Opinions are my own.

When I started out on Twitter I  used to wonder why people would state that opinions are their own on their Twitter bios. I soon learned that it’s a necessary statement to make clear that we are expressing personal views, not those of our employer. For me, as a NSW Department of Education and Communities employee, I am in fact bound by our Code of Conduct to make that distinction clear.

Recently, however, I’ve noticed people writing things such as ‘Opinions are my own, don’t steal them’ on their bios.

I’m not sure anyone can really steal an opinion. And for me, claiming an opinion as intellectual property  goes against the notion of commons that abounds on Twitter where we share information for the common good, so that others in the community can take what they find valuable, build  and develop it. We’re all richer for this collective sharing of opinions, ideas and practices.

If we share information that comes from a particular source, we should of course credit it. And if someone has influenced us in a particular way, it’s nice to acknowledge that.

But as for opinions. If you share my opinions on anything at all please feel free have them. You probably shared my opinion before I expressed it anyway.  Is it even possible to own an idea?

By the way, if you’re interested in the idea of commons and why people these days are increasingly giving their intellectual property away for free,  I recommend the book ‘Open’ by David Price. It’s fantastic.


Word Choice – Developing a Twitter Voice that People Want to Hear

I’ve been spending some time puzzling over why I love to follow  some Twitter accounts but others, even though they are sharing and promoting great ideas, I find  a little off-putting.

I’ve realised that for me, it comes down to word choice.

Accounts that I enjoy following tend to use reflective and inclusive language. They offer solutions and ideas, rather than telling. They’ll preface a comment with ”  I think…” or they’ll offer a solution with “This might…” or ” What if …”

I like that language because it’s open. People can take or leave the advice. It’s respects diversity, provides space for other opinions and remains humble while sharing expertise and ideas.

The accounts I find off putting tend to make  frequent use of authoritative language:”Teachers should, must, need to”

They also make frequent use of evaluative language: “correct”.

Both types of language seem to position the Tweeter as a higher authority. Someone who is there to tell and to make judgements.

In real life, we tend only to use that type of language when we are in a role of positional authority, such as a principal or other school leader. Even then, we tend to use it sparingly.

In our real life interactions it is rare to go to our colleagues and say to them “You should be doing x in your classroom.”

With colleagues, we tend to be more moderate in our language. We suggest, encourage and share, but we don’t tell, command or judge. Rather than saying “you should” we would make a suggestion, “Have you thought of trying..” or “Here’s a strategy that may help”.

And so, as I continue to tweet and blog, I’m going to endeavour to address my colleagues in the same way I would speak to them. As a colleague on an equal footing not as an authority.

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