together like that. Like when we talked about classroom flow and the entire chat rhymed.

#WeirdEd has always been a fairly guided chat. I try hard not to write leading questions, I don't need participants to tell me what I want to hear and I don't write, or try not to write, questions with obvious "right" answers. But I do write questions. I do this because I like the focus that comes with nudging the conversation in one direction or another. Because #WeirdEd, along with being a way for teachers to talk about teaching, is a way for me to get messages across about teaching and to get other voices involved in those messages. I want to say something, but I also want to know what the brilliant #WeirdEd family has to say. I like having questions. They guide us, they allow me to be clever, the allow the chat to be as unique as it is because the questions get very specific.

This is very important: I like writing the questions, but what I like more is Your Answers. I write what I feel are good questions because every single week you blow me away with your answers. Without the #WeirdEd family I'm just a guy shouting into the digital wind. With you we are growing, learning, laughing, and building. As this reflection goes on I say "I" a lot. This chat is mine, but it's not. It's ours.

Back to writing questions. It's not that I don't trust teachers to be specific or deep on our own. We do that, especially in small groups. But to really drill down, to find the heart of some matters, you need specific questioning. To discover what people think in various situations. The questions allow me to dig and to be funny and to be creative. The questions give #WeirdEd part of its voice and set the tone every week.

Tonight I wrote no questions. And the chat was fantastic. It was huge, as big as it's ever been. The feed was flying by so quickly I know I missed over half of what was said, and there was a lot of great being thrown around. I miss stuff in the regular chats because, as mod, I'm juggling a lot of things, but I can get a feel for the basic gist of the chat and thrust of the various side conversations. Tonight was a side conversation.

Which is great and which I don't particularly like.

Ok, at the risk of sounding like a control freak, #WeirdEd is my baby and my message. It's built in a way that we all can learn. The openness of the conversation tonight meant that a lot of people got a lot of different things out of the chat, which I love. I really honestly do. But I feel like it was too shotgun. Too random and spread out. There were a lot of conversations happening under the #WeirdEd banner rather than one big #WeirdEd conversation. Does that difference make sense to anyone outside of my own head? Can anyone else see why that kind of bugs me?

It bugs me that it bugs me too, because I like freedom and openness and totally organic learning. I do that in my classroom. But I also puppet the learning in my classroom. I guide and nudge. It's not that I don't trust the people who come, I do very much, but I don't know if we'd have the honest break-throughs we've had during our chats on fear or anger or Ferguson or guns if the participants weren't pushed to certain places by guided questions. Again, I trust that everyone who comes is being honest. But being honest and willingly going to hard places are two different things.

When #InnoEd was up and running it was a brilliant example of a chat without questions that was still lead to interesting places. I'll contend that #edchat is (often) a bad example of the same format, because it's too big and too general and too safe. Too many answers are exactly the same. Too many topics are the same too.

I like writing questions for #WeirdEd. It's fun for me, mostly because the questions are almost always never easy to write. I work hard on what I want to know. And when the chat is running I can tell when the questions are good and everyone is focused and giving incredible answers. Tonight I couldn't read the chat. I was lost in the wash of sound. Good sound. Some great answers and conversations and voices. I am not saying you need me to be smart. Not at all. But I think maybe we need questions to be organized about being smart. To make finding the nuggets easier.

I Storified the chat like I always do (seriously, there's a complete #WeirdEd archive) and I have to read through it because talking to someone after the chat they mentioned an idea they got from it that I never saw. Great, new ideas I didn't plan on. That's absolutely awesome. But how many other people missed it? How much deeper could we have drilled into that idea had we been more focused?

It's not like I don't encourage side conversations. Every chat is loose enough that along with the madness of #WeirdEd proper there is a side #glitterchat and who knows what else happening. I love that.

I think #WeirdEd will continue to be a predominantly Q1/A1 chat. I will keep the question count low to allow answers to breathe, which I've tried to do. I'll remind #WeirdEdE mods @LTaylorELA and @nolagirlfromtx that they are able to do what they feel with the chat. Maybe I'll cut it down to two or three questions sometimes. Your hour is important to be and I want to squeeze every last drop of goodness from it. But I also can't be tied to a format. That was never the intention. In the new year #WeirdEd will evolve and change. It will stay fun, relevant, challenging, unflinching but also unable to take itself too seriously (except for this 15000 words taking it way too seriously, but this is because I do take your time and not being serious seriously). Being unable to adapt means dying off. #WeirdEd isn't going anywhere.

Thank you all for your time and energy in the chat. It means so much to me. You make #WeirdEd the special, unique learning, bonding experience that I feel it is.

1 comment:

  1. Last night's chat was less focused, less creative, and didn't push my thinking or creativity - but that was good for a chat on New Years Eve. I did not feel pressure to "keep up". I was able to balance the chat with my family time. It was so nice to connect the WeirdEdE and WeirdEd groups together again. The chat felt like a great big party. People were mingling. There were many different conversations and people slipped in and out of them organically. It was relaxed enough for the occasion. I truly enjoyed the hour and look forward to meaningful, creative chats in the future. Happy New Year!