Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Biggest Watercooler on Earth

"Did you know you can boost your brain's problem-solving skills by simply chatting with a co-worker around the office water cooler?" - Terry Small (@terrysmall)

I saw this tweet from Terry Small this morning, and it made me think that each of us has the opportunity to have the Biggest Watercooler on Earth, our Personal Learning Network.

I know that I would not be alone in saying that my Personal Learning Network is awesome.  Each day, I still find it amazing to see the blur of information that comes across my screen when I am on Tweetdeck.  I usually have multiple threads open on my laptop, ranging from #cpchat and #edchat to more subject specific threads such as #engchat, #mathchat, #scichat, and #sped chat.  And every 20-30 seconds, another one of our colleagues standing around our giant watercooler tweets an idea or link that they feel might contribute to the greater good in education.

I find it even more amazing that any of us can put an idea out there and get almost instant feedback.  Whether it is Google Doc with a form that we need edited, a video that we have produced, a search for tried and tested resources, a good friend looking for some thoughts on a job interview, or just a question that we might have that on which we might want some different perspectives, it seems that it is only 140 characters and a few scant minutes before we have some sort of response.  Brilliant.

Stephen Covey described a concept that I believe is very important to our watercooler, the mentality of Abundance:

"Most people are deeply scripted in what I call the Scarcity Mentality. They see life as having only so much, as though there were only one pie out there. And if someone were to get a big piece of the pie, it would mean less for everybody else. 

The Scarcity Mentality is the zero-sum paradigm of life. People with a Scarcity Mentality have a very difficult time sharing recognition and credit, power or profit – even with those who help in the production. The also have a a very hard time being genuinely happy for the success of other people. 

The Abundance Mentality, on the other hand, flow out of a deep inner sense of personal worth and security. It is the paradigm that there is plenty out there and enough to spare for everybody. It results in sharing of prestige, of recognition, of profits, of decision making. It opens possibilities, options, alternatives, and creativity."
Terry Small also added to my thoughts on the watercooler with another tweet this morning:

"Everybody has a skill of some kind. When you share it you not only have the power to help others,but you enhance your own skill by owning it."

It is from this perspective that I am finding myself becoming a PLN evangelist.  The people that are a part of each of our PLNs are people with incredible and varied talents.  They are genuine in their beliefs, and have the courage and the mentality of abundance which drives them to share their ideas with each of us. 

I am sure that my colleagues and staff roll their eyes when I pass on links to them, show interesting tools at staff meetings, and generally talk about the litany of resources available from all around the world.  I walked into a social setting prior to a meeting last week in Vancouver, and the first thing one of my colleagues said to me was a sardonic "So, how's Twitter lately?" followed by a couple of snickers from around the table.  All I can do is smile and continue to tell the stories of all of the things that are available to them just a few short mouseclicks away. 

I just want them to come and stand by the watercooler. 

It's a pretty great place.


  1. Hi Cale! I admit I have rec'd comments like that from people also. I'm not personally bothered by these types of comments because I have experienced first hand how valuable it is to interact, share and collaborate with my PLN. What I do find unfortunate however, is some people's hesitancy or unwillingness to experiment with social media. results in their losing out on some potentially great learning opportunities.
    Interestingly enough, what I am finding out is that many people are accessing Twitter regularly and reading but not participating in discussion (yet). For this reason, it is important that we continue to post to our blogs and pass on information by 'retweeting' to our PLN. More people consume information than we think! In many respects, it is just like a gathering around a water cooler. Someone initiates a conversation, a few others respond and an occasional passer-by listens, nods and smiles and then moves on. At some point the passers-by usually jump into a conversation when they're ready. All we can do is hope many of our colleagues do the same thing!

    Once again, thanks for your post!


  2. I'll come chat by your watercooler! I can empathize. I moved schools last year. For seven years I was part of a staff that liked my tech corner tips at staff meetings and accepted my passion for integrating tech into education. This year, I'm new on staff and the response is different. I'm guessing there's been eye-rolling and I watched as a few tuned out completely last week when I did a's tough.

    A colleague reminded me, however, that it's their problem, not mine. It's their lens, their script, their assumptions, or lack of, that are getting in the way.

  3. I receive comments like that all the time. And added to what my colleagues believe is an insult created for my benefit, is the sound of complete ignorance (that i think only I can hear). It's unfortunate that colleagues can push forward with their subtle (or not so subtle) mockery - I work in a high school, but this reminds me of being in high school (where kids feel the need to be mean for a variety of reasons). Sometimes people are threatened by what they don't understand. And, opposed to high school where this made me insecure, now I just feel really sad for them. They are missing out! The amazing "water cooler" conversation that I get to be a part of every day through my PLN is enriching in ways I couldn't imagine. I don't understand why anyone wouldn't want to be a part of it! But I agree with what Errin said, that it is there problem, not mine. We can't force them to see the world through our lens, as much as we'd like to sometimes. Meanwhile, I'm going to continue to appreciate what I have and feel blessed to be a part of it.

  4. I agree with all three of you. I tend to giggle when people comment on our water cooler. I truly feel like I have seen the light, and it is my job to let that light shine for as many people as I can! Eye rolls and snide comments aside, I know that people will get on board, but it will be at a pace that is comfortable. However, persistence is the key, and let's collectively agree that we won't let down when making our great big water cooler even bigger.

    All are welcome!

    Thanks for your comments.

  5. Thanks, once again, for a thoughtful post Cale! Personally, joining twitter, creating a blog and sharing ideas, thoughts and questions has allowed me witness the power of the "abundance mentality". My very first post on my blog was titled "Posting, tweeting, blogging - who cares what I have to say?" That post was, on some levels, a symptom of a "scarcity mentality". Today I proudly admit that I have seen power of an "abundance mentality" through social media. The hope now is have this abundance mentality spill over into all aspects of my life - but I digress

  6. Totally agree, John. I get just as fired up to share an idea out as I do to get good ideas from our big water cooler. More and more, I feel like when I share an idea that might be good, I am going to get feedback to make it better. When someone shares a great idea, I know that we all can contribute to make it even more positive.

    The life part--well, I like an abundance of golf...


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