I’ve been thinking a lot about this post lately. It’s an important one. Go read it.
It makes me think about the not-so healthy level of competition that sometimes exists between people. It astounds me that so many people can’t appreciate this simple truth: there is a lot of work to be done in this field. There is plenty for all of us to do. Trashing colleagues we disagree with and belittling those we feel threatened by accomplishes so little. There is no room for ego in our field. I’m fortunate in that I’ve been treated with great respect online and in my work with teachers, but I witness the damage wrought by those who act like sandpaper often, and like Vicki, I sometimes find myself wanting to hibernate as well.
Today, I got to spend my time with Communities for Learning fellows. Important discussion ensued around the differences between online and face-to-face communities, the unintended consequences and potential costs of establishing an online community to support our face-to-face community, and the varied levels of comfort and discomfort that fellows have about the notion of sharing their thinking in blog posts and in ning. It’s not comfortable. In fact, it requires a great deal of discomfort and courage to post anything online, and at times, the propect of doing so is made that much more terrifying by the existence of those who are more sandpaper than salve, if you know what I mean. I’ve been told that educators who engage online need to grow a thick skin, and while I have witnessed interactions that warrant such advice, I respectfully disagree. I think it makes sense to invest in a different kind of growth, perhaps.
I’m wondering what cyberspace would be like if more people understood and were willing to commit to dispositions of professional practice online as well as on the ground. Doing so might create a sense of safety wherein everyone might feel more comfortable adding their voices to the conversations that take place here. Unless, of course, we’re REALLY only into welcoming certain voices rather than all voices. Practicing the dispositions does not stifle conversation, and it does not silence dissent and the learning that can occur as a result of it. Quite the opposite. Practicing the dispositions silences the judgment that people sometimes begin hurling at others (or themselves) when they feel threatened and defensive. This could leave room for meaningful debate to occur. I also think that practicing these dispositions could potentially improve the quality of what we share in online spaces.
There are complexities that I haven’t wrestled with around this, of course. I’m really just thinking aloud here right now, in response to some of the valid fears that folks have about adding themselves to the mix online. Trust is a big issue everywhere, it seems. Are there better ways to grow that in our online communities?