First of all, what the hell happened with that blog post. I normally get a couple of hundred reads of a post in the first week, if I am lucky. The last post hit 1000 sometime around midweek, and whilst tailing off, it is still going.
I guess the post had resonance. But the problem with the post is all I did was call out the facts. 14 million people in the UK, the 5th largest economy in the world, live in poverty. There were some other facts and that made up around 80% of the post. I just asked questions, questions that those of us who are privileged to work in education should ask.
As the week progressed I became fascinated watching the analytics of the post. WordPress and Jetpack are pretty awesome at telling you stuff about blog activity. So I was able to see reads, times etc. But one analytic that fascinated me was the damn click-throughs on the post. Where people go after reading what you wrote. I prominently placed the actual report, and suggested people read it. On Tuesday, the day of most reads (756) only 11 people clicked through to the source material. 80% of what I wrote was derived from that post. I discussed this with a few people earlier in the week, they suggested that I was “trusted”. Checking further, less than 0.5% of the those who visited the page clicked the actual report.
I started to think about that – I don’t believe for one minute that everyone who read that post is what I would call my target audience (those who work in and around education) in fact probably less than 25% were (and more likely a lot less), but I would have thought that where I provided source material to an audience in education more than 11 people would have checked.
What a power to hold. What a remarkable thing to be able to tell over 1000 people a thing and have an insignificant number of them check the facts of what you said. Readers – this is why we have 14 million people in the UK living in poverty, it’s why we have politicians who care most about having power running our lives. We live in a society where he (and it is mostly he) who lies hardest is believed most. “If we leave the EU we can give £350 million extra a week to the NHS”.
The BBC put a scientist on air giving us evidence, actual hard facts, about climate change – and then put a retired politician up against him with “Well your facts are one opinion, what I believe is…”
And we rage at this. Of course we rage at this, but what else do we do? Politicians have for years been depoliticising other aspects of our life, taking the political facts out of the debates, making it about personalities and sound bytes. Journalists are part of the game, they love a good sound byte, vying for the news cycle, and we watch all of this play out in glorious technicolour and on all our devices. We consume the lies like someone on a gluten free diet eating a baguette – we’re gonna feel bad but we do it anyway!
I was elated to to see my stats booming, but what did it change. We need to participate; we, those with privilege, those who have skills, need to model the behaviours we want see in society, we need to develop a culture of truth and fact. Dave Cormier’s prosocial web and Bon Stewart’s Antigonish 2.0 should be a springboard for us. Every conference, whether it is teaching and learning, social media, open, or technology enhanced learning needs a prosocial thread, it needs to frame our work in wider society, and its problems, if it doesn’t then it is just reifying the privilege, exacerbating the propaganda. EdTech and social media conferences need to stop looking for unicorns and start talking about the elephants in the rooms.