How to Influence Others on the Internet
EduDemic introduced its newest giveaway today, offering a prize to the educator on Twitter who the community votes as most influential. Despite the irony of including a noted opponent of frivolous rewards, Alfie Kohn, in a contest that awards you a prize for doing exactly what you should be doing, it did prompt me to think about the actual act of influencing others.
Jeff Thomas posted a response to the giveaway this afternoon, arguing that his role on Twitter isn't to influence anyone but to share and collaborate, instead. I don't feel that there is any difference, but I think I differ from him in my definition of influence. Influencing someone else doesn't have to take their own thoughts and feelings out of the equation, and there is still room for critical thinking to occur. In my opinion, influencing someone can get the thinking process started.
So what does it take to influence your fellow educators on the Internet? I've got the six-step process right here, and you don't even have to pay a single cent.
1. Passion – That’s right, you need to show others that you are, to an appropriate extent, invested in your role as an educator. You should love children and the act of learning.
2. Drive – You aren’t balancing someone else’s checkbook here, folks. You are taking on the always-challenging task of bringing a young mind out into the world and giving them the opportunity to learn and thrive. If week after week you’re already looking forward to Friday, (or worse, Christmas break before Halloween) then I’m not sure that you are focusing on what is important about your work.
3. Expertise – You’ve spent years in graduate school and dedicated yourself to the pursuit of effective, authentic assessment or the integration of technology. Congratulations, you’ve got something to share.
4. Interest – Not only are you interested in all things relating to education, you have a lot of interesting things to bring to the table yourself. Your skill at the piano has enabled you to find new ways to share knowledge with your students. The fact that you spent three years in Uganda means that you have a treasure trove of experiences to share with the people around you. You read a lot and have the ability to make any book sound like the Great American Novel.
5. Attention – You’re tuned in to the world and have the ability to parse out a great list of articles from each day’s headlines and, better yet, you’re sharing them with anyone who will listen. You are definitely not the last person to hear that the Department of Education is replacing every teacher with an iPhone. (They aren’t.)
6. Experience – You entered the classroom long before cell phones and Justin Bieber invaded, but you haven’t resorted to the same old methods that got you through the year in 1983. You’ve seen a lot of students pass through the hallways of your school and so you’re able to offer a unique perspective on ideas that you may have already tried.
Oh, did I mention the catch? You don’t need all six. In fact, you really only need one. That’s the point, really. To say that one person in particular is the most influential is missing the entire point of what we are gathering together for on the Internet. In fact, with all due respect to those who did make the list, three people whom I would say have influenced me the most weren’t there. The fact that you can submit corrections to the list in the comments section of that post is a good indication that EduDemic realizes they couldn’t possibly include everyone.
A warning, however. There is one thing that disqualifies you from being highly influential on the Internet. Or anywhere, for that matter:
Cynicism. Quit it now. We’re probably all guilty of it at some point (my obvious beef with Sarah Palin, for instance, often can border on petty), but if you have made it your shtick and think that you’ll end up with a legion of followers for it, think again. I don’t need to see you launch a bitter string of attacks against the Department of Education or any of its leaders. Yes, you might disagree with the direction that they are taking, and maybe you’re not happy with how a local school is choosing to operate. You might not even agree with something your students or their parents have said. It might be necessary to vent, but you’ve crossed the line once it becomes a game to see how often you can express your discontent with the world around you. You might end up with a series of speaking gigs despite your very public misery, but you’re not going to fool those of us who are truly driven to teach.
And finally, thank you to those people who have influenced me.