Conversations from the Edge is a series of raw, honest and candid dialogues about education’s shifting learning landscape. Hosted by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, Will Richardson and our Advisory Board.

Ann Michaelsen, PLP Advisory Board member, weighs in from Norway on the self promotion discussion. This post is cross posted from her blog Teaching English using web 2.0.

In this article Sheryl discusses what is acceptable in regards to promoting your own work and sharing your ideas and best practice online. She offers an example on how her new book “Connected Educator” was reviewed by Justin Yantho and her reluctance to share this comment online.

Because when I read Justin Yantho’s post I wanted to share it with the world. I wanted to scream to all my networks and communities, ” See, look… these ideas are important! Look what can happen if you think about the ideas and concepts we have shared in our book.” But of course to do something like that would seem arrogant and be cataloged as shameless, self promotion.

I wonder if this is true and I’m thinking it probably is. It is difficult to know the difference between self promoting in a bragging kind of way and sharing ideas in order to learn and grow. In Norway it is difficult to promote your work without seeming to brag about yourself. There are differences between what is acceptable in different countries. Sheryl quotes me when she says in, “Norway I was told that Americans are perceived as loud, rude, and arrogant, mostly because of our willingness to self promote.” In fact when planning ahead for our next conference in November 2012 I was told that Norwegians in general don’t like to hear Americans, and that European keynote speakers were more acceptable. I don’t want to take this statement seriously but even if I don’t like it I have to admit that unfortunately some people in Norway think like that.

When I invited Sheryl to speak at our conference last year we had a conversation about inviting female keynote speakers and Sheryl insisted that it was important to do so. I must admit I hadn’t really thought about it, but after our conversation it is constantly on my mind. It is my impression that at least in Norway female teachers are doing most of the work promoting the use of technology and 21st century skills for students in school. Why then are they hardly ever speakers at conferences or authors of books in these areas? I think Sheryl is right when she says that reluctance to self promote is a gender issue as well.

Self promotion is especially tough for women. In a culture where women are penalized or bombarded with guilt for self-promotion, often because of being connected to the stereotype of being powerful or pushy (i.e., not ladylike), it’s easy to opt to pursue other methods for success in an effort to be liked. But if you don’t rally for yourself, nobody else will.

That is so true, if you don’t rally for yourself, nobody else will. I think it is important to think about the opportunities we have to promote our work and how we should help each other. Dr. Jackie Gerstein has written a commentary post where she partly agrees with Sheryl, but in her ending opts to take the “self” out of promotion.

I will make a pact with Sheryl to do what she recommends, but I cannot agree to call it self-promotion. I will take the word “self” out of it and agree to promote the best practices, lessons learned, and successes earned by my colleagues and me.

I think I will agree to disagree here. I think we should be able to promote our own work. I will quote Sheryl: But sharing what we have to offer to the world does require taking small steps outside your comfort zone and being willing to put yourself out there on behalf of your dream or vision. It really boils down to passion and believing in what you do. I think it is both a question of gender and differences between countries and cultures. I have had many conversations in Norway about learning from others. I’m afraid that if we keep inside our comfort zone and only invite others who are similar to us and speak our own language, we will loose out on a lot of opportunities. We were recently asked why Norway, being such a rich country, is so far behind in the use of technology in school and I think the answer is that we are listening to the same people all the time. (Mostly Norwegians!) It is time to be bold and to learn from others. It is what the Connected Educator is all about. (A book I have read and really recommend all teachers to read). What kind of examples are we to our students? If you only listen to people you agree with you will not go far! If you do not promote your own work or that of others, we will continue to listen to the same voices. Let’s be bold and take those small steps. YES we should celebrate our work and that of others. To me it is as easy as using Twitter and Facebook. If you comment and share, people listen to you, comment and share back. If you only talk about your own work and never comment on others’, you end up alone. People will only listen to you if you contribute and they see the value of your work.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
~ African proverb

About the author
Ann S. Michaelsen is a teacher and administrator at Sandvika High School in Oslo, Norway. A promoter of computers in schools since 2002, Ann is working at the country level to implement the Skillsoft LMS in 24 schools. Ann presented at the global Microsoft Partners in Learning Innovative Education Forums in 2010, a year after Sandvika was named Norway’s 2009 Pathfinder school. She regularly offers advice and insights to fellow educators at the blog Teaching English Using Web 2.0 and on Twitter at @annmic.