I've grown to enjoy the Pen Pal Networks and I like the concept of growing my PLN. However, there are moments when I don't feel that I belong in here. By that I mean, I feel that I am a guest who snuck in the back door and people are too polite to tell me that I should probably avoid taboo subjects and limit how often I take a sip of the punch.
If a PLN is a party, though, it begins to feel as if it's a party for pencils. In other words, people are spending their time on the pen pal networks writing about how great paper is and how it will revolutionize the education world. People swap stories of how amazing stationary days have been at school and wonder what it would look like if each child had a stationary in every classroom. One to one pencils.
Subgroups of stamp collectors describe all the newest methods of sending letters and gush about how wonderful our socialized postal service is. People quote Edison on the disappearing role of the teacher in an age of electricity as if enlightenment comes from a filament in a bulb rather than the development of wisdom.
Paul the pre-industrial Poet puts it this way, "It's like throwing a party at my house where the honored guest is my house."
Imagine a coffee shop where the main topic of conversation was coffee or visiting a house where the main conversation was the structural integrity of the tresses or the amazing colors of the adobe. Now imagine that this house had some really dangerous flaws and few people seemed to talk about it - the crowded capacity of the house, the floor boards where people could way too easily slip through or the fact that so many people stayed inside the house that they missed the explosion of blossoms going on outside.
I don't mean this to be a criticism of my PLN. I do the same thing. I write little notes about how slow our telegraph can be at school or how nifty our Kodaks have become in students doing storytelling. But in the process, I miss out on what is really important. My students are telling amazing stories - pictures or not. People are sending letters from all around the world and one would imagine we'd be tackling global issues of learning. Maybe hard conversations on race and unity or conflict or motivation. Perhaps tough talks on the nature of learning. Instead, much of the conversation seems to be about having conversations . . . which I suppose is what I am doing right now.
Thoreau used paper and pencils. He was a quintessential pencil geek, but he knew the dangers of industry. I wonder what he would post on a pen pal network.
note: I borrowed this concept of a party for technology from Joel Zehring