It’s actually the longest ongoing exchange between two parties I’ve had in my life, aside from my wife and relatives. I actually remember when America Online was first introduced: The prospect of being able to electronically “mail” my cousins (even though they lived 45 minutes away!!!!), make websites (I gradually developed some basic understanding of HTML when I was young for fun—I couldn’t keep the girls off of me) and the general concept of being able to communicate with other people and get information from my computer was genuinely exciting for me. People had to decide whether or not it was suitable for their households (my cousin had to nag her parents to “get” the internet for a number of weeks until they finally caved and purchased an America Online subscription). It was pretty much a luxury.
While there are exceptions, today, technology is pretty much synonymous with the internet. Everyone is surfing, tweeting, tumbling…but nine out of the ten people I ask don’t know what Wi-Fi stands for (wireless fidelity, for the uninitiated). I don’t say this to be condescending. Quite the opposite—the fact is, people don’t see the need to know. As long as they get their information, who cares?
By the way, have you ever observed people who are having connectivity issues with their Wi-Fi devices? You’d think their iPad just turned into a Dixie cup and a string. It seems like the sole purpose of computers today is the ability to access, consume, and broadcast information. Know what computers did almost 50 years ago without the world wide web? Helped navigate and land a MAN ON THE MOON.
Some of this is great. The culture we live in now is all about information, and who can access, digest, and deliver it to us the quickest. This is the culture our students were born into—complete access to information any time they want, found by simply asking their phones or Googling “what’s the square root of 68?” It’s 8.24621125124, by the way. I got that and 23,899,999 other results in 0.4 seconds.
Adults and other teachers are also “plugged in” as well, although there has to be a better slang term for this by now because seriously, think about those people you see using a LAN cable. Dinosaurs.
For a time, I felt like I was ahead of it all. I was tweeting the cool things going on in my classroom. I had a blog (this one). The apps students were using to create some truly remarkable projects, and the real learning going on made me happy. The 1:1 environment my district has rolled out with iPads has helped my instruction tremendously, and I don’t think I’d have been able to be accepted to the Apple Distinguished Educators class of 2015 without their support (which is another story entirely and a tremendously humbling experience that I will need to write about separately).
I mention all of this because for the first time, I feel like I’m grappling with the sheer extent of it all—especially as a teacher. I have a Twitter account, a Facebook, and an Instagram (which is essentially just an extension of the life and times of my dog and the many different poses he can strike). And yet, I feel as though the presence of educators in the social media landscape is one that is, to an extent, built on popularity. The more followers you have, the faster you tweet out those @Edutopia links you marginally agree with, and the number of times you’ve been retweeted seem to correlate to your standing as a “connected” educator. It’s got me thinking that if I don’t start a hashtag edu-related chat on Twitter, don’t run a blog with thousands of hits from other teachers, and don’t take more leadership roles to pad my social media accounts with stuff and PD that proves I am a tech-savvy educator…then I won’t be one.
Which I know isn’t true. But maybe that’s a side effect of the behemoth that the internet has become.