Sunday, July 31, 2011

Managing Online Circles

With the advent of Google+ coinciding with the arrival of my summer holidays, I've been feeling a little out of the loop over the past few weeks.  I typically try to 'unplug' a little over the summer so that I can recharge my batteries for new projects & collaborations as another school year begins.  This means taking a bit of a breather from most of my online connections.  Not completely removing myself per se, but limiting the amount of time that I engage with these tools.

But now that Google+ has been introduced, I've felt the need to dabble - to connect with different people in different ways, to create new social circles with my online connections.  Well, not really new social circles, but more social circles...

Herein lies the problem for me.  With all of the online communities that are available to participate in, I'm beginning to find that it's becoming increasingly difficult to 'manage' my participation in each.  Is regular participation required in each of these communities in order to make them meaningful?

I participate in a number of social networks and I find that I use each one in a slightly different way - each tool has it's own purpose for me.  I like each of the social networks to which I belong because of that sense of community.  And when new social networks arrive on the scene - especially networks that have been developed by the heaviest hitters in the online world - I don't hesitate to jump on board and explore the features and possibilities.

I know a great many educators who shun all aspects of connecting & collaborating online.  You and I both know that these teachers are doing themselves a great disservice by avoiding the use of these tools.  For some of these teachers, they refuse to take the plunge because they feel that they've always been fine without the use of these tools.  For others, they feel that they have nothing to contribute.  But the excuse that I hear more than any other is the lack of time - they feel that they just can't afford the time that it would take to participate effectively in an online community.

It's a shame that we still have so many educators who have not realized the potential that social networking has to offer.  But, to be honest, I'm starting to see where some of these teachers are coming from.  It takes time to manage your participation in these learning communities.  Is it worth the effort?  Of course!  But it can be tricky to juggle your online circles.  I've begun to wonder just how many balls I can keep up in the air without dropping them...