Engaging Your Community

Posted by on Jul 20, 2009

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My last post generated some intriguing discussion.  Specifically, the issue of people being connected in our community surfaced.  As did the notion of “top edubloggers” and their level of connection or general disconnection to the population of other educators, and I think both ideas merit further exploration.

The very notion that there exists such a thing as an echelon of “top edubloggers” is in itself quite intriguing.  The presence of the notion begets the questions, “Who are the top edubloggers, and why are they seen as such?”  I believe this is an inherently fundamental issue that touches the very core of who we are as humans.  Because, ultimately, it’s all of us who decide.

People only have as much value as that which we ascribe to them.  If you determine there is a voice in the blogosphere that you would classify as a “top blogger,” you have allowed yourself to make that determination.  You’ve elected some set of criteria with which to make your judgment.  It might be the number of people who subscribe to a person’s blog, the length of time a person has been in the field of education, the number of comments the person’s posts elicit, the ideas and topics the person writes about, or it might be a combination of these as well as any host of others.  There is certainly not a thing wrong with using any of these criterion to base a decision upon, but we should acknowledge the fact that we do use something to reach our conclusions, and again, we are the ones ultimately ascribing the value.

I raise this point because I believe there are many people who feel a sense of disconnect from the people they are determining to be the top edubloggers.  First, remember that you yourself have determined that the person is someone to which you have given a certain amount of value.  Second, if you wish to connect with that person, you have to engage.  Each person in this space began at the same place.  The beginning.  They engaged, and things developed from there.

I can’t state how much being in this space has challenged me and pushed me to grow as a professional.  I can entirely attribute that growth to the conversations I’ve had with many of you, and the only reason we had the conversations is because we all chose to engage.  We all started adding our voice to an ever growing conversation that we all belong to.

And that’s really the greatest piece of advice I can suggest to anyone entering this space.  You have to engage.  Certainly you can hang back and just dip your toes in the water periodically to see if the temperature is right for you, but at some point, you’ve just got to get in the water.  Whether it’s one foot at a time, slowly immersing, or it’s one swift cannonball sending the splash cascading down on others, you have to engage if you want to get the most from this environment.

So if you’re willing to jump in, mix it up with everyone else, and swim freely in the deep end, I’m willing to follow you or read your stuff or listen to your podcast or watch your videos or whatever else I can do to swirl my ideas with yours.  I’m reasonably sure we’d all be willing to, if you’re willing to engage.


  1. Chad Lehman
    July 20, 2009

    Ben, you’re right, to be involved in the conversation, you have to jump in. We do have our own criteria when deciding who the experts are and for many, there is probably overlap among some of those names. I also think some of the criteria depends on what our job is. I’m in the library, so Doug Johnson is someone I consider one of the top dogs. Others not in my field, may not feel that way. The bottom line is that we need to get involved in the conversations, not only via blogs or Twitter, but face to face when those opportunities pop up, like they did at NECC. Once the face to face meetings occur, there can even be a better understanding of the person behind the thoughts that we’ve been following.

  2. Todd Williamson
    July 20, 2009

    Thanks for this post Ben. It’s always important to come back to that idea of using these tools to engage with others. The barriers to collaboration are so much lower now that we’re doing a disservice to ourselves and our students not to try and connect with others outside of our limited real life locations. I’ll likely be pointing a number of people in the direction of this post tomorrow as we discuss blogging with some teachers from across our state who have never used blogs, or many collaborative tools, before.

    By the way, I think part of what I use to determine who the “top edubloggers” are, is the ability of their posts to push my thinking in new directions. It doesn’t take necessarily have to be a huge number of “pushing” or “shifting” posts…just a couple that reframe my thinking gets them points in my mind!

  3. monika hardy
    July 20, 2009

    wow mr grey…
    so – i have this quote of yours on my emerging ning site.
    Leaders are those who most publicly learn and bring others with them along the way. – Ben Grey
    i have been stirred by your words often. these especially grabbed me – the disconnect part.
    this post is so enlightening. very inspirational. and quite touching.
    thank you for being so above us and yet so with us.
    a friend and i were talking the other day about gaps in the classroom. he was saying in his day there were very smart kids in the class, and then the rest of the class, there was just a divide and it didn’t matter to the smart kids how badly the other kids were doing – he said a bad school is a school with such a divide.
    so – ben – thank you for being a very smart kid that does care how the rest of the class is doing.
    i’m not gonna lie – even with your sweet words – jumping in is tough – awkward even.
    but how can i expect my kids to do it – if i don’t.
    huge thank you.


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