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Friday, August 10, 2012

Lurk before you Leap

Lurking has taken on a whole new meaning.  Once meaning, according to Merriam-Webster, “to lie in wait in a place of concealment especially for an evil purpose or b: to move furtively or inconspicuously.” 
It has now come to mean, according to the Urban Dictionary: 

To read without commenting or contributing, therefore effectively invisible to the rest of the group or community. Generally recommended for joining any forum so that you can observe rules, attitudes and prominent personalities without jumping in and breaking a rule, making an ass of yourself, or asking a question about something obvious that you would have learned for yourself if you’d paid attention in the first place.
Online equivalent of attentive listening before speaking; potentially the solution to all Internet faux pas.”
While a little unorthodox and a bit gruff, it certainly makes a point. While lurking sounds like it has a negative connotation, it is in fact a good way to gauge what is going on before you jump in to any online discussion group, twitter feed, etc.    I picture a child that is going to “jump in” to jump rope, watching the rope hit the ground a few times before entering.  There were a few times that I wished I had lurked a little longer, but sooner or later, you have to jump in – sink or swim.
Expect More out of Educators
That being said, in the classroom, there are some students who would prefer to lurk for the entire school year.  A good teacher will help them feel comfortable enough to contribute to the conversation.  In the same way, good digital citizens will also make lurkers feel safe enough to contribute, without fear of being chastised.   Good digital citizens will gently guide newbies to understand any nuances of the tool or group without humiliation, just as a good teacher will do in the classroom. 

While you cannot count on regular Joe’s who use newspaper blogs (or even the Urban Dictionary) to anonymously rip each other apart, you can expect that any decent educational twitter chat, blog, or discussion group will welcome your input, respond with encouragement and overlook any faux pas!

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