Diving more deeply: Time to get beyond the surface?

surface2I shared a blog post a few months ago (Everybody shares, nobody reads) about our consumption of information from blogs and Twitter. I’ve since shared my frustrations with numerous colleagues about the large amount of surface conversation out there, both online and at face-to-face gatherings. I may seem a little judgmental and cynical with this post, but I’m OK with that…I’m trying to provoke some deeper conversation.

Surface conversation is fine, but it cannot be the majority of what we do. “Surfacy” conversation can be reinforced by the formats that we use today – Twitter, Twitter chats, blogs that are often 500 words or less, bite sized podcasts, etc. These are great places to find our focus/passion and connect with like-minded individuals. But here is where I’m a little perplexed – Where do these conversations grow and develop beyond the surface interactions? I see blogs from major organizations and thought leaders that have zero to a handful of comments but thousands of shares. I see people who mindlessly RT content I bet they haven’t read. How does these actions contribute to a deeper conversation around ideas? If I’m missing something, please tell me where these conversations are happening.

I wonder if this is a larger issue of information literacy. We are so inundated with information, in every possible area of interest, that we become paralyzed. We lose any and all sense of focus. We don’t prune our “following” list; in fact, we mindlessly follow to increase some irrelevant number. We don’t slow down; we whip our social media life into a high pitched frenzy in fear we will miss out on something. In actuality, we miss out on a lot – deeper, richer thinking and conversation. We don’t actually read blog posts and comment on them (and revisit to engage in the conversation). I know…you say we can’t possibly read and engage in everything that comes our way, but let’s ask ourselves how discerning we are and how focused we are to take the conversations that interest us to a deeper level. How much of our “conversation” reflect deep thinking and rich engagement with ideas – beyond the vapid “great post” feedback? Am I generalizing or is this lack of depth in our thinking (as a profession) a real problem?

What would our schools be like if we made connections (online and offline), found a focus and actually engaged in deeper conversations around that focus? OK…rant over. Looking forward to any comments and pushback…


9 comments on “Diving more deeply: Time to get beyond the surface?

  1. Hi Randy,
    I find this frustrating as well. It is especially an issue with politically hot topics. Just this morning a FB friend posted something that was quite inflammatory, making an accusation. I went to Snopes, found it like many similar posts to be false and posted a link to the Snopes story in the feed. I’m not sure how deeper conversation can be revived online today. Especially since most consumption is done via mobile devices, more often than not, a phone. That means the resulting responses to anything is going to be quick, on the go. I have for the most part maintained my allegiance to the desktop for reading “news”. That is why I have a very spotty presence on Twitter. Unlike most, I prefer Google+ for my EdTech PLN and FB for social nonsense. But, that is because I like a full-size keyboard under my fingers. So, I don’t think people have become shallow, lacking the ability to think deeper. But, they definitely have become mobile communicators. This has caused the quick, witty, vapid and often grammatically grotesque response to become commonplace. What Ted Turner did to news, mobile computing has done to interpersonal communication…….a.k.a. the sound byte!

  2. “Mindlessly follow to increase some irrelevant number”… As a new to Twitter user there is the compulsion to increase my following number, but I am truly looking to build my PLN. Whose ideas, inputs, links, posts etc. will inspire me? Who will help to drive my passion to make a difference in my classroom… In my school?

  3. Hi, Randy.
    I have two thoughts, one personal/professional, and one classroom-oriented (separate reply):

    Personal/Professional: in my school district I am blessed to have a circle of passionate, caring educators who want to “go deep” and who are willing to reflect, evaluate, question, challenge and change. If time is limited, a small comment may resonate for a while and come back later. If we have extended time, we relish growing and learning together. One particular friend always asks great questions and never supplies answers, and I find myself relishing the challenges that she implants into me–a challenge to grow and to stretch.
    I think that some of our limitations in the deeper conversations revolves around our inherent fear of feeling or looking incompetent. Significant conversations require a determined investment of “self,” and that “self” must be honest–to be able to reflect and face our successes and our failures, to admit to our weaknesses, to be willing to ask for help, to swallow our pride and learn from one another.
    How do we then find the courage to have those conversations? We must trust those with whom we discuss things. We must establish relationships, building trust through genuineness and time-tested cooperation. Here’s the kicker: someone has to be the first to extend the trust. This is one of my personal goals in recent years: to build relationships in order to be able to have those conversations. I have to be willing to go first.

  4. Hi, Randy. As promised, I am posting a second reply to discuss my “classroom-oriented” thought:

    In recent years our school district has been studying using Reading Apprenticeship, and referencing superb books, such as Reading for Understanding and I Read It But I Don’t Get It. If teachers want to “comply,” they choose an activity (such as Talk to the Text or SQ3R) and make their students use it to complete a reading activity. I have been guilty of using it as a time-filler. Alas, I am abusing a powerful tool! And truthfully, my students can “learn the ropes” of a reading activity and use it skillfully, but still come away not having READ the material.
    What I need to do is challenge my students to read–read with purpose, read with engagement, read to respond. I need to model for them purposeful reading, I need to share with them the value of engagement, and I need to inspire them to respond to what they read. This has become one of my priorities for the school year. I want my students to read, think and react.
    Again, trust is necessary. My students have to feel safe and comfortable in the classroom, and they have to know that I care about what they are doing. This means that I must be purposeful in my reading choices. I have to discuss with them what an “academic” conversation looks like and why it’s important. I have to read with them. I have to help them to create thoughtful, meaningful responses.
    My students are beginning the year reading language learning blogs. My next goal is to challenge them to craft a response on paper, and then perhaps to post it as a reply. We’ll see what happens!

    Thank you, Randy, for your thoughtful comments. Stay encouraged; there is hope. Keep writing; I like to read and mull over your ideas, even if I don’t reply (but you’re right; I should be more actively involved).

  5. Pingback: Is there enough task-oriented “conflict” in online networks? | Working at the edge

  6. Pingback: 4 steps to deeper conversation | Working at the edge

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