Tag Archives: social media

Something’s Gotta Go…

I really had some great conversations at TIES in Minneapolis over the last couple of days, but one of them kind of stuck out to me.  We were talking about the “Hour of Code” and how popular (and important) it has become to many schools.  I think the power in this program is that it is not meant to only last an hour, but spark something more not only in kids, but schools.   It is definitely going to have many teachers thinking about ways they can implement coding as part of the work that they do in schools everyday, and I’m excited to see schools move forward with this.

But here is the problem…

There are only so many hours in the day.  The time frame of school from when I went in the 80’s, is the same time allotment that is given today.  So with every new thing that comes along, something has to go.

The first thing that many people debate about is “cursive”.  Some schools are getting rid of it, and some schools are trying to bring it back.  The debate should not be about cursive, but about what do our kids need now, and what will they need in the future.  Even when I went to school, there are many things that I learned that I do not use at all either on a consistent or semi-regular basis.  Yet I have many skills that make me a successful learner today; did my “schooling” play a role in that?  In some ways yes, and in some ways no.  That is the tough part of the conversation.

There are a lot of thoughts and questions that go into making these decisions, but one that should not be included is a feeling of nostalgia.  Schools should not teach something solely for the reason that we learned it as kids.  The world has changed, and with access to all of the information in the world, as well as people, schools have needed to change as well.  I don’t think should only be about what kids want to learn, but should have a balance of things that we know will be important, but also about providing them skills they will need in the future.  Schools should also provide opportunities to explore things that students might not necessarily want to explore on their own.

There are a lot of tough decisions that we have to make moving ahead in schools, but really, if we try to teach everything, do we develop a group of kids who become experts at nothing?

Here are two questions for you…

What do we teach now that we shouldn’t?

What don’t we teach now, that we should?

3 Ways Social Media Can Improve School Culture

I was having a great conversation the other day with a good friend, and she was sharing how many boards aren’t really worried about “social media” because they are needing to actually focus on improving their culture first.  I thought a lot about what she said, and to be honest, if you cannot have conversations with people in your own organization, Twitter is going to be the last thing in your mind.  That being said, I have seen a lot of school organizations use social media to actually improve their culture significantly.  It is not the only way, but if used in powerful ways, it definitely can have an overall impact on your school or district.

Here are three ways that I have seen an impact (although I encourage you to look at some of the responses on this tweet when I asked the question).

1.  Increased Visibility

In large boards (especially), it is tough for directors, superintendents, principals, etc., to actually physically be in all places at all times.  Visibility is an important part of leadership, and I love when I see leaders in schools or in classrooms, but social media actually allows you to not only see leaders in a different light, but also see their thought process.  Through tweets, blog posts, and more(Superintendent Chris Smeaton is a great example of this, although I could have chosen from a large lists of administrators), you get to see visible thinking of leaders, but also other aspects of their lives that make them more “human”.  If you are a superintendent, and you walked into one of your schools, and many of your teachers had no idea who you are, isn’t that kind of a problem?  Social media, used effectively, can help increase this visibility.

2.  Increased Accessibility

Now being more connected can have both a positive and negative impact on a person.  If you are connected to your device 24/7, that might be great for your school, but bad for your personal life (and health).  We have to be able to shut off.  That being said, when teachers can tap into one another and learn from each other,it not only improves learning, but it also builds relationships.  I have watched in my own school division, the difference in the past few years with the increased use of social media, a greater connection between staff from different schools when seeing each other in person, because the accessibility to one another online doesn’t replace face-to-face interactions, but can enhance them.  Teachers that connected online, have ended up meeting face-to-face to plan EdCamps, Innovation Week, and talk about a whole host of other things to help improve learning.  The accessibility to not only ideas, but one another, improves learning and relationships.  They are not mutually exclusive.

3. A Flattened Organization

I really believe in the idea in schools that everyone’s a teacher and everyone’s a learner, and that these roles are interchangeable throughout any and all days.  Watching great schools, I have seen superintendents learn from teachers, teachers learn from parents, principals learn from students, and any other combination you can think of within a school community.  As Chris Anderson would call this “crowd-accelerated innovation”, and it is so important to embrace this notion of learning from anyone and everyone, if we are going to improve the culture of our school’s.  When you work for an organization and you know that no matter what role you play, that your voice is valued, don’t you think that would have a significant impact on culture?

Concluding Thoughts

If you are looking at improve school culture, open learning is essential to our environments.  I don’t want to only know what the decisions are that are made, but about the people who are making them, and their thoughts behind these decisions.  That openness is crucial.  Only in an organization where voices are not only heard, but also valued, will you ever see significant improvements in school culture, and with the tools that we are provided in our world today, that pace of culture change can be significantly faster than it was without this same technology.

Which team are we on?

 

Through a Twitter conversation, someone brought up an interesting analogy on how administrators should be the “offensive line for their staff”, blocking distractions and unnecessary “stuff” that takes away from great teaching and learning.  I loved the analogy, and really thought about how administrators need to be seen as those that do whatever they can to ensure teachers are successful so that their students can amazing learning opportunities.

Yet from many conversations and observations, it seems the opposite.  With technology, teachers seems to be jumping through hoops, having decisions made for them without their input on experience being utilized.  It seems that the “offensive line” concept is not protecting teachers, but sometimes blocking them from great opportunities.

For example, if you want teachers to use social media, how would a 50 page document sharing the guidelines actually help them?  With every page that is turned, you lose teachers who just see that it is not worth it to go through all of the roadblocks to even start.  Or the computer that takes “only two minutes” to log on because of network protocols. Yet two minutes, times 30 kids, can be an eternity, especially if one of those computers doesn’t work as expected.

With every page, every policy, every filter, many teachers just choose to do what they have always done and do not see it is worth the time to do something new.  We encourage “risk-taking” yet we have created such a risk averse culture in education.  We can say “take risks” all we want, but actions will always be louder than words.

So if administrators are the “offensive live”, we need to make sure that we are blocking for the right team.  Otherwise, we can only blame ourselves for not moving forward.

Why We Need The Echo Chamber

 

I read a great post about the “echo chamber” (I encourage you to read the whole thing) from Corrine Campbell, a teacher and Assistant Principal from Sydney, Australia, that shares the importance of disagreement in learning.  There are many great points about how there are so many similar conversations on Twitter (I agree with her on this), that we need to really focus

The beauty of genuinely engaging with someone I don’t agree with, rather than trying to argue against them, is that it stretches me. It forces me to re-examine my beliefs and put them under scrutiny. I may emerge with an even stronger commitment to a particular stance, or I may find my self shifting on issues and adopting a new position. This is healthy, and it is to be encouraged. For me, encountering ideas that force me to re-think my own, is what keeps Twitter a vibrant place of professional dialogue and learning.

Unfortunately, I agree with her :)

I really believe that it is important to value the “naysayer and antagonist“, as opposed to discrediting their thoughts and simply being dismissive.  It is easy to go to extremes, but we should really look for solutions that are closer to the middle.

But in the spirit of Corrine’s post, I decided to pushback (she had lots of comments agreeing with her…OH THE IRONY), and challenge why the echo chamber is sometimes needed.  Here is my comment below (that I might have edited a bit since I wrote it a little too quick on her blog!):

Just for fun…I am going to push back :)

What do we do about the echo chamber in our own schools that sometimes promote the opposite of what many say on Twitter? I think a lot of educators go on to Twitter to share their views because they might actually be in the minority of the “echo chamber” in their own schools.

Personally, that echo chamber helped me a great deal in my work.

Sometimes I would share an idea to my staff and they would think it was not a great direction, yet someone in my network would share the same idea with a different spin or context, and then I would share their post or video with my staff and they would think it was genius. Often, it was basically the same thing that I had said several times. Many suffer from the fear of expertise in their own midst (personally I hate that and try to promote as many people that I work with as experts), and sometimes that echo chamber offers a different voice with the same opinion. What I believe is that even though the ideas might be the same, the delivery is often different. That is needed for different people.  What appeals to me, might not appeal to someone else, and vice versa.

That being said, if we are truly going to be innovative, we need to push back on each other’s ideas. We would be annoyed if our students posted on each other’s blogs and all that they said was “great job!” because they are not pushing conversations or learning from one another. The key, again, is delivery.

There are many educators on Twitter that push back and that is good, but if we don’t listen to each other and just keep yelling our beliefs and seeing who can be the loudest, that is not respectful of learning or each other. Your model of asking questions (seek first to understand) of one another is so crucial. We need to understand viewpoints and context of differing situations. What is brilliant and works for your school, and more importantly, your students, might not be useful to mine, or vice-versa. If anything, we should know now more than ever that there is no standard solution to education; it is more about personalization than standardization. But in every conversation, we need to be open to learning from each other, whether we agree or disagree.

Great post!

My question to you is, is not why the echo chamber is bad, but why it is needed?  Is it something important in our work in our own schools?  I would love your thoughts.

What if I give you a good answer?

 

You probably have either seen it, been a part of it, or done it.

The time that someone asks the question with a negative connotation that basically is giving them the out of doing whatever it is that you are saying.

It will usually start off with something like, “I really like all of the stuff that you said there…but”

The “but” in many cases is the exact reason that they are going to cite why they are not going to try it later.

“But what about cyberbullying? But what about creepy people? But what about our kids not exercising enough? But what about time? But what about balance? But what about the tests that we have to teach?”

These are all logical questions for a lot of the stuff that I talk about, and like many people that I work with, I also see these as concerns.  In my mind they are not reasons to NOT do things, but they are reasons that we need to be proactive.  Ignoring a problem will not make it go away.

So when I am about to give my answer to the “ya but” questions that I will inevitably hear, I might have a question back before my answer.

“What if I have a good answer?  What will you do then? WIll you consider changing the way you do things or will you stay on the same path?”

I don’t think you should ask this in a condescending way, but in a way to open up and have someone think about what they are going to do if they are provided new information.

The idea of a “fixed” and “growth” mindset is fantastic, but I believe that you can actually have both.  Many people that you see that are really “open to change”, are the same people that will not go out and try new restaurants, new experiences, or are set in their ways in other parts of their life.  On the notion of schooling, I have a “growth mindset”; on the idea of bungee jumping, I would say that I am pretty set in my ways.  You do not have one or the other, but probably a combination of both.

But maybe sometimes, we should help people identify where they are at when they ask a question.  Do they really want to hear the answer or is their question just a way of digging their feet in without them even knowing it?

Can we promote a “growth mindset” in subtle ways in the people that we work with?  I hope so.

Our Kids

Last Friday night, I sent out the following tweet:

With many people sharing the tweet, and taking the time to comment on a Friday night (she received 21 comments…not bad for her second blog post!), it really reminded me how much teachers care for kids.  And when I say “kids”, I am not talking about kids in their class, but kids anywhere.  Naomi received comments from all over North America, and even Australia.  Can you imagine what this does for her to help her keep writing and learning, even over the summer months?  Every person that took the time to write, even if it was only for a few seconds, made a difference.  (Side note…I have never shared a blog to #comments4kids hashtag that William Chamberlain hasn’t commented on.  What a great guy for always taking the time to do that.)

Yet when I see how a lot of schools are set up, we seem to be in competition with other schools, districts, and sometimes people in the same building.  Why is that?  When you became a teacher, was it to help kids, or to only help the specific kids you in your class?  I know that with the majority of teachers that I have connected with, any student that is placed in front of them is a kid that teacher will do everything for to help them become better.  What happens when we look at all students as “our kids”?  The imperative share becomes much greater.

So this is why sharing has become so important in our work today.  Every little bit we share with one another, helps a kid somewhere.  Whether it is taken in its exact form, or it is remixed to meet the needs of our class, that “share” does something for kids.  Does it matter if they are across the hall or even across the globe?  I became an educator to help kids. It doesn’t matter where they are from.

Paraphrasing Dean Shareski, it is our moral obligation to share with one another in the field of education.  I believe that the more I go into classrooms and see what teachers do all of the time.  I always think of the “obvious to you, amazing to others” video, and the humble nature of teachers who often think that what they do is not that significant.  You never know the impact of what you share could have on a kid somewhere.  If it makes an impact on one teacher or one kid, somewhere else, isn’t that enough?

We sometimes do not see the impact of our sharing on others, but that is not reason enough to not do it.  I saw the following quote today and it really struck me:

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” John Quincy Adams

The “sharing” that we do often does all of the things listed above, and if it helps kids, no matter where they are, it is definitely worth it.

P.S. If you want to see a great video on the power of “sharing”, I loved the one below:

A Little Piece of Yourself

The best teachers in the world connect with their students on some personal level.  

I have always believed that.  It does not mean that you share every element of your personal life, but it does mean that you do share parts.  The teachers that impacted me, I remember knowingmore about them than simply what they taught, and it is the reason I became a teacher.  I wanted to make that same impact.

So why do we believe something different when it comes to social media?  Many people are worried about revealing too much about themselves and that will somehow be an invasion of privacy, yet it is always up to the individual on “what” and “how much” they share.  My personal belief and guideline on social media is the following:

“Whatever you can say to a classroom of students is what you can say online.”

If you follow that, you should not only be fine but you can make some pretty powerful connections.

Which brings me to why I am writing this in the first place…

After a presentation that I had made for Peel District School Board in Ontario, I had an educator approach me and tell me that she wanted me to share a story.  As she teared up, I worried about how I might have offended her or said something wrong.  Actually the opposite.

In my tweets, I have shared music I like to the hashtag #georgetunes.  I am a huge music fan, and although I share the occasional One Direction or Wham song (as a joke…maybe not), I am a huge fan of a lot of very mellow music such as William Fitzsimmons, Iron and Wine, and Keane, which has led people to sharing music from bands from The Avett Brothers.  This is something that I would have shared with students so it is not something I was reluctant to share online.

So as this “stranger” shared her story with me, she told me about how someone suggested that she follow me on Twitter.  Although she shared that she appreciated my educational tweets, she really enjoyed a lot of the music that I shared, as we had similar tastes.

And then her mother passed away.

She took a risk, reached out to a stranger (my email is listed on my blog), and shared that she connected with me on Twitter, loved the music I shared, and told me about how her mom had passed.  She then asked me a suggestion for a song.  Of course, I responded immediately, and gave her a suggestion to which she told me that played at her mom’s funeral.  She thanked me for not only responding, but for being willing to share in the first place.

I have not stopped thinking about what she told me and her story.

People have made fun of me for sharing some stuff online (like #georgetunes), but I don’t see myself as an “educator first”, but a person with many sides and interests.  Those connections are what I believed in as an educator, and carry over to what I do online.  I also have been reminded once again that every little thing you share can make a big impact, no matter how insignificant it may seem, so try to focus on the positive.  Who knows what it can do for someone else.

“Leveraging” is the new fluency

I needed some help for a project I was working on this morning, and wasn’t sure how to exactly to do something.  Instead of “googling” for an answer, when I wasn’t really sure of how to word the search, I simply tweeted out the following:

Within five minutes, I received the following answer (I actually received other ones before as well) from Jeremy MacDonald:

That was it…problem solved.

Then I saw this tweet from Derek Hatch that gave me an “A-Ha” moment:

What I thought about is the idea of “literacy to fluency”, and how with something like Twitter, the parallel idea to that would be “use to leverage”.  For example, if I simply would have tweeted out the question, the likelihood of receiving an answer would have been lower than if I didn’t use a hashtag, or not connecting with people that I knew had the answer.  I increased the opportunity to get an answer by doing some very subtle things within a tweet and ensuring that I was able to get what I needed.

Instead of simply emailing Jeremy MacDonald the question and only having one chance to receive the answer, I used an open network that increased my chances exponentially, but also targeted someone I knew who used the technology and the company that created the software in the first place.  By the time HaikuDeck actually responded (and they responded quickly), I already had the answer and did what I needed to do.

One of the NCTE “21st Century Literacies” is, “develop proficiency and fluency with the tools of technology”, and I thought about how we move people to the next step in their use of social networks.  Obviously having a large network helps in leveraging, but creating that network is also part of “leveraging”.  My network did not develop over night and neither would “fluency” in any language.  Simple use of a network should be a minimum now.  “Leveraging” technology is the new “fluency”.

It’s not you Twitter, it’s me.

Yesterday, I read and shared an article from the Atlantic entitled, “A Eulogy for Twitter”.  It talked about the demise of the social network and how something is just not right:

Something is wrong on Twitter. And people are noticing.

Or, at least, the kind of people we hang around with on Twitter are noticing. And it’s maybe not a very important demographic, this very weird and specific kind of user: audience-obsessed, curious, newsy. Twitter’s earnings last quarter, after all, were an improvement on the period before, and it added 14 million new users for a total of 255 million. The thing is: Its users are less active than they once were. Twitter says these changes reflect a more streamlined experience, but we have a different theory: Twitter is entering its twilight.

There already have been rebuttals to the article, and although it talks a lot about the demographics and use of the platform, I would actually challenge that the rise and fall of Twitter (or any other social network) might not be something that we would look at from the viewpoint of group, but more from a personal perspective.

Stay with me here…

Twitter, depending on the day, can be either the greatest thing, the most boring thing, the most overwhelming thing, or something I simply don’t pay attention to.  But is it really Twitter or my use of it?

It’s not you Twitter, it’s me.

From my perspective, Twitter shares two main purposes in my own use that are extremely valuable.  The first is the “social” aspect.  I can go on there and see familiar faces, talk about happenings in the world, sporting events, or just joke around.  Some of my best friends that I have met started simply as profile pictures and a 140 character bio.  Avatars to friends.

The other aspect is the “learning” component.  I would say that since I started using Twitter to connect with educators and see not only what was happening in other schools, but to also get ideas and perspectives about education as a whole.  I have learned a lot about education systems in other countries around the world when five years ago, I might not have had that perspective.  The ability to talk to people, and not just “look up stuff”, has made this network invaluable to the work that I do in my own practice.

Social + Learning = Engagement (for me)

From what I have seen, people that use it for simply one or the other, and not both (in the education field), don’t stick around too long.  Our minds can get full and I do not need to continuously learn every second of the day, and the social aspect is something that many people can get from the connections that already exist in their world.  After a full week, the last thing I want to do sometimes is read an article on education related.  My mind is full and I want to decompress.  When I am watching a game with friends, I don’t need to tweet about it because I would rather enjoy the experience with the people in the room.  Yet, when I am by myself, the connection to others through social media makes the game that much more interesting.

So what does this mean?

Well, Twitter has already seen it’s demise in the eyes of individuals.  If the user experience is not being met, why stay on the network?  And that experience is not necessarily defined by the usability of the social network (although I am not a fan of the new profile), but in the way individuals use it.  There are people that I used to always connect with on Twitter that don’t share much on the network anymore.  Is it because Twitter has become meaningless to them, or something else in their life has grabbed more attention?  When I looked at my own use of Twitter through the archives, I could see a decrease or increase in tweets and I could directly correlate that with events happening in my life.

It’s not you Twitter, it’s me.

The thing that I do love about Twitter, is that the experience is personal and although some are predicting it’s demise, if it works for you, that’s what matters.   I know that when I have those times in my life where I want to take a break from that large network, it’s okay, because it’s going to be there when I am ready to come back, along with many of the people I have met, and the people I am looking forward to meet in the future.  The learning aspect of Twitter has been tremendous in my development, but the social aspect, the people that I have met and don’t want to lose that continuous connection with, that’s why I continuously come back.

“If you screw up…”

I heard a story about an administrator saying that he now had the ability to deal with teachers that were sharing “inappropriate tweets”.

And we wonder why so many teachers are terrified to use social media or try something new.

So many people share the messages, “If you screw up, we will…”, and then wonder why their organization doesn’t embrace change?

Change comes at a risk, and with that risk, comes the opportunity to screw up.  It is not “if”, it is “when”.  New paths lead to mistakes; it is part of the process.

How do you deal with it?  Better yet, how do you encourage it?

I still believe that many administrators continuously blame teachers and say they don’t embrace change, but I continue to see that many “leaders” are just simply terrible at selling change in the first place.

Easy to blame, hard to do the work.

It’s not me, it’s you.

Really?

Oh and by the way, if you are an administrator and this is your mantra and behaviour with teachers, what do you think the trickle-down effect will be with students?

Nothing amazing will ever happen when you continuously build a culture of fear.