The 5 Cs of participation in online and social media

The 5 Cs of participation in online and social media: Arrows from Consume to Create to Curate to Consolidate to Collaborate.

The 5 Cs of participation in online and social media

I brought my computer, my iPad, my phone, a notebook, my Kindle, and a physical book. I knew I might not have Internet access. I was planning ahead for a disconnected evening by myself.

So here I am – I finished an audiobook, wrote some [possibly] meaningful blog posts, wrote a very short story, and now write another blog post. Is this how I should spend my time?

I am making a conscious effort to create instead of only consume. I don’t know if that’s a good idea or not, but it sounds good. I recently thought my way through different types of participation, especially in the context of social media, and I came up with the 5 Cs of participation (which someone else has likely articulated already; these are independent thoughts, though): Consume, Create, Curate, Consolidate, Collaborate. I placed them in this order on purpose – increasing level of difficulty and increasing value to the community.

If I simply Consume, I change myself (maybe), but no one else. At least not right away, and not directly.

If I Create, I’m sharing my own thinking with others. That’s good, but probably only if I’ve spent some time Consuming. If my thinking is brilliant and original, this might be more valuable than other forms of participation, but that would mess up my pretty visual.

Curation is very useful for a community – find the gold, and share it back out. Let the junk sink while you carry the good stuff to the surface. This is what retweeting is for. It can be much more useful than Creating – I have to thinking critically and reflectively when I Curate (if I do it well); I can Create a bunch of garbage pretty easily.

Consolidating multiple sources into a new, coherent, greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts product is very useful. I like to think that people do this to some extent whenever they Create, whether they realize it or not – their Creations are informed by what they have Consumed, and they make sense of those ideas, which makes their Creation a weak form of Consolidation. A strong Consolidation is deliberate – seeking out different sources, even conflicting ones, to make sense of them all and construct a new, greater idea.

And Collaboration is the most difficult, most rewarding, and often most useful. In a good Collaboration, members will Consolidate when they Create, and the multiple viewpoints can help to eliminate blindspots and biases.

So those are my 5 Cs. Likely there are more thoughtful, reasoned, research-based models, and I’ve read a little of them. Perhaps this is a Consolidation rather than a Creation. This is the perspective I have right now, and I’ll be happy to adjust it moving forward. That will depend on Conversation, which happens to start with C as well. :)


Do I need to write for an audience?

"Show" by Roger Reuver at

From “Show” by Roger Reuver at

Sometimes I have a little extra time to write (like the night I am writing this – I’m sitting in what I’m sure is a storage container that’s been converted into a series of bedroom-like spaces, with no cell service and no Internet access) and I try to use that time effectively. I’ll write poetry, or fiction, or music, or, like tonight, rambling blog posts.

I just finished Redshirts by John Scalzi (narrated by Wil Wheaton), and it got me thinking again about my own fiction writing (if you haven’t read/listened to it yet, it’s worthy – four stars out of five, I’d say). I know writing Science Fiction is stupid difficult (you know, because you have to be accurate and stuff), and writing fantasy is pretty difficult (because you make up rules and have to stick to them and all of their ramifications). Those are the kinds of fiction I like to read, so my first ideas tend to be in those areas. I also like to read thriller/suspense/police procedural books, but having no real understanding of the details of life for characters in those stories I have so far shied away from those genres.

And so I got to thinking (as I have before): why do I want to write? List of possible reasons:

  • I want to create something, so why not a story/book?
  • I think I can do better (this is definitely true of some books I’ve read).
  • I’m inspired by great writing.
  • It’s fun to write.
  • I want people to read something I write and be impressed.

My worry is regarding the last item: is that my primary reason? If it is, that certainly would compel me to seek an audience.

My motivation for this particular piece is pretty straightforward: I’m trying to make sense of my thinking and my motivations. This might never be published (if you’re reading this, then I suppose I decided to), and at the moment it’s just for me. We’ll see.

But what about a piece of short fiction? Am I writing that for myself, or for you? What am I trying to prove?

There is a lot, lot, LOT of fiction out there to read. No one can keep up with reading it all, so it’s not like the writing world needs my work; it’s already basically saturated. I’m more than likely just adding to the noise. I think it’s valuable to write stuff because I think writing is good for me. But is it valuable to publish my writing for others to read? Do I need an audience for the work to be meaningful?

I’ve heard/read many times that students prefer to blog for an audience, that when their blogs are globally accessible it’s a much more meaningful writing experience for them. That certainly makes sense to me on the surface, so perhaps I’m having a similar experience. Are my words worth more to the world than they are to just me?

I don’t journal. I have lots of little books to write in; other people would fill these with musings and thoughts throughout their days, or perhaps spend some time writing as an exercise or as catharsis in the evening. Mine remain mostly empty. I have filled the first few pages of several, having good intentions but poor follow-through. The blogging is going a little better, and I think it’s because of the automatic, eternal audience; not only those folks who will read these words shortly after I’ve written them, but also those who might stumble across them years from now. I’ve written and posted this text, and now it won’t die. That doesn’t make it valuable, by itself, but that does make it persistent.

I’m not a novelist. I think I could write a novel, maybe even a good one, given enough desire, but I’m probably not going to. It’s November, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and I once again have let it pass me by. I’ll write; I’ll write for the amorphous audience that is the Internet and I’ll write for myself. I don’t know whether I need the audience, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t hurt.

Explaining my next few posts

I have no Internet connection tonight (Sunday), and so I can’t really do much work. I can’t answer emails, create courses, gather data, respond to blog posts, do research…. In short, I can read and I can write. I have a book I might dive into shortly, but in the meantime I’ve written a bunch of blog posts. I’m thinking about scheduling them for release over the next few days, rather than blasting them out all at the same time, to make it more palatable for everyone. I might also just post them all at once.

In any case, it’s a sharp reminder of how completely connected we are. I don’t even have a phone right now. Power and running water, yes; contact with the outside world, no. It’s a little bit anxiety-inducing. I’m okay, mostly because I know I could drive to the school in Hornepayne if I really needed to. But since I’m away from my family I really, really would prefer to be connected. If I was at home without access to the Internet I think it would bother me less.

I guess that’s it: I’m very alone right now. I don’t like that. I think about my wife not being able to contact me and I worry about how she’s feeling. I miss her, and I miss my kids. Several times since I got here I’ve been about to open a browser to casually check something, important or unimportant, but caught myself. I have the things in this tiny room, and that’s all.

It’s probably not a bad experience, overall; it’s likely worth taking a step back from all of the near-miraculous technology we have to gain some perspective periodically. It’s encouraged me to get all pensive and write a bunch of stuff.


My theme: Ryu


I did a bit of reading at Theme Shaper about the design of the WordPress theme I use (“Ryu”). The designer mentioned that it was intended for the “Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter generation of personal bloggers”; this caught my eye.

Later the designer explains that this mean that the generation is accustomed to making short posts which may include a variety of different types of media.

I chose it because it’s simple, clean looking, and I can lean back to read it. I don’t stick to just short posts, and I don’t always have images or other media to include, but there isn’t another free theme I prefer, and I haven’t explored the premium themes.

How do you choose your theme? How do you like Ryu (if I’m still using it when you read this)? Does it matter much?

I Think I Should Blog

There are lots of great articles, blog posts, webpages, infographics, and more about why educators should blog. Into that pool of reflective, organized thinking I toss this post: rough, ragged, and unrefined. Enjoy.

At the SNB eSymposium this week I worked and talked a lot with principals and vice principals. We talked about e-Learning, Blended Learning, blogging, tweeting, and how to best support teachers and students in their explorations of learning-with-technology. And it was a great time, with great conversations.

Early in the day Tim Robinson, one of the co-chairs, asked the group of about 115 educators for a show of hands: “How many of you use Twitter?” From my vantage point I estimated about 30 hands in the air. Tim remarked that there were quite a few more raised hands than last year, and I agree. He didn’t ask how many blog, or how many share their own learning with their colleagues. I would be curious about the responses to those questions.

My blog isn’t a collection of exemplary thoughts or riveting writing. Sometimes I think it’s probably a little awkward and uncomfortable to parse. It’s possibly even a touch boring at times (skip those posts, please). But it’s where I try to sort out my thinking. I just posted another entry about using Twitter, and I expect some folks are sick of me treading that same patch of tired ground. But I can’t apologize, because I’m only partly writing those things for you. Mostly, I’m writing for me.

I get a lot from trying to organize my thoughts. I have to examine my conceptions and misconceptions, look at and for evidence, and articulate my perspectives. That stuff is hard to do.

The blog also gives people a chance to learn how I think about things, and to respond and converse. Occasionally I’ll get a comment that refines or even disagrees (these are the best, in truth).

Do you take notes when you read stuff? Do you go back to them? Are they digital, searchable? Does anyone else get to see them?

Does your staff know what you’re trying to learn about? Is it clear that you’re not the expert on all things? How about your students? Do they know that you also have to learn?

These are all good ways to use a blog, and I want to explore them more. Maybe I’ll take on a Post-A-Day challenge sometime, instead of blogging in spurts.

None of us have “arrived”, and we all know that none of us ever will. Share fearlessly, accept criticism and praise, and be willing to change your mind as you develop your understanding. I’ll try to do the same.

I’ve Decided: I Don’t Want Multiple Twitter Accounts

I’ve recently had several discussions about the idea of having multiple Twitter accounts for different purposes. For example, I’m an e-Learning Contact, so maybe I should have a personal and a professional account. Or, if I were teaching in a school, maybe I want a teacher account for “classroom” tweets and another for professional learning. I could also have an account for running, or photography, or hairstyling (jokes!), or any of my other interests.

But I don’t do any of that, and so far I’m happy with this approach. I have one account which I use professionally and personally. I carry on open, publicly-accessible conversations with people from all over the province and even further abroad. Most of these are professional. Some are personal. And, best of all, some are both.

There are good reasons to want multiple accounts; I just don’t think they apply to me right now.

Audience Irritation

I don’t want to bother anyone. I don’t want to fill anyone’s timeline with “useless” stuff. I hope that the highly dedicated, serious educators on Twitter aren’t irritated by the occasional tweet about my kids or my coffee. So, I don’t tweet a lot of frivolous stuff. And the “frivolous” things that I find funny or interesting that I take the time to tweet are often interesting to other educators (see here for an example). So, if you find my casual, irregular inclusion of non-Ed stuff irritating, feel free to unfollow. I won’t be hurt. I don’t follow everyone either.

Other Formal Roles

Right now I’m just an e-Learning Contact. I don’t teach in a school, I’m not the leader of a community organization, I don’t tweet for a lot of other purposes. If I was tweeting for the knitting club, I might create a separate account just for that. If I had a classroom to work with, I might create an account for that too.

But I think I probably wouldn’t. Instead, I think I’d prefer to use hashtags to separate out the conversation. You don’t need to follow anyone on Twitter if you’re just following hashtags. For a great example, check out @ColleenKR’s #niprockart hashtag for her Visual Arts students and Nipigon-Red Rock High School. I can see #grasleyMath or #SHCVSmfm1p or something down the road.

Our Non-Education Lives Are Awesome Too

I find the personal things people share to be far too interesting to want them separated out. I want to see what everyone wants to share, and engage with them on it. If I tweet something, I’m intentionally broadcasting it to an audience which has selected itself. I’ve thought about whether it’s worth bothering you about, and I’ve decided it is. If I really want you to see it, I’ll mention you. If I want to see a particular kind of conversation, I’ll search for a hashtag.

In any case, let’s talk. I’m @bgrasley, and that’s all. For me, Twitter’s transparency is a large part of its value, and I’m still exploring it.

Twitter for Administrators (#eSymp)

I presented at eSymposium 2013 to a group of administrators about how to become more connected (see presentation here). My [ambitious] plan was to get each participant to sign up for Twitter, Google+, and a blog service (I chose After a quick overview, we ended up spending most of our time on Twitter. Whenever I “give a talk”, I love for it to be challenging for me. In this case, the time constraint and the questions from participants both challenged me.

The main question that I’ve been mulling over since yesterday is something like “Why is Twitter the best platform for connecting with my staff?”

Although I hadn’t anticipated the question as such, I did have an answer: it’s short and it’s public. Posts are short, which encourages more brevity than this blogging platform does, and posts are public, which encourages careful thinking and outside opinion. After my three-hour drive home, I still think the same way.


When you only have 140 characters, you have to try to distill your thinking. That’s a valuable restriction. You have to consider which parts of your conceptions, which facets of your arguments, are truly necessary. It’s an automatic reflection requirement.


If you’re posting something that anyone can read, including parents, students, and your superintendent, it’s wise to consider how it might be perceived. This may have a sadly chilling effect on discourse, but it may not. That depends on the context in which you work.

Outside Opinion

When you communicate with your staff about issues, who else is part of the conversation? If your conversation is global and public, your entire PLN, wherever and whoever it’s found, can join in the discussion. In my experience, “outsiders” who are moved to participate always have useful and interesting perspectives. If your conversation is only local, it has a tendency to stay that way, and you develop an insular, echo-chamber culture.

But Not Always

I don’t think all education discussions should happen in public. If an issue is related to an identifiable incident (“How to handle it when a student [insert dramatic behaviour]”), keep that private. In fact, you may want to keep that offline entirely, for everyone’s sake. If your thinking on an issue is very fledgling and/or very controversial, you risk upsetting parents (“Our principal thinks [insert radical idea] about achievement?!? We’re changing schools!”). Twitter isn’t the best platform for everything.

Separate Accounts?

Stacey Wallwin (@WallwinS) often sends useful links to me (through Twitter, of course) to help me develop as an educator. She sent me a link to a post entitled “How (And Why) Teachers Should Have Multiple Twitter Accounts“, which references a nice visual about how/why to use three different Twitter accounts. I like the idea of multiple accounts for the purposes described. Since I’m neither teaching nor in a school, I’m good with just one. If I were tweeting a lot for my class, I might consider a teacher/class account. If I were a principal, I might be the holder of a school account. I’ll be a subject area head next year, but I think a hashtag would be more useful than an entire account to host math conversations with my colleagues.

One missing component in that visual is “personal” tweeting. I would place that in the “educator” account, unless you do a lot of personal tweeting.

Not Done, Sorry

I’m still thinking more on these issues, so I’ll write again. I needed to get some stuff down, and I would appreciate your thinking as well. Thanks.