Does audience matter? When composing a presentation for a specific group–Yes. But what about your tweets, blogs, and professional postings on social media? Does audience matter there?
At a recent edcamp, I watched two, well-respected educators I really admire openly disagree about the importance of an educator’s audience online. In addition, my daily interactions with various networks have supported both schools of thought, here. Oh–and you guessed it–I’ve also drawn my own conclusions.
Opinion A: Audience does NOT matter.
Many educators claim that they’d still tweet, blog, and post for professional growth benefits, even if they didn’t have one single follower. The opportunity, space, and intentional routine to individually reflect, learn, and grow is so valuable, that it’s the very essence of rediscovering the educator WHY. For many, it may be the times invested in these reflective archives that keeps them… keeping on in a profession otherwise overshadowed by the potentially negative.
Ready for a surprising truth: I'd blog and Tweet even if no one read anything I shared. For me, blogging and Tweeting is about reflection, not audience.
— Bill Ferriter (@plugusin) November 24, 2017
Opinion B: Audience DOES matter.
Educators are public servants. While their total influence isn’t easily measured, their audience reach may be even harder to bookend. Especially in the Age of Information, with content tweeted from fingertips to the world in just one click, educators need to be aware that their audience of colleagues, parents, students, employers, and the world is always watching. If educators include inflammatory phrases or cuss words in their posts, then they can expect their students to do the same in their learning spaces.
In addition, professional learning network members challenge and push each other’s thinking. They promote meaningful conversations by liking, retweeting, and replying to each other’s tweets; sharing, reposting, and commenting on each other’s blogs; and even sharing across social media, such as facebook, linkedIn, Instagram, and Pinterest.
It’s not just about one educator’s post; it’s about how others interact with it.
Professional growth–beyond our own mind–wouldn’t be cultivated, challenged, or redirected without an audience. It’s the sharing of our archives that starts conversations to drive change to make learning experiences better for our students.
It's also about audience. Put me in a room with teachers learning tech integration – they want the sage. Put me in a room of 12th graders – they have no interest in hearing me lecture. https://t.co/8MoCK2I0lK
— Tom Mullaney (@TomEMullaney) November 8, 2017
My Opinion: BOTH are right. Here’s why:
If audience did not matter, then I would hand-write my professional thoughts and reflections on papers and napkins, and stuff them in my sock drawer, so to speak. Because audience DOES matter, I share my thoughts online frequently–sometimes provokingly–just to start a conversation–because I know my networks will challenge me, enhance my perspective, and help me grow as a professional and a person. Think I’m joking? Have you SEEN my PLN members? I LOVE THEM. They have literally changed my life.
Telling your school’s story to your community matters.
But Opinion A is always right, too, because educators too often get mixed up in other issues, and lose WHY they archive and share in the first place. Opinion A is THAT important. Just like you would begin planning a learning experience with a curriculum objective; learning target; or wonderment inquiry, start with Opinion A. Start with WHY.
Where #AudienceMatters gets a bad rap, is when it’s confused with motives rooted in vanity, analytics, statistics, self-worth, and pride. For example:
- I see several educators really worried about their followers-to-following ratio. If you unfollow three educators because only two educators started following you today… Nothing could be more insincere or shallow than this. If you’re playing this game, please leave social media as an educator.
- If you know that you have 2,400 followers instead of 2,398 followers, some would say that you may have a problem.
- Don’t just follow fellow educators who follow you–Celebrate them. When educators follow each other, they open up direct-messaging channels and opportunities for more interaction.
- If you’re MORE interested in building a brand and outsourcing student learning experiences for your own profit, then please leave social media AND education.
- Be an educator in the life of a student for the right reasons.
When I stopped caring about it–That's when I got the most followers. [And it's not about that–It's about learning together]. @alicekeeler
— Kyle Hamstra (@KyleHamstra) September 16, 2017
- #AudienceMatters to #Hashtag180, too. Throughout this blog, we cited our top three reasons for hashtagging, as composed in red-letter words: Archive, Share, and Tell.