I enjoy Twitter chats. Two in particular are part of my weekly routine. I appreciate connecting online with other educators, hearing their ideas, and sharing my own. Twitter has provided a connection for me, and it is immediate, ongoing, free professional development.
This week something important happened in one of those chats. People were pushing back on ideas, challenging responses. It was not negative. It was not mean-spirited. It was a wonderful, meaningful discussion. I have struggled some with the concept of ideas in 140 characters. How can we hope to see the whole picture, appreciate the nuances in situations, and reach for the full meaning of things in 140 characters?
Of course we cannot. We can ask questions. We can share resources. We can scratch the surface. We can ignite a desire to learn more. And we can inspire. There is power in 140 characters.
There is power too though in reaching for more. There is power in not just “liking” or “sharing” or “quoting” an idea. There is power in questioning and challenging things. It’s not about being argumentative. It’s about seeking the best ideas. The strongest teams are made up of well-intentioned people with different perspectives and ideas. The strongest leaders know this and create safe environments where people can openly discuss the complexities of a situation.
I learned a new word this week that perfectly summarizes what I’ve been wrestling with since starting the blog. Listicle. More than a list, less than an article. Social media is full of them. I’ve written many of them myself. Three things to boost engagement. Four characteristics of an engaging leader.
I usually shoot for about 500 words each week, long enough to share my thoughts and short enough that people might actually read it. It can be a challenge though to get to the depth of what I want to share in 500 words.
I am not weighing in to politics here. I don’t want to go there with this blog, but I thought the following quote was relevant to my struggle between sharing concise ideas and not neglecting the bigger, deeper picture.
In one of my favorite monologues from Aaron Sorkin in The West Wing (“Red Mass”), one of the characters speaks eloquently about the importance of reaching for the deeper meaning. The opponent in a presidential campaign has been quoting poets and philosophers in quick one-liners. His frustration is that one-liners cannot get at the full meaning of these important thinkers.
When the President’s got an embassy surrounded in Haiti, or a keyhole photograph of a heavy water reactor, or any of the fifty life-and-death matters that walk across his desk every day, I don’t know if he’s thinking about Immanuel Kant or not. I doubt it, but if he does, I am comforted at least in my certainty that he is doing his best to reach for all of it and not just the McNuggets.
I just opened Facebook and saw a graphic with three things to do at the start of every day. They were positive, powerful strategies, and I copied the picture and will refer to it. We can make tremendous impact in 140 characters. But we should also find ways to reach for the deeper understandings.