Seven Habits of Highly Connected People

7I ran across this post about Seven Habits of Highly Connected People on Stephen Downe’s site awhile ago and been saving it in my drafts until I had a chance to write and reflect.  I highlighted ideas from each habit to share but you should read the full article and his explanations at

1. Be Reactive

The first thing any connected person should be is receptive. Whether on a discussion forum, mailing list, or in a blogging community or gaming site, it is important to spend some time listening and getting the lay of the land.

Posting, after all, isn’t about airing your own views. It’s about connecting, and the best way to connect is to clearly draw the link between their content and yours.

2. Go With The Flow

When connecting online, it is more important to find the places to which you can add value rather than pursue a particular goal or objective. The Web is a fast-changing medium, and you need to adapt to fit the needs of the moment, rather than to be driving it forward along a specific agenda.

3. Connection Comes First

In almost all fields, connecting with others online is the work. The papers you write, the memos you read and toss-all have to do with connecting with people.

If you don’t have enough time for reading email, writing blog posts, or posting to discussion lists, ask yourself what other activities you are doing that are cutting in to your time. These are the things that are often less efficient uses of your time.

4. Share

The way to function in a connected world is to share without thinking about what you will get in return.

When you share, people are more willing to share with you. In a networked world, this gives you access to more than you could ever produce or buy by yourself. By sharing, you increase your own capacity, which increases your marketability.

RTFM stands for “Read The Fine Manual” (or some variant thereof) and is one of the primary rules of conduct on the Internet.

What it means, basically, is that people should make the effort to learn for themselves before seeking instruction from others… Taking the time and effort to look at this work is not merely respectful, it demonstrates a certain degree of competence and self-reliance.

6. Cooperate

Online, people cooperate. They network. Each has his or her own goals and objectives, but what joins the whole is a web of protocols and communications. People contribute their own parts, created (as they say in open source programming) to “satisfy their own itch.”

7. Be Yourself
What makes online communication work is the realization that, at the other end of that lifeless terminal, is a living and breathing human being. The only way to enable people to understand you is to allow them to sympathize with you, to get to know you, to feel empathy for you. Comprehension has as much to do with feeling as it does with cognition.

This past year I finally feel more comfortable in my “online persona”.  Before that I  considered myself a “lurker”.  I subscribed to quite a few blogs and followed folks on Twitter but it wasn’t until a year ago did I really engage in the conversation.

As Downes states above, we need to be reactive and share.  It’s not enough to just read an interesting post and say – oh, that’s interesting.  Blogging is about being part of a conversation.  I’m guilty of not responding to people who posted comments on my blog or at least said “thank you for taking the time” (sorry).

I respond @yourtwitter name more often this year too.  Last month I made a Wordle of my twitter posts and realized that edtechvision was one of my top tweets.  Maybe I was spending too much time promoting my blog posts instead of saying “hey, check out so-and-so’s blog – there’s an interesting conversation going on there”.

Many of the new face-to-face connections I have made this past year has been because of my online connections.  I hooked up with the out-of-towners before Google Teacher Academy which resulted in many friendships (you know who you are!).  When I showed up to ILC 2008 several people came up to me and said “hey, I follow you on Twitter” and then -bam:  instant connection – and we spent the rest of the conference  sharing and connecting.

On Twitter Alec Couros shared his networked web from  Now this man is highly connected!

With plenty of opportunities this year (NCCE, NCEA, NECC) to connect f2f with my PLN, I hope to not only be inspired by highly connected people but also give something back to the edtech community.  I thank you.  I am learning each and every day and love what you have brought to my life.

11 Replies to “Seven Habits of Highly Connected People”

  1. Enjoyed your post. I too am becoming less of a lurker and more involved in the conversation. Working through Steve Dembo’s 30 Days to Becoming a Better Blogger, not only helped me to improve my blog, but understand that it is more than publishing, it is a conversation. I like your point about inviting others to join in conversations other than the ones you have initiated. That is how we grow as a community. And SHARING is my mantra these days. We have so much to learn from each other and we gain so much by sharing. Great ideas and great inspiration.

  2. Nice reflection, Colette. I am encouraged that more educational technologists are coming online in these powerful communities. I do wonder whether the barrier to entry is too high for your average, non-technologist classroom teacher. Without them, this is just an intellectual exercise.


  3. @Richard, yes, I agree – the commitment to be “highly connected” is probably out of reach for the average teacher – but I don’t feel like everyone needs to be to that degree. Have you read The Tipping Point? Gladwell talks of Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen. Highly Connected people are the Connectors – they have a special gift for bring people together – but they also need the Mavens – those who gather new information. The Saleman are the persuaders who sell the message. Look around your PLN – I bet you can identify who best fits each type. They all work together to share ideas until they reach a tipping point – and the average teacher benefit.

  4. Hey Colette,

    I enjoyed this post—especially the description of the 7 habits of highly connected people. Your emphasis on the importance of sharing is well-placed, simply because we live in a copyright world still, where people seem to believe that protecting intellectual property is more important than building knew knowledge together.

    The question you asked in your Tweet regarding this post was whether or not the barriers to this kind of participation were too high for the average teacher. I’d argue that there really are NO barriers to participation, other than willingness. Think about it: The services are free and asynchronous, allowing for anytime, anywhere learning. The content being created is shared—for the most part—openly and willingly.

    What barriers are there?

    I’m tired of the excuses that the digitally illiterate give for what amounts to nothing more than a resistance to changing their learning patterns. By purposefully refusing to change the way that they communicate and consume information, they’re also purposefully failing to understand the kinds of skills that our kids will need in order to be efficient learners and participants in the world tomorrow.

    And that ain’t okay.

    Does any of this make sense?

  5. @Bill – makes perfect sense to me – but there are still a lot of teachers out there who continue to teach and treat kids the way they always have. What’s the incentive to change? They have job security and if admins aren’t promoting the change – will they do it willingly? Are our pre-service programs asking future teachers to be digitally literate to graduate? I feel there is a constant tug between those willing to change and those who aren’t. Why have some schools reached the tipping point with digitally literate teacher and others haven’t?

    I guess exposure to the PLN and support for beginners is our job as “Salesmen” (from Tipping Point). I always direct teachers to Classroom 2.0 when they first join online because its easy to jump in and be part of the conversation right away. Education is the key – but also providing a compelling reason for change. I wish that everyone saw “failing to understand the kinds of skills that our kids will need in order to be efficient learners and participants in the world tomorrow” would be enough.

    Another resource: Sue Waters put together PLN Yourself! wiki to help beginners gain the skills to build their own PLN at

  6. Good post! I feel I am getting out of my “lurker” status though I am not as connected as I want to be yet. I am trying to do this with balance. In my area, they not only do not understand it as a conversation, they also do not believe that these are skills we should be worrying about. A rural area is very resistant to change. I am surprised that given the fact we must take 3 classes in pedagagy (as part of the classrooms for the future initiative) that more people did not feel compelled by the content. Their barrier is not being a life-long learner themselves. The importance of learning logs and discussions escaped them too. i am hoping that eventually they hit the brick wall to see where it is all going.

  7. I consider myself to be above entry level in the way of the “connected” scale. I have a few blogs both for home and school. I have 16 blogs in my reader, belong to a few nings, and I do read them. I comment on less than half of what I read. I have a Twitter network but most of those people wouldn’t consider me to be “in their network” if you know what I mean. I find some help from my network but requests for help often go unanswered. In our school of 28 classrooms with maybe 40 teachers in all, there are only 3 people with what I would call a blog – something living and changing, not just there for the year. How would you get those other teachers involved? First, give them time during their day to work on a network. 40 minutes of prep time 4 times a week won’t cut it. There’s just way to much work to be done prepping regular instructional material. Adding time for building community, learning tech., reaching out online to collaborate – not going to happen. Teachers need time dedicated to learning the tools. They need time to practice and implement. They need good tech in their hands not the slowest computers with powerful filters blocking most downloads. They need to feel support from a tech person. Our tech guy has no tech lab, is available from 12-3 (while we’re teaching,) then he goes on to his regular job as custodian. The big tech person in the district is now going to be on site for 3 hours after school each week to try to get Service Pack 3 and the like installed. Getting the picture? That’s the reality. So when I read blogs like this one and understand much but not all of what is being written, I know that I am an exception. That the average teacher is overwhelmed and asking him or her to do more in their spare time is going too far. Remember the first time you tried to log into a live podcast or screencast? Remember when you couldn’t for the life of you figure out what to do to add your video image to it? Well these are big big challenges and failure is part of it. Many people don’t consider the process to be fun enough to keep at it and so avoid it all together. Sorry for the rant but I’m learning as much as I can and still feel I’m in over my head.

  8. @Gail rants always allowed and encouraged!

    I have experienced everything you mentioned in my 20+ years of teaching. Being a teacher is an overwhelming job and there is always more to do. But something has changed for me the past few years. I want to learn. I want to talk about learning and the best way to make that happen in my classroom. I am more excited about teaching now than I did in my early years when I found it overwhelming. Yes, I have gained wisdom through experience but I will be honest — a lot of my enthusiasm I have found is because I have connected with other people who care what I care about – and I have found it online. Being “highly connected” is not for everyone – but being passionate can be. If you teach History and don’t have people around you that love history and you can talk about history with them – then I would encourage you to seek out those types of educators. The same is true for math, art, music, technology … whatever.

    And I don’t think that technology is the only way to do it – but I have found my community online – and I am sure most teachers could find like-minded teachers online too – no matter what you teach.

    Being connected – either f2f or digitally – is about sharing, learning, debating, learning, collaborating, but most of all learning.

    Being “highly connected” opens doors for opportunities that were never available before. I hope that teachers who choose NOT to be connected online still see the value of it even if they don’t choose it for themselves. Who knows … it might change for them as it did for me. And it has also transformed the way I teach. I just want to share that story with others.

  9. One more thought:

    I also think being “over our head” is part of the learning process. That uncomfortable feeling between not understanding and understanding is what motivate us to continue on and learn — or stop and give up. I think the support structure around “teachers as learners” needs to be safe and compassionate (it’s hard!) with folks there to encourage you to keep trying.

    Thanks for the conversation!

  10. Bill, I don’t think that blaming teachers is going to get us far.

    Gail, absolutely, time is a prerequisite to trying new practices.

    I would add that schools and districts need to fundamentally change the definition of student success for teaching to change. The new tools are highly collaborative, creative, and experimental, yet current student assessments are anything but. While ISTE NETS standards emphasize higher-order thinking skills, state assessments do not. Guess which one impacts teachers more?


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