Sunday, May 15, 2016

Learning to Thrive as an #EdTech Introvert

If you're in edtech, you're in a profession that's built on extroversion: massive conferences, networking events, EdCamps, training large groups of people, training small groups of people, conducting workshops, coaching teachers, keeping an active social media presence, and constant collaboration. If you thrive on social interaction, you've found your sweet spot.

But for someone who tends strongly toward introversion, I'm wondering where myself and others like me fit: the ones who enjoy working quietly in their offices, who would rather go back to their hotel than a crowded restaurant after a day of conference sessions, or who get overwhelmed by the incessant "social-ness" of social media...I wonder how my tribe of fellow edtech introverts can thrive in the career we're passionate about while still feeding our souls with quiet spaces and solitude.

Susan Cain

Susan Cain gets it. I could easily co-sign the transcript of her "Power of Introverts" TED talk as my manifesto. As she clarifies, introversion isn't shyness. The identifying feature of introverts is simply how they respond to stimulation, particularly the social kind.

For me, I feel like there's a meter (kind've like a gas gauge) running in my brain when I'm around people in social settings. The entire time I'm in a group, that gauge is steadily dropping from "Full" to "Empty." And when it hits 'E',' like it or not, I'm done.

To refill that tank, I need to get away. And solitary places can be hard to find in edtech. The collaborative, social nature of the tech, education and instructional coaching worlds often intersect in a storm of information and conversation that leave me overwhelmed and searching frantically for a quiet, secluded corner.

Fixing Me

But even though I don't fit the gregarious, extroverted, energized-by-people mold I see in so many of those around me (most of whom I greatly admire and respect), I also don't feel like I need to be "fixed." My need to recharge by working alone lets me focus on a single task for hours at a time, which lets me quickly make progress on large projects that might otherwise not get completed.

Also, my introverted hobbies like reading, researching, and writing let me take information from a wide variety of sources and then put it back together in new ways. When I've produced something creative (often by accident), it's because I've "indulged" my need for solitude (like someone "indulges" their need for oxygen) and in that quiet space, my brain has been able to do its best and most original work.

More to Come

Since this is only my first year to be fully engaged in the edtech space, I need to give more thought to the intersection of my introverted personality and my extroverted career. A lot more.

But I think I'll just start by making it public: my name is Nick, I'm an introvert in the world of edtech, and that's okay.

("Welcome, Nick," the other introverts in my imaginary support group respond. "We're glad you're here.")