The Importance and Seriousness of Silly: Dean Shareski at 2012 Social Learning Summit

Presenting from Fredriction, New Brunswick, Canada, Dean Shareski, featured presenter and Discovery Educator Network Community Manager explores the importance and necessity of being social and the increasing blurring of professional and personal. An important question with a divided answer, Dean asks how the use of Twitter, Facebook, and blogs impact professional learning in a social space.

Dean says he loves interesting words in titles, provocative terms like silly and then frames the presentation around the title. Good Understanding by Design, knowing the end before the beginning. Dean says he’s talking about being who you are inside your social spaces and learning who are you inside of them. Encouraging you to push back from what he says, he invites you to form other opinions and share them in the chat.

Howard Rheingold, the father of social networks, says that idle chatter can create potential capital. Moving beyond filtering out the noise and focus on the capital, conversations of weight can occur when you add personal filters to the chatter. The challenge we face as educators as we move into social spaces is dealing with the social mix: the do’s and do not’s of maintaining a persona, fusing both personal and professional. Dean suggests we rethink these things as the challenge of maintaining professional and keeping personal separate–important but images blur when you are many things. Educator, father, teacher, parent–how do you separate them in social spaces.

Bud Hunt suggests you be descriptive, not prescriptive in our use of social spaces. Dean says it’s not easy to put things in boxes because we differentiate and customize what we do, for example, in classrooms. So how do we mandate educationally that teachers cannot have their students as friends on Facebook. While it may not be what we choose to do, it is not something we should prescribe.

We watched Jabiz Raisdana on Social Media. He said he made a decision based on his conversations with Howard Rheingold to share everything and see what happens. So Jabiz has shared out everything and has found his sharing has developed a deep and diverse authentic network of people. He says the boogeyman is the fear that a parent or teacher or administrator will reach out to censure, but he has escaped that booby trap. He tries to be less of a lightning rod these days, but still is concerned about things political. As for silly, he believes that it is important to be less guarded and less distant from their students as they try to inculcate academic rigor. But what Jabiz wants most is an emotional connection, a process over product or pedagogy. He wants to know his students and he wants them to be themselves. It’s not always about the pressure of getting it right. Dean says he has developed a strong connection with Jabiz, even though he does not agree with him on everything. And that’s ok. To see Jabiz’s video, click here.

So, how do we sell social media. Do we follow people’s Twitter accounts or is there something more. Social learning spaces are not magical spaces; learning can occur but you just have to be careful in how you choose to use them. You can create an online learning group but does that mean that other people do your work for you. Dean says that social spaces cannot be easily pigeonholed; you can’t say it’s just like this or that…because we use the tools differently.

Too Big To Know by David Weinberger makes an interesting point: “Bringing smart people together is an ancient and effective technique…for effectiveness.”

We shifted to Tim Lauer for a chat; it’s 7:15 AM in Portland, but Tim is on with us now, speaking to connections we make with people. He reflects on his role as a principal in his ninth year, and he sees that what we do is document things with our family, our learning community. We share our activities in the school and give families a snapshot of who we are and what we do. Tim uses Flickr and the school has a Twitter account, but he is not where he is to sell the media.

Tim says there are levels of sharing and he shares according to his comfort barometer. Not everything should be public, not that it would even be welcomed as public information to the masses. He notes that all the tools have interconnected hooks that reach out and mesh with other Web 2.0 media. Does he connect on social media? Yes, because it keeps him connected in their social spaces to the family. He notes that his mother can communicate on her iPod and see him via social media. And the insurgence of these tools change the nature of how we communicate.

Ludwig Wittgenstein provides an interesting quote that sets the tone for this session and this next piece. Silly but Twitter can tweet out when it’s time to water your plants. Then he shifted to Lee Kolbert, live from Palm Beach, on how she uses Twitter. Primarily to keep connected to her network, people she has met virtually as well as f2f and feels she has a deep interaction with. But in addition, she had her students blog but wanted comments on the blogs. But beyond that, she wanted authentic comments. She reached out to the Twitter hashtag, #comments4kids and got that authentic audience for her students. Because of Lee’s relationships on Twitter, her network commented. You can follow Lee Kolbert on Twitter as @TeachAKid.

To see the short session with Lee, watch below.

There are different levels of silly, so silly needs to be reserved for where you can be engaged in playtime, like Twitter. Flickr is in between Twitter and blogs, where Dean says he is not silly.

Dean then segued to Bud Hunt on the importance of silly. Here’s the video.

The power of silly in real-life spaces is important. Silly can diffuse sadness, heartache. Bud cautions that silly can be overdone, has its time and place and needs to be used judiciously. Bud says we have silly spaces where we can celebrate the silly. It does nothing for the professional self but gives a global picture of who you are. Like earlier presenters, Bud says we need to push back on prescribing what spaces we should not use.

What do we bring to new environments? The best of ourselves. And some of those moments can be used for kindness, for our families, for being ourselves, for compassion, and yes, even for silly, sometimes.

Do watch the video; you will love it.


Another shared video is Bonnie Stewart’s.

Dean’s bottom line: Be real, explore social spaces for the benefits.


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One Comment;

  1. Lee Kolbert said:

    Thanks for the summary. I’m sorry I missed the live presentation. FYI; my Twitter ID is @TeachaKidd (two D’s).


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