Leading the Horse to Water . . .

I’m full of idioms today, but the two that most apply are: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink” and “priming the pump.” Last week, @tomwhitby suggested via Twitter that active tech users “Give your Admin a working Twitter Acct with 50 active PLN Members on it for school opening. Make a difference.” The idea certainly stimulated many conversations and much thought.

As with so many ideas, the helpful, encouraging intent carries some unintended consequences. Many people have talked about privacy and the “personal” element of a PLN. The conversation continues on how much help is too much help. There is concern about tampering with someone’s digital footprint and online identity.

I experienced some of these concerns yesterday when I agreed to help a co-worker who is enthusiastic about setting up a Twitter account but hasn’t taken the “time” to do it. [I know, I know. I can visualize my techy friends rolling their eyes and groaning now.] As she dashed between meetings, she gave me her email address so I could set up the account. Immediately, I ran into uncomfortable territory. No combination of her name was available. I was not willing to create a user name, a name that will follow her and become her online identity, without her input. Setting up an account for someone else should cause us concern.

I agree with @bethstill that a better approach may be helping someone set up a Twitter account (side-by-side) then loading some quality tweeters into their “following” list to get them started — a starter kit, if you will.  That still leaves us with the “horse to water” issue. We can put it all in place, but it’s up to them to drink from the font of collaboration. If the person never checks their Twitter account, then the benefits will never emerge. It’s kind of like that old saw, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear, does it make a sound?” Since we’re sharing people to follow, perhaps we can bring information from tweets into conversation. (“What did you think about the ideas in the article tweeter mentioned? or “Did you see the great infographic tweeter posted?”) Continually bringing the possibilities to the forefront may help, but we can only go so far; at some point, the person has to take over the quest for information.

There is real benefit in “priming the pump.” The notion of providing people with a list (or inputting them into the account you assist them in creating) may provide the impetus to get involved. Front-loading quality tweeters should increase the possibility of seeing the collaborative benefits of Twitter. It also applies a concept we often use in classrooms: setting them up for success.  Even though I really, really wish more people would take the time to figure this stuff out on their own, the potential benefit to an organization makes “priming the pump” worth a shot. Maybe the horse will actually drink the water.

Explore posts in the same categories: Questions/Challenges

2 Comments on “Leading the Horse to Water . . .”

  1. This is a good post, @blairtech, that highlights one of the greatest frustrations that people have with Twitter—finding people worth following. I rave about what I learn from Twitter each day, but that is only because I’m following people who teach in the same content area or grade level as I do or who share similar interests and passions as I do.

    Tons of my friends are Twitter-flameouts who don’t see any value in the service, and the common thread between all of them is that they’re not following anyone that helps them in their daily work. By setting up new Twitter users with a collection of good follows from day one, they’ll see value and want to “come back to the water,” to use your analogy.

    I think my beef is that many teachers EXPECT this kind of support before embracing new tools or technologies. And many resist even if your willing to offer this kind of support.

    That drives me nuts—mostly because technology makes learning efficient, and teachers are supposed to be passionate about helping students to be efficient learners. I also walk around, though, with a bit of a digital chip on my shoulder.

    The way I see it, if I can figure new tools and services out, anyone can. It just requires a bit of persistence, and when a professional isn’t persistent, I question their professionalism.

    Any of this make sense?

  2. […] This post was Twitted by web20classroom […]

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