Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Two Levels of Engagement

When it comes to online content or your PLN, are you operating at Level 1 or Level 2? Let me explain.

I remember about nine or ten years ago hearing someone talk about the second generation of the internet. They referred to "Web 2.0". I had been online for over ten years at the time, quite comfortable with building webpages and taking advantage of all that the technology had to offer. I remember wondering how different this new internet would be and what it would require me to learn.

Then several years later I actually had to look it up. What exactly did come along with Web 2.0? I sort of adjusted right along with it and missed what that term even referred to.

In case you also missed it, Web 2.0 refers to the fact that the internet became more interactive. Instead of just using it to get information, websites allowed for user comments. People could make profiles and add their own content. Social media like Facebook and Twitter grew in popularity as a result. Instagram and YouTube opened doors of opportunity, as every would be video producer and photographer could capture the attention of the masses.

But I find a vast number of people who still use the internet more or less as if it's the old Web 1.0. Some of them even use 2.0 tools by only gobbling up content. I call this Level 1 engagement or some have referred to it as the consumer level.

There are a lot of good reasons to operate at Level 1. The internet can save us time and teach us many things. Many people put content online just so other people will consume it. We need consumers for it to operate as it does.

But I encourage everyone to consider stepping up to Level 2.

Here the user also takes on the role of contributor. If you have never operated at this level of engagement, let me assure you there are many benefits.

I'm speaking to teachers on this blog, so let's look at a teacher who uses sites like Pinterest or Edmodo to get ideas for lesson plans. That's fine. There are good, creative ideas to be had and great teachers there to learn from.

But now think about that same teacher writing up one of her own favorite lessons and posting it online. It takes some work, but it is probably work that pays off in class as she sees the lesson in a new light. To be sure it's "good enough", she is forced to narrow its focus, think through the flow and maybe add some ideas she never considered before.

It's scary that first time, putting the work out there, but she takes the risk. Maybe someone takes note. Maybe not. But if she keeps at it, hopefully giving the work a little push by promoting it through Twitter or other services as well, someone is bound to take note and comment. Positive or negative, the feedback can help her improve for the next lesson she uploads.

I can tell you from experience that when the comments from other teachers are positive, it can be a huge boost to your confidence in the classroom. Suddenly you're not just teaching your students. You're teaching them in a way that is respected by other professionals.

Once your students know your lessons, and hopefully even examples of their work, are also getting attention online, everything changes.

That two-way interaction can be extremely rewarding. As I always tell the students and teachers I work with, it's a great time to be alive! Time and space no longer prohibit us from learning from and encouraging each other. We can improve faster than ever as we join in the conversation and sharing that takes place online.

Sure, it takes extra work, but Level 2 engagement online has real-world benefits that will encourage you once you get rolling.

Obviously, due to limits of schedules and talent, we can't always operate at Level 2. We all use some online services only to consume, and that's fine. But ask yourself that question I started with:

Are you mostly operating at Level 1 or Level 2 in the online communities you use? What would it take to move fully into Level 2? What benefits would it bring you and your students?
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I'm doing a challenge this month to post on one of my blogs every day. It's in preparation for my conference session, The Way of the Google Drive. Be sure to follow me on Twitter or on either blog to keep up with the "thoughts and tools to inspire". 

Click here to see all the posts from this blog with the tag The Way of the Google Drive.

photo credit: Stair safety via photopin (license)

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