Is Lurking Such a Bad Thing?

I am curious to know who coined the term “lurking” for someone who reads the messages on internet chat rooms or blogs and never contributes and why they chose to give it such a negative connotation?

Lurking, as it has been defined, seems cowardly and passive and conjures up images of someone hiding out in a dark computer room with the blinds shut tight.  Consequently, there are probably a lot of people out there who are either afraid to admit that they lurk on the internet or, even worse, choose not to participate at all because they don’t want others to pass judgement on them.

I am a lurker and am not afraid to admit it because lurking is the way in which I learn. For me it involves:

  • Listening to the conversations that are going on
  • Understanding other points of view
  • Reflecting on big (or little) ideas that I have been exposed to
  • Keeping up with the constant stream of new and exciting ideas
  • Inquiring and asking questions about topics that excite me
  • Noticing what issues resonate with people and that I should pay more attention to
  • Gaining confidence to move from being an observer to an active participant

If we want people to embrace connected learning then we we need to encourage people to participate in whatever way they feel comfortable and not make them feel that they are non-participants because they are not blogging, tweeting or commenting on someone’s post.

As people become more familiar with the forum that information is being presented and comfortable in the online world they will begin to participate more actively, because they will see value in the connections that can be made.

My journey into connected learning has been slow and a bit overwhelming.  Until now, I have used the computer as a tool to communicate with friends and family, organize bookkeeping files, or create word documents.  I have been more of a consumer of information than a producer, so I find myself with a steep learning curve as I get comfortable with all of these web 2.0 tools.  I struggle, get frustrated, put my computer aside for awhile, try again, learning something new, plod on.

Despite my shortcomings, I persist, because I recognize the importance of integrating technology into my practice and I need to acquire these skills.  Initially, I tried to do this on my own through this blog; however, through lurking I discovered the Powerful Learning Practice website and Connected Educator month.  Suddenly, I found a place where I could develop my skills in a purposeful and meaningful way, while getting connected with educators from around the world.  I now feel empowered, not  overwhelmed or defeated, and each week I find more of my voice.

Since August 8, I have been participating in an online bookclub to discuss The Connected Educator by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Lani Ritter Hall. During the first two sessions I remained quiet, trying to get a handle on Elluminate, following the rapidly scrolling chat stream, struggling with participating in the interactive activities like putting my initials on a comfy chair visual on the whiteboard(never did figure that out)…so many new skills to learn.  I have plodded on, had a few “aha” moments and learned a great deal.  Next week, I think I will be ready to grab the mike.

We talk about having a common vocabulary for what it means to be connected learners.  What word can we use instead of “lurking” to describe how we acquire new knowledge and become part of a community of connected learners?


About Barb English

I am a curious soul and lifelong learner who is currently employed as a teacher in a Special Education classroom with the Calgary Board of Education.
This entry was posted in Connected Educator Month, The Learning Project and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Is Lurking Such a Bad Thing?

  1. Tim Rueb says:

    As a general rule, there is no problem with lurking. It can be a non confrontational way to learn about others and how they handle situations. (Think hiring manage paying attention to the social media feeds of a prospective employee – possibly someone we have on ‘our bench’ and will invite to interview with us in the future when a position opens)

    Lurking has a negative connotation if the person lurking can add value to a situation but chooses not to.

  2. Barb English says:

    Thanks for the feedback Tim. I do see how lurking can be a negative thing when you have something valuable to contribute to a conversation and choose to remain silent. For me it comes back to finding my voice, and having the confidence to express my opinions. We all have something to contribute, but it involves some risk taking to jump into the conversation.

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