What’s Worth Sharing


I’ve asked myself this question often but as my attraction to and involvement in social media have grown, perhaps not often enough. When I arrived on Twitter in 2013 I lingered on the periphery, mostly lurking from a safe distance. My interactions with other users were typically non-controversial and in direct relation to a third point – an article, blog post or tweet. In the four years since that arrival, my usage has changed.

Besides sharing my own writing, I now like to highlight others’ contributions, share in their celebrations, empathize with their disappointments. I willingly enter into relationships and by the nature of the medium, our interactions become public record of those relationships. Given that, I find myself increasingly inclined to share more about my thinking and life in progress. At some point, I began offering increasing numbers of unbidden statements. I began saying things about what I was experiencing, feeling, thinking. Just like that. Without a particular shared reference point.

That kind of sharing only “works” when there’s some kind of reward and in social media speak that means generating a “like” or a reply, even. Someone or something else (a bot, perhaps) needs to respond in some way, in order for our processing brains to chalk up a success. More frequent interaction increases the likelihood of “successful” exchanges. Over time and with adequate repetition we become conditioned to both anticipate reward responses which further bolster our inclination to share our little hearts out. And algorithmic sorting, ranking and boosting work their magic to insure that we find it difficult to step away and shut it all down.

So coming back to the question: What’s worth sharing?
Definitely not everything. And of course, it depends.

While transitioning to the New Year 2018 I found myself in an idyllic Alpine winter wonderland. I was so swept up with emotion in this setting that I gladly shared images with accompanying reflections about the ways I hope to claim 2018 as my own.

The way the familiar will ask me to embrace its changes and I’m not sure I’m ready but I do it anyway. #my2018 pic.twitter.com/CwDJEXvX9D

— Sherri Spelic (@edifiedlistener) January 1, 2018

While I was collecting these images and sharing them directly I asked myself the purpose. And one of my answers was to create a real-time record of my impressions for myself. Of course, there was also the desire to seek resonance with friends and colleagues. Perhaps some would also be able relate and even appreciate the beauty I was aiming to spread in my timeline.

I decided these images and these ideas were worth sharing. And I was rewarded. Generously.

The reward mechanisms that ultimately fuel our devotion/addiction to our social media and other digital activities of choice emerge as remarkably strong, influential and challenging to divert once they have established themselves in our neural pathways. That’s a reality that should give us pause. Along with the question of what’s worth sharing, we need to remain equally curious about and attuned to asking ‘what is the cost?’

Balancing value and cost, exposure and privacy, noise and quiet, outward and internal – these also belong to #my2018. That seems worth sharing.


image: ©edifiedlistener 2017

There Is No App for Patience

There is no app for patience. Just as there is no app for respect, kindness or trust. I say this now in the midst of all the hoopla around the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference currently taking place in Philadelphia not so much because I want to rain on anyone’s edtech parade, but because I am missing something. So much of our focus on the use of technology in education has to do with speed, efficiency and scale – measurable features. We talk about technology as an accelerator of learning, we extol the virtues of tremendous reach when tens of thousands register to join a popular Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). We laud countless applications and software packages which promise us time-saving and economizing means to teach our classes and “raise achievement” in the process. I get it. There are numerous digital tools which allow us to do things we couldn’t do before as easily such as locate, sort and store information. As individuals we can create media to share with a potential worldwide audience. And our societies are heading increasingly in the direction of more technology, of faster tools, of ubiquitous digitization of the billions of data points that make up our individual lives. I do not live under a rock. Nor do you.

Still, there is no app for patience nor will there ever be.

Patience is a human capacity to do more than wait. Patience describes the capacity to pay close enough attention, to develop the awareness of self and others to be able to recognize and evaluate when pausing, waiting, holding off will likely bring about a better, more robust and lasting outcome than not waiting in a given situation. Listening often requires patience. Cultivating anything that grows requires patience. Any learning process aimed at achieving depth demands patience. Not surprising then that patience would seem to be a prerequisite for any educational endeavor – whether teaching or learning. In our current discourse around education – be it policy, practice or vision – patience finds no mention, no foothold, carries no weight.

On the contrary, impatience is the working assumption. We simply cannot wait. We should not wait. And for many issues I would perhaps echo that sentiment. Impatience is warranted and called for in response to racialized police violence, in response to ending childhood poverty, in response to highly inequitable school systems. There are many areas where we as a society cannot wait to tackle certain issues. But when it comes to individual students and teachers and their progress, in their capacity to effect change, where is our patience and empathy? When it comes to policy makers setting standards for multiple school districts and expecting to see rapidly improved results within the 9-month sprint we call a school year, where do we find patience and common sense?

There is no app which will teach us or train our patience. Patience requires some depth of thought. Patience requires being able to slow down when the rest are speeding by in order to see precisely what is happening. Patience with our kids means daring to watch and wait before we rush in with an intervention. Patience with our teachers means trusting them to make decisions which benefit and grow student learning and not assuming that all the results of that learning will show up through standardized testing. Patience with our colleagues means listening and encouraging without shaming and judging. Patience creates space for individual variability. Patience provides a stepping stone for faith and positive belief. Patience allows us to spend time not knowing. Patience can teach us to listen first before we speak; to observe carefully before we evaluate.

Patience is something I miss in our education talk and behavior. We cannot copy and paste patience into our curricula or teaching practice. It will need to come from within us and our institutions. Creating space for patience in a school would require a seismic shift in culture and habits. Some schools enter through mindfulness practice. I hope more will choose to follow. For us as individuals swimming in this sea of accelerated everything, we’ll need to fashion our own life vests and buoys to keep us afloat and present to the situation as it is. We cannot turn off the machine. We can, however, moderate our own habits and ways of being in the world with our family, colleagues, students and strangers. There is no app for patience. We must grow and nurture and practice our own.

A Twitter Recipe for Learning

A few days ago I had a question. It had to do with tech and I decided to ask some twitter friends for ideas. I wanted to know if I could collect the links I tweeted on Evernote. See the tweets below.


I promptly received an answer: go check out IFTTT.com and make a recipe.
So that’s what I did and when I arrived it felt like I had just entered a sort of tech facilitating candy store.

IFTTT stands for “If This, Then That” and what it offers is a platform for for creating recipes for apps to trigger and carry out actions on one another. I want my twitter account to talk to my Evernote files and IFTTT makes it possible.
Here’s my recipe:


What’s cool is that you can create all sorts of recipes to meet your individual needs. On the website itself I fully enjoyed the absolutely user-friendly interface, no-fail, step-by-step instructions, and a generally a remarkably upbeat, encouraging user experience. I understood almost immediately how to define what I wanted and how to make it happen. And once it was all set up, within an hour I had a two new notes on Evernote documenting the links I had tweeted out.

Imagine that: I got what I asked for easily, with smiles and a whole lot of satisfaction. That’s product. Asking questions, tapping into resources, making new discoveries, and sharing the experience: that’s process, which in this case involved real people, offering real support in real time with the aid of some useful digital tools.  Sounds a bit like a recipe – for learning.  Power and powerful.

Huge thanks go to Beth Still for responding and sharing. Kudos to IFTTT.com for designing an excellent platform for users to become inventive in meeting their mobile tech needs.

More questions than answers

Several months ago I jumped at the opportunity to write a guest blog post on emotional intelligence and educational leadership. Of course that’s a very broad area on which much has already been written. As I began to delve into the world of educator connectedness through twitter and a variety of blogs, I got very curious about how all this e-connectivity is playing itself out at the intersection of leadership and EQ (the borrowed shorthand for emotional intelligence).

Here are the questions I came up with:
How are our professional relationships changed through increased use (and reliance on) social media, e-mail, and other forms of digital communication?

How can leaders make use of media and technology to underscore their commitment to building and supporting emotionally intelligent learning environments?

What are you experiencing at the intersection of school leadership, technology use and emotional intelligence?

Finding and forming questions which get to the heart of what I want to find out has proved challenging thus far. Locating specific articles or posts which speak to this topic in the realm of schools and their leaders has also been surprisingly difficult. There’s plenty of talk about SEL (social emotional learning), best methods for all manner of tech integration in the classroom, a fair amount on meeting admin challenges in the trenches and yet an unbelievable dearth of voices on the intersection of EQ, leadership and tech use.

Just yesterday I was fortunate to find a post which offered a great window into one administrator’s practice and gave clues as to how this might be interpreted as insight into his particular understanding and application of EQ:

So what’s the big deal? It’s tough to say. However fascinating and enriching the possibilities are for instant and far flung connection through our wonderful gadgetry and ever expanding digital capabilities, I still maintain a fundamental concern about the implications for our communicative existences – for better, worse and for the entirely unknown and unanticipated.

So I find myself asking more and more questions and seeking the widest variety of responses. What does it mean for administrators to be potentially accessible to their school communities via their phones 24/7? Where do school leaders draw the line and insist that certain forms of communication take place face to face? What kinds of presence are possible and desirable for school leaders and in which contexts?

Considering the four categories of emotional intelligence: self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, and relationship management – all of these can show up in any of our day-to-day communications and interactions and they are critical to the success of any leader. And with our increased use of and reliance on electronic media, there is so much more room for ambiguity, misunderstanding and mixed signals. This is perhaps the root of my concern: how do we, can we, actively mitigate this gap in perception that comes along with our use of new media? When it is done well, how can we recognize it?

So many questions in search of many responses. I need help on this one. Please share these questions with others, respond to them yourself. Let’s get this conversation going. Thanks.