Working in Ontario the last week with teachers and administrators, with many conversations revolving around digital footprint and the impact it has on getting a job, this is a question that popped up in my head, and ultimately our conversations, several times:
If you were deciding between hiring two educators and all other things were equal, would you give preference to the 1 who tweets and blogs?
— George Couros (@gcouros) October 12, 2013
It sparked a lot of conversation and strong thoughts on Twitter from many educators who are obviously connected. Here are some of mine.
Many believed that having a Twitter account and blogging do not make you a great educator. Agreed. Hence the reason that I try to qualify that you had two great teachers, and if they both had similar qualities, but one of the candidates has a social media presence, does that put them ahead in a competition? But due to the character limit of the tweet, and pointed out eloquently by others, it depends on how you are using your social media presence.
Obviously no one wants to hire a “Carly Crunk Bear” as an educator simply because she has a Twitter account. I have said often that social media can create many opportunities for people but only if they do great stuff.
Another great point was that there are many other ways that educators can connect (many pointed out in this great post from Kelly Christopherson). Ultimately, is it having a blog and using Twitter that are important? To me, it is that the educator is a constant learner who is connected to others and can learn about whatever he or she wants, whenever he or she wants.
I also would look for candidates that want to share their work with others. We often think that administrators should have (and rightfully so) a transparency in their work; teachers should be no different. This willingness to learn shows me that they have the “sponge” attitude, and are more likely to be a self-starter. These are things that I am looking for in a strong teacher candidate.
If you are looking for innovative teaching and learning, I want people that are networked and willing to create on their own, as research shows that the more networked someone is, the more likely they are going to come up with great ideas. It is also important (to me) that individuals are willing to model the learning that they want to see in their students.
So what if all of the blogs and tweets that show innovative teaching and learning are lies? That could be very true, and some people that are very intelligent on “paper” are not always great teachers. Reference checks, interviews, and all of the other things that are part of the hiring process should all be important, but doing a Google search on someone is also a new imperative in our world. Not in the sense that we are looking for something bad, but that we might just find something good.
The idea of someone having and using a Twitter account effectively to improve their learning will also tell us that they are displaying many of the “21st Century Literacies” as defined by the NCTE. I found one comment interesting: that they prefer the “Face to Face” interactions as online has too much “noise.”
I believe that when we can get together, it is better than connecting online, but we always don’t have the option. Filtering through the “noise” is a skill that we need to have and work with our students to ensure they also have this ability. When you have access to all of the information in the world, how do you find it, know if it is useful, and create something powerful from it? If I hired someone with this skill-set already, my guess is that they could help navigate students in this world as well.
Here are some interview questions that I have been thinking about:
What is your favourite Ted Talk? What did you learn from it?
Who are some educators that you connect with through social media and what have you learned from them?
Would you ask these questions? What would they tell you?
Honestly though, many administrators out there would not care about those specific questions and answers. Why is that? Is it because they believe it is not important or that they don’t know the power that connecting with others outside your organization creates?
I remember being asked in my interviews, “How do you continuously learn?” I gave answers about a book I read a year before or attending a conference that every other teacher in my district had attended. My answer would be much different now, and honestly, much better. Not just in terms of what I use, but in how I use it, and how it has changed my thinking on teaching and learning.
This quote from Will Richardson says a lot in the new standard that many people are looking for when they are hiring someone to their organization:
“…And truth be told, teachers should be responsible for their own PD now. Kids wouldn’t wait for a blogging workshop. Adults shouldn’t either.”
Being connected does not make you a great teacher, but in the long run, it can sure help. If you truly believe that “the smartest person in the room, is the room,” doesn’t it make a difference on how big your room is?