Many folks are reflecting on their #EduCon experience of this past weekend. #EduCon is a unique education conference in that it has no vendor support or “How-To workshops”. It consists of intellectual conversations dealing with ideas and concerns of that which we call education or learning. It is limited to 300 participants drawing from some of the leading Thought Leaders in education from across the country. The idea of Thought Leader is in fact the focus of this post.
I never knew of the term Thought Leader as it applied to educators. I never heard it over a 34 year career as a secondary English teacher. I did not hear of it when I first entered the Higher Ed arena. I did hear of it as I entered the world of Social Media. I have come to believe that a Thought Leader is one who encourages, promotes, stimulates, or fosters thought in the area of Education. Other areas and industries have their own Thought Leaders.
What set me off on this reflection was a tweet by Ira Socol about EduCon having a hierarchy of attendees, an “A-List” as it were. I took that to mean a group of people who were above the average attendees, the Educator Elite who others look up to for direction. They would be the recognized Thought Leaders. In fact there was a number of attendees who travel the education circuit as Keynote Speakers and paid consultants. That however, does not diminish their expertise in the area of education. In fact they were not at EduCon as paid Keynotes or paid consultants. They were there as educators and education experts exchanging ideas with other educators. Since many of them have been on the education circuit for quite a while, they are familiar with each other and naturally gravitate together. What separates them from the label of elite is their approachability and openness to sharing. They are there as sources. I will not list names, because I know, I will undoubtedly, leave someone out, and feelings will be hurt. Let us acknowledge that these Thought Leaders were at EduCon to share and offer their expertise as much as any other attendee there. They paid the same fee we all did.
There is also a secondary level of this Hierarchy. These individuals might be thought of as the Nouveau riche amongst educators. They acquired their gravitas through social media. With a combination of education, learning, and experience, they have assembled a number of opinions on various subjects within education and have tweeted them out or blogged to a following. Their opinions have been weighed and measured and by all accounts they are recognized as sound. Others have Re-Tweeted their tweets or recommended their blogs to such an extent that global recognition has been acquired. These are the individuals who made up a bulk of the conversation moderators at EduCon. Again, they were very approachable with sharing and exchanging ideas the focus of their attendance at the conference.They are giving as much as they are taking. That is the theory of sharing.
Now to the point of this post, anyone has the ability to be a Thought Leader. I was taken aback at a comment by one of the attendees at EduCon who said that she would never tweet out a promotion of her Blog post. I immediately pictured an elementary student after being nominated for class president being told that she/he cannot vote for her/himself. If you do not believe you are the best person for the job, why run? If you do not believe your post has value and should be shared for comment and reflection, why write it? How can you test the value of your beliefs? The purpose of your post should be your belief in the value of your opinion. Comments will direct your reflection and possible change in thought. We are not politicians. Educators are expected to be flexible and change when needed.
With the help of Social Media I have been referred to as a Thought Leader. It is not a title I claimed, or gave to myself. It is a title that others have given me and it comes with responsibility. People begin to look to me for thought or even some leadership in thought. It is a title that can be claimed by anyone who comes to the social media table with knowledge, experience, flexibility and small amount of social media savvy along with a few contributions to add to the educational slow pot cooker.
To become a Do It Yourself Thought Leader:
- Select your area of expertise.
- Use twitter to Micro blog your ideas.
- Respond to others on your topic.
- Engage educators in discussions of your topic.
- Write a blog on your Topic
- Promote your posts on Twitter to drive traffic to your Blog
- Submit proposals for presentations at Education conferences.
Social Media has offered educators another avenue to become a Thought Leader. It is not an easy road, but it is possible to step up and move forward. It is also a role that needs to be filled in a climate of change and reform. We need more educators to step up and offer guidance through the obstacles to change.
Please, help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope!