A few things have prompted me to write this post today and I am thankful for each one of them.
1. An email from Beth Still asking about the “W’s” of being a connected educator.
Administrators are now more than ever seeing the value of their staff using social networks such as Twitter to learn, connect, and continuously improve the work that we are doing with students. If we are focused on “what is best for kids”, it is imperative teachers continuously work to improve and have the “growth mindset“; social media provides a great avenue for this type of continuous learning.
Yet as many administrators know and say this is important for teachers, what are we (they) doing about it? I learned quickly as an administrator that if I believed something was important for our staff to implement to improve their practice, I needed to put time and resources behind it.
The problem with this is that the vast majority of educators who are most on board with Connected Educator Month are connected educators. Hundreds of connected-educator communities and organizations have signed on to the program and have offered online promotions for the month. This is a wonderful thing for all of the connected educators who belong to those communities. But, the obvious question: Are non-connected educators involved or even aware?
So as an administrator, we are far too often asking teachers who don’t see the value of this to put time into learning about social media, but then not providing the actual time in school to learn this practice. I often refer to the idea of pressure and support; if we provide too much pressure, teachers will wilt under it, but if we provide too much support without the pressure, they will not see it as important. If we are not providing time embedded into the school day for teachers to connect using Twitter, or reflect using a blog, etc., there is all of the pressure in the world but with very little support. How do we expect educators to really jump in to this world on their own? How do we expect them to put a large investment of their own time when they have no idea what they are really getting into?
If we really think this is important, we need to find time during our days to encourage staff to use this technology to improve learning where they can get this support. One of the practices that I tried to embed into my school in the role of principal (although I did not do this enough), was to provide time during our professional development days for teachers to just be able to have time to write a classroom blog. We would then come back and read the post of each other and get some ideas of what we could learn from our own staff by providing that peak into our classrooms. The biggest advantage that I had as a principal to grow as an educator, was the ability to see what was happening in the rooms of our teachers. If we can use social media to get at least a tenth of this view (but hopefully more), how could schools not improve?
One thing that we are looking to do this year is provide staff professional development during the school day to learn about Twitter, blogging, and other social networking sites that are helpful to learning. Offering these during the day and providing subs for teachers increases the likelihood that teachers will be able to attend and see the power of this tool. It is too easy to back out of the “optional” PD (both mentally and physically) that is provided after school. During school hours, you are more likely to gain interest and attention.
I am not even going to get started about the schools that block social media during the school day. When you block Twitter, YouTube, and other sites, you are blocking a ton of learning while also not preparing kids for the world they live in. If you are worried about students doing something inappropriate on social networking sites during the day, just remember they have (unfiltered) access on their phone. Good luck with that!
So…sit with your teachers during their preps. Guide them. Be their sherpa. Provide both the pressure and support. See the value with them.
So why not just expect teachers to do this on their own? I guess I see that there are many teachers that have done some amazing learning with social media all on their own time, but let’s not kid ourselves, they are in the minority. With that being said, if we provide time where we can work with educators during the school day to provide some guidance and support, many more will probably see the value and put in their own time to further develop their learning.
We can’t just preach how great social media is anymore. Less talking; more doing.