Naming Names

Alec Couros raised a question on Twitter.

The responses were swift and many. Multiple lists of Twitter personalities, representing a handful of recognizable networks of folks in both PK-12 and higher education appeared. Much gratitude was conveyed and several statements of mutual admiration shared. My own Twitter handle showed up in more than one list. This is always an honor and I do not take such recognition lightly. Generally, serial responses of Twitter users singing each others’ praises through hashtags such as Friday Follow #FF and #SundayScholars are positive moments on a platform where on the other end of the behavior spectrum extremely vicious and harmful attacks on individuals and groups can be unforgiving, relentless and a daily phenomenon.

I also appreciate Alec’s question about the people who push and stretch our thinking about education and the wider world. The question itself is an invitation to think carefully about the connections between our online encounters and our inner processes to take on new ideas, or wrestle with controversy, or to simply to place ourselves on a spectrum of experience. Who are the people who make this happen for us – perhaps regularly? The many lists which emerged today suggest more than popularity metrics and that is important to acknowledge.

At the same time, as the train of responses grew longer and the overlapping increased, intermingled with congratulatory back and forth, I had an odd feeling. Even as my own handle cropped up here, and then there, and then again a little later, I felt a little strange.  If I step away from several personal connections I find among these varying clusters of mentions, I see lists of names and handles which suddenly lack a necessary context. So many names of people whose work and presence I value piled up in various 140 character combinations – somehow today this felt like a let down.

Because when I name a name, I want you to know exactly, explicitly why. Considering our world in which data (often numerical) takes greater prominence, creating lists or collections of names and handles suggests that this is enough. Get the Twitter handle, follow, welcome fresh insights. If only it were that simple.

If we truly want to help each other see and take advantage of what’s available, we need to spend more time (which many would claim we don’t have) to provide the necessary context. If you have followed this blog for a while you will know that @AudreyWatters and @TressieMcPhD have rocked my intellectual world in significant ways over the last 3 years. You will have heard me crow about my online mentors and explain precisely which people allow me to claim Twitter as a sort of online homebase.

Context, context, context – we are going to need more and more of it in our information-overloaded existences, not less. We may not need to follow all the wonderful folks who are writing and challenging, protesting and clarifying – but we will need the critical referral that connects us to the blog post, the rebuttal, the upcoming event which meets us right where we need to go next. Recently, I was introduced to @schmutzie’s (Elan Morgan’s) Five Star Mixtape in which she assembles a weekly cross section of  blog readings and found one post which literally opened my world up to an understanding I wasn’t even aware that I was lacking. So sometimes it can be a single piece of writing or a video or podcast that tips the scales. Let’s also remember this when we create lists. We need both the people and their work.

Yes, please tell us whom you appreciate and why and then feed us with the substance we need to go further. Provide us with the tools to get beneath the surface. Retweet with a comment. Leave a comment on the blog itself. Name names and wrap them in context. These days that can be a genuine gift.

Currently On Offer

If you’ve been following this blog, you will know that I put a fair amount of stock in Twitter as a useful platform for gathering information, opinion and also resources for a variety of interests. While the volume remains overwhelming, the quality of content I am able to curate, process and share continues to astound me.

In only a few days I have run across several articles which all got me thinking in both different and converging directions. Connections exist and probably not exclusively in my special world but also for others. Two articles brought up questions about who gets to teach, or call themselves a teacher. Another article challenges assumptions about our understanding of the root causes of poverty and the interests we may have in perpetuating those assumptions. And the final piece is a portrait of an educator, Samuel Delaney, whose simple example of empowering teaching puts so much of our heated discourse about methods, curricula and standards to shame.

What’s also important to me is by sharing the tweets and my retweets I can better illustrate the community effort of content curation. I would hardly encounter most of what I read were it not for the generous sharing by the folks I follow and the remarkable people and organizations they follow. In this community of curators I share in the tremendous wealth of high quality media resources and gladly redistribute it to whomever may find value in it.

I do wish I had cogent responses to these articles – wise thoughts and savvy connections for you to ponder and evaluate. Sadly, I do not. I only have the need and desire to underscore what I consider to be worthy topics for our consideration. Read what strikes your fancy and get back to me. I welcome the dialogue. Without the dialogue, my conclusions are only tentative and lacking the benefit of real exercise.