Echo-ChamberI haven’t blogged or been on Twitter nearly as much as I’d like to be recently. Nor have I been reading as much blogs as I have in the past. My world hasn’t fallen apart as a result… But I miss it. I don’t just miss the connections to my PLN (Personal Leaning Network), they are still there any time I need them. I miss the connection to new ideas that challenge my thinking and make me excited to be an educator.

Last (long) weekend I caught up a bit. It actually started the previous weekend as I began prepping for a presentation I did for a parent night and a conference. I don’t present very often, and I find it a real challenge to present a ‘story’ and not just share a collection of ideas. So I bookmark and save interesting perspectives from bloggers and tweeters, steal from my past presentations (since my audience is likely to be either new or forgiving), and I bounce ideas off of people I trust and respect. And hopefully I come up with something of value.

But what inspired this post was what really excites me about being a “Connected Educator“: the ability to learn any time, anywhere from a network of inspiring educators. I’ve heard people talk about the blogging or Twitter “echo chamber” but I don’t see it. The fact is, an echo chamber is a metaphor for a closed system and my network is anything but closed!

Within an hour of playing ‘catch-up’ with my ‘must read’ blogs, here is where I travelled and traversed:

4 Assumptions We Shouldn’t Make in Education” Where George Couros’ 4th assumption we should not make is:

Disagreement is a bad thing. I have started to really believe that we need to really listen to the “naysayer” in our work as opposed to simply believing that they are wrong. Ultimately, most teachers are there to do what is best for kids, and as long as that leads our conversations, we have to find value when we disagree and promote the opportunity to have those conversations.

Next up, Lana Fleiszig who posted on one of my new favourite blogs, Inquiry Within, “Tension Leads to Learning“. Where she shares wisdom like:

– Learning takes place when you take yourself out of your comfort zone;
– Powerful learning comes into play when there is tension;
– Learning is a process not an outcome; And
Making mistakes led to deeper learning.

Besides some uncanny connections to my presentation I just did, Lana connects to George in that like disagreement, great learning can come from challenge, and an opportunity to push our understanding beyond our preconceived notions and beliefs.

Then I moved on to read Dean Shareski “Stop Me If You’ve Heard This Before“. Dean says:

Yes, I do get tired of seeing the same link posted over and over. In my mind I say “seen it” but what I never get tired of seeing is people’s individual responses and thoughts on those same things. Perhaps not just via twitter where the constraints don’t make for very meaningful reflections but in spaces where you can add your perspective and share your ideas and context. That’s the real value. I never pretend to come up with an idea that no one has considered. That’s why I do my best to credit others by linking or sourcing.

Maybe originality is overrated. But your thinking isn’t.

This makes me think of the idea of the ‘echo chamber’, and also reminds me of how I blatantly borrowed this very idea from Dean’s Moral Imparative to Share K12Online presentation for my Transforming Education presentation. (Yes, he gets full credit… This was actually the point I was making!)

From there, I went back to George Couros and “How big is your room #CEM12“. Besides asking some great questions, that would really challenge our district’s questions in hiring interviews, George leads me to Kelly Christopherson’s post: “It’s Overwhelming… And then some!” Kelly says:

Build you PLN with a variety of people – some you know will give you some great ideas and suggestions and stories, some you’re not sure about and some that have nothing to do with education but with other interests… But don’t just follow people who think like you – that leads to “group think” which can be hazardous to innovation, new ideas and deep reflection caused by someone questioning.


Being connected means so much more than having a twitter account. It’s about developing a series of relationships with people that will push you and support you.

Now my ‘room gets bigger’, I follow Kelley’s link (above) to Every Leader Needs a Challenger in Chief and read Noreena Hertz who essentially says:

Dissent, it turns out, has a significant value.

And then finally a move on to Justin Baeder’s post: What’s Wrong with Connected Educators’ Month?  You should read the whole post, but essentially Justin says:

…I’m convinced that most of the sound and fury around social media in education availeth nothing.
Trying really hard to get educators to “connect” might not be such a good idea.
Why? Because it becomes an end in itself.
If your goal is to be “connected,” you have the wrong goal.
If your goal is to “share ideas” and “connect” with other educators, you have the wrong goal…


The point of a PLN, and of any kind of PD we seek for ourselves, is to improve our practice in order to better serve our students.

This gets me thinking about No Office Day (#NoOfficeDay). Like Connected Educator Month, this is a neat idea that could be done for all the wrong reasons. Rather than being about a ‘visible’ Principal, (who spends time visiting classes regularly anyway), spending an entire day out of the office and in classrooms, No Office Day can be seen as an ‘event’ that partitions off one day to do what should be done on a regular basis. (To me this day is also a reminder to get ‘out there’ even more often!)

Are Connected Educator Month and No Office Days bad things? I don’t think so, but I like that Justin Baeder shares his concerns about educators getting connected for the sake of getting connected and not for the purpose of serving our students and our schools. I also like that I’ve had discussions with educators I respect, like Chris Wejr (see One Day Events Don’t Solve Everyday Problems), who push back on special event days (like No Office Day for example).

Two simple facts come from this:

1. People in my PLN challenge my thinking and push me to see perspectives that I would not see on my own.

2. A good PLN will pull in learning from places I don’t normally go, and this means that even when good ideas bounce around, perspectives on those ideas don’t stay static… they don’t echo, and they morph into new insights.

That all came from one hour of reading blogs. This post took a fair bit longer than that to compose and edit.

This is why I miss spending more time on Twitter and reading blogs. I miss the challenge. I miss the exposure to new ideas and perspectives. In the past I’ve been questioned about how much time I would spend on social media. When that happens, I have a simple response: “All my Tweets and status updates have time stamps, and are open for all to see. Go take a look when I’m engaging online.”

I spend most of my online time after my kids go to bed, at 5am in the morning, and on weekends. I don’t really watch TV. I get lost when my buddies talk about sports teams. As I like to say, “I’m an edu-geek, and learning about learning and education ‘floats my boat’. This past week, I had more conversations at work, and shared more resources with my staff than I have in a long time. Why? Because my PLN fed me some amazing stuff… stuff that can “…improve our practice in order to better serve our students.

Networked chambers do not echo. There are countless rooms to explore, and a good PLN helps you find the ones you need to explore most. They also remind you what is really important about events like Connected Educator Month and No Office Day. And when the next ‘event’ or new educational fad comes along, I’m sure my PLN will not only give me great insight, it will also excite me about why I love being a (connected) educator.

16 comments on “Networked Chambers Do Not Echo

  1. Very true about reflecting online from such a tremendous group of reflectors and thinkers. I spend the weekend catching up to sessions from around the world and trying to sign up in order to reach more and learn more from everyone online. I feel refreshed with my thinking when reflecting. Lots to juggle and agree with you, being a connected educator makes us better learners.

  2. Philosophy leads the way for learners to enter discussions where disagreement is not only expected but worked through.
    Young learners can navigate discussions where opinion varies from their own, without hot heads and with sensitivity.

  3. Dave, another excellent post. I too have had much less time to spend online. Being in a new role this year has certainly challenged me. New relationships, new operational routines and a school 2.5 times bigger has certainly taken up much of my time (not to mention unlike you I do have a few favorite sports teams that I choose to follow). However, I do feel that after 7 weeks on the job, that it might be time to start sharing some ideas with some of my new colleagues. I look forward to having those conversations in the building. Your post reminded me of a few things that I can do to start those conversations that will in the end improve the learning experience for students. I am looking forward to catching up with you next weekend!!

  4. Hi David,
    Great post! I agree that the diverse range of people and perspectives you include in your PLN makes it not an echo chamber.

    On the other hand, that’s a purposeful choice you’ve made, and I could see how other people’s PLNs might in fact reinforce only messages they want to hear. (Go to any political website and you’ll see this in its most extreme form.)

    If I could nudge a bit, I think one “echo chamber” aspect of the Connected Principals blogosphere is the idea that everything needs to be rethought. It’s not a bad idea (and I don’t disagree), but I thought it served as an example of how sometimes “overthrow the status quo” is itself the new status quo :).

    Great post, and really great reflections lately. You must have spent hours on your blog lately! Really enjoying it.

    1. “I thought it served as an example of how sometimes “overthrow the status quo” is itself the new status quo 🙂 .”

      There are worse things that I can think of Justin. I do get that it can seem overwhelming, and that some people think we are ‘throwing the baby out with the bathwater’, but we don’t throw the bathwater out any more and in the same way that we use old references to make our points, I think we are doing many old practices because they are easy, or they are comfortable, or they take a lot of effort to change.

      What I like about sharing things the way we have recently, is that we are doing so in an open venue where our new practices are questioned and challenged. It goes back to Darren Kuropatwa’s idea of being in perpetual beta. More than anything, I think that if educational leaders can model this, they can create an environment where things that need to be challenged, can be challenged… exciting times! 🙂

  5. David,

    This is a beautiful post. I have been very much struggling with connected educators that turn a blind eye to the naysayer. We all speak so much about how we learn when we’re outside of our comfort zones, but some are still willing to go out of it! It is important to listen to and weigh out the value of each voice in the conversation. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  6. Hi Mr. Truss,
    My name is Jacquelyne Mckiernan I left a comment on another one of your posts a few weeks ago. I really enjoyed looking through the Diigo bookmarks you shared with me. My professor has had me create a personal learning network, and until I read your post I was not real sure how to use it. This is a great post that shows how a PLN could be used. I am excited to actually start working on my PLN and hopefully one day my PLN will be as useful as yours is to you. Thank you for sharing about your PLN!
    Here is a link to my blog, feel free to read and comment.

    1. Hi Jacquelyne,
      I did go to your blog, and commented on the post you wrote about me. There I spoke of the value of my blog, and now I realize that I didn’t talk much of the value of my PLN. The last 3 comments before yours describe varying decrees of connectedness for me.

      Mike Slinger and I started teaching together. We are now both Vice Principals in the same district. Our connection is stronger face-to-face than it is online.

      Justin Baeder and I have been connected online for a few years, but recently I wrote a post about juggling the management aspects of my job and Justin invited me to one of his seminars as a result. A free gesture to a connected friend. We have both been paying more attention to each other since… learning from each other and sharing each other’s work.

      Victoria Olson and another VP colleague are co-founders of the #BCEdChat. I have only met her once at a restaurant gathering, but we sat at different tables. She is doing great things in her classroom and I’m learning more about her through Twitter and her blog. Here is a great post from her to learn more about Twitter: Re-Imagine Your Professional Development Experience… With Twitter!

      A PLN grows exponentially after a while, but it starts by sharing and adding value. Eventually, your PLN gives back more than you could ever give, but it does take a while to get there. It is great to add you to my network!

  7. I haven’t blogged or been on Twitter nearly as much as I’d like to be recently. Nor have I been reading as much blogs as I have in the past. My world hasn’t fallen apart as a result… But I miss it. I don’t just miss the connections to my PLN (Personal Leaning Network), they are still there any time I need them. I miss the connection to new ideas that challenge my thinking and make me excited to be an educator.

    Me neither! It’s been an incredibly busy semester and I’ve really missed being connected. I’m looking forward to getting back in the swing of things so I can continue to be challenged to think by my PLN!

  8. Yes Lissa, it is the challenge and the learning opportunities that bring me back all the time. I am still overly challenged in the amount of time I have, and chose this weekend to unplug, rather than plug-in, but I’ll be back at it again soon. The rewards are too great… I really love my PLN, thanks for being part of it! 🙂

  9. HI Dave,

    I agree so much with what you write here. I have not been connected as much as I like either. Actually, that’s the way it’s been for well over a year now, it seems. Yah, I get bits here and there, but not a bit of time each day. It is such an empowering, invigorating, and inspiring way to start the day – just 10-20 minutes on Twitter or trying to “catch up” (don’t think that’s possible) makes a huge difference to my professional learning. Reading what others have written truly inspires me each day. I get energy from other people (not just the silos, of course, as you said). Everyone’s ideas and opinions matter.

    Great post! It’s amazing how much we can learn from one another in such a short period of time.


  10. Mr. Truss,

    South Alabama EDM310 student here. Great post, and I could not agree more, due to the fact that It took me a while to see all of the many professional benefits to social media. From an education standpoint the possibilities of new ideas, challenged thinking, and motivation to be an educator are endless, and as you said they certainly do not “echo.” By this we have the privilege to be “connected educators” with people all over the world at the click of a button! It truly is exciting. Thanks for sharing!

Comments are closed.