Tag Archives: twitter

Why YOUR Sharing Matters

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by andrew_mc_d

I am going to have to admit it; the term “lurker” drives me nuts.

I know that there is an amount of time where someone is becoming comfortable with the idea of social media, but many have admitted to me that they just look at all the great resources yet are uncomfortable tweeting from their own account.  My response to this is that they simply “retweet” some of the great content they are reading.  You do not have to have original content or come up with the next “big thing” but simply just share.

Here is an example of how sharing and a simple retweet can create a ripple effect.

This morning (in Australia), I received a tweet from someone I don’t know.

Being the “cyber sleuth” that I am, before I responded, I checked out who they were and their tweets.  I was not sure if it was a legitimate account or not since I did not recognize the name, although I recognized the #sd36learn hashtag that they used in their tweet.  This process is something that I do for many tweeters that send me a message because there is definitely some spam out there.  Here is what I found in their profile:

So…not many followers and not many tweets.  Most would be thrown off by this but I was interested in what he had to share so I went through his tweets.  Sure enough, I found this little gem:

So now, with his 26 tweets and his 15 followers, @MrAbdolall simply retweeted a great article that I will now be using as the basis of my “Digital Footprint” workshop (I am still in the process of creating it but feel free to use) that I will be doing in Adelaide, Australia on Wednesday.  It really is that simple.  As I tried to prepare for this workshop, there were so many good ideas that I wanted to talk about, but the Forbes article just made the information so nice and succinct, making it way easier to put together.

So my suggestion to new tweeters…

You may not have many followers and you may not be blogging or creating the next BIG IDEA, but what you share still matters.  You never know the impact you can have by sharing a link or a blog post.  Simply retweeting good information can help anyone, including someone like myself who has almost 40,000 tweets to his credit, continue to learn and grow.

Keep sharing.  That’s it.

Not Going Away

Coming home from San Diego, I may have gone a little overboard on my shopping but I purposely left room in my suitcase to make sure I could bring some things home.  Obviously not enough room though.  With a 50 pound limit, my luggage weighed in at about 61 pounds so I knew that I would have to probably pay a fee for the excess weight.  When asked if I was to take some stuff out and put it into another bag, they told me two bags would cost 60 dollars (because United charges you for even bringing one bag to San Diego) yet the fee for the extra 10 pounds would actually cost 200 dollars.

What?  Who came up with this math?

I saw the picture below the other night and all I could think of is some corporate big wigs sitting in the United offices when they came up with this luggage policy:

So the deal is that I could actually pack 100 pounds of stuff  in two bags and bring it back to Canada for 60 dollars or 61 pounds in one bag for $200.  Not being a mathematician, something obviously was not adding up although I do know that most airline companies have this ridiculous type of policy.

So what was my first reaction? Go to Twitter.  I went to the masses and tweeted something out regarding this ridiculous policy hoping United would respond.

So after that, I hear nothing from United.  Nada.  What could you answer?  Even the people at the desk know it is an idiotic policy and said it when I checked in but short of change it, the company is obviously more interested in the quick buck then it is in long term customer satisfaction.  I’m not saying that I will never fly with them again, but it will be a last resort.

Organizations and leadership has to realize that we all have a voice now.  Check out what happened when someone made a joke about the durability of Smart Cars.  (Thanks to 22 Words for the story)

Not wanting to let someone else define what Smart is about, they responded in a humouros yet informational way:

Then they actually followed up with a picture proving what they are saying:

 So here is a company taking some bad publicity, and actually coming out looking much better in the end because they not only addressed the person, but also because of the way that they addressed them.  To be honest, I have never thought much about Smart Cars, but I had a newfound respect in the way that they addressed a naysayer.  They probably received a ton of great publicity from that one simple tweet than they have with their regular advertising strategy.

I guess what they have realized, and what schools need to realize, is that the Internet is not going away.  People know that they have a voice and why wouldn’t they use it?  I know United has not had a long time to respond to me but are they going to really change their policy?  Will they even have a logical explanation?

Schools and administrators need to be aware of this world and be able to address all stakeholders in an open and transparent way.  Would we rather look like United or would we rather look Smart?

Organizing School/Division Hashtags (Part 1)

I am currently working on a document that can help Parkland School Division share learning across the division through the effective use of hashtags.  Parkland School Division has approximately 10,000 students, therefore it is important that we continue to figure out how to best share information through social media in an organized manner.

I am hoping that along with the information below, people will share any suggestions that will help our school division use this social media site in an effective way so we can connect and learn together.  Please feel free to use any of the information below with your own schools/organizations.

If you are interested in creating a Twitter account for your school, this article I recently wrote can give you of some ideas on how you can use this tool to build a stronger learning community.  I would suggest looking at the “Tweeting for Schools” post.

As this is a comprehensive document, I am going to share it in two parts along with the final Google Document when it is completed.  I encourage you to share your thoughts and suggestions on anything that I have shared.  These are meant to be guidelines and suggestions within our own school division.


As Parkland School Division continues to build its social media presence to connect and learn with stakeholders, we wanted to give some suggestions on how to effectively use Twitter hashtags to connect and share our learning within our organization, as well as within schools.  If you have an effective plan in the building, it can alleviate a lot of confusion later on as you try to change procedures in an attempt to be more effective.  Here are some ideas that will help bring our learning together.

School/School Division Tweets

Whenever there is a tweet from a school Twitter account, it would be beneficial if it would use not only the hashtag for the school to help develop a presence within its own school community, but it would also be helpful to share the information with Parkland School Division so we can also learn alongside the school, as well as share some of the amazing things that are happening in schools with others in our learning community, as well as globally.  Here is an example of a tweet from a school account.  I will use Muir Lake School as an example:

Example tweets from @MuirLake:

Thank you to all of the parents that have helped #MuirLake school this year.  Glad you could come to the volunteer tea!  #psd70

Or to share learning with your school community and all of Parkland School Division:

Great article regarding the #criticalthinking project: My Favorite Liar http://bit.ly/KIu3ls #muirlake #psd70

In the last tweet, you can see the use of 3 hashtags: #criticalthinkingproject, #muirlake, and #psd70.  This enables you to share with anyone watching or searching for information under each hashtag which is beneficial to so many people.  Sending the same link out simply in an email will never reach the audience that a tweet can.  Not only can this be sent out from the @MuirLake account, but it is probable that this will be retweeted by others, including the @psd_70 twitter account.  See the example below:

Tweet from @psd_70:

RT @muirlake Great article regarding the #criticalthinking project: My Favorite Liar http://bit.ly/KIu3ls #muirlake #psd70

Although the @MuirLake account is fairly new and has fewer followers, through retweeting and sharing information, it is more likely to get the information out while creating a larger network.

Of course, tweets are always subject to the number of characters that are being used, so if it is not possible to use the school and division hashtag, that is totally acceptable.  It is however usually  beneficial to try to keep tweets as short as possible.  They are more likely to get retweeted if they have 120 characters or less which gives them room for people to retweet with their twitter user handle contained in the tweet.

Thoughts and Considerations

As there are many initiatives within Parkland School Division,  we want to be thoughtful in how we can share information with both a large audience, as well as others looking for specific information.

For example, if you wanted to have something that is specific to administrators within the school division, you can simply add to the existing hashtag.  #psd70 which could become #psd70_lead.  The nice thing about this is that if you use a service such as Tweetdeck, you will see any hashtags that start with the #psd70 or you can choose to specifically follow #psd70_lead.  Sending an email to only administrators in the school division would ensure that we could get information out to all of them, but we believe in building capacity and if we share information to other staff in our division that are interested in leadership, they can specifically follow the hashtag #psd70_lead as well.  The more we can share, the better we are.  With that being said, we want to be thoughtful in the process so that information is easy to find within our own organization.

Here is an example of a tweet:

Social Media For Administrators (Blog Posts) #psd70_lead #cpchat http://t.co/DopFaHF0

This can be done with other initiatives as well, again by adding to the current #psd70 hashtag.  Our ‘Critical Thinking’ project hashtag could become #psd70_ct, which makes it easy for all those following the #psd70 hashtag to see the information shared on Critical Thinking, as well as the participants can use other ‘general’ hashtags on the topic to ensure a larger audience sees the information as well.  The #CriticalThinking hashtag is one that is highly used and those within our school division would benefit not only from following this hahstag, but sharing to it as well.

Here is another example of a tweet:

Great post for #criticalthinking project. My Favorite Liar | Zen Moments http://t.co/7wlYA3s6 #psd70_ct

As many hashtags can be created through this process, it is important that you have a document that is easily shared and findable to your school division as well as the general public.  This can be shared on any school division websites, or more specifically, as a link on your school division Twitter account.

In the next post, I will be sharing the process of developing hashtags for a school to easily organize across classrooms.  I will share by the end of the week.  I will also be sharing the entire Google Document where the entire article is written.

Unintended Echo Chamber

cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo shared by Laurel Fan

There is often a great deal of discussion on the idea that Twitter can be an echo chamber and that we often seek out those who already have the same views we may have.  Although I disagree with that idea to some degree, I do believe that we have to be cognizant that we are reaching out to different ideas through social media.  If we only hear what we already believe in, how far does that stretch our learning?

Although this idea is somewhat new to me in the realm of social media, it is interesting that I am now starting to wonder if we have been continuously creating an echo chamber in the work that we do at schools.  For example, if we are proposing a new idea or initiative, do we ask people to join committees or groups that are vehemently opposed to these ideas, or simply have different viewpoints?  How often are we asking people to join us in a room that we know are opposed to our ideas, to help build them together?  We can easily dismiss these differing viewpoints as being “late-adopters” or something worse, but is there not value in bringing in these viewpoints?

As I have continued to think about this idea, would it not be better to have buy-in to our ideas moving forward from those that started off opposed?  Would that not bring clout to the rest of those staff in our buildings?  Would it not make our ideas better and have many feel like there is more ownership as we move forward?  Would it also not create a feeling that we are truly listening to all viewpoints, not just those that are most similar to ours?

I would have to admit, as an administrator, I have fallen in this trap unintentionally and probably because it may just seem easier to move forward.  As I continue in my own career though, I am continuously craving those opposing viewpoints to help myself move further in my own thinking.  I am more attracted to the blog posts that are saying something that challenges my thinking, not summarize it.  I think that the time it takes to have these tough conversations, no matter the direction, will save us time in the end.  If we have those who oppose it most at the beginning now becoming a part of the solution, I am thinking there would be a much better buy-in factor with a larger number or people.

Have we done this on purpose?  Probably not.  That being said, we must stand back and look at the way we have brought people (and who we have brought) together to move our schools forward.




“So here are some questions that keep me up at night: How are we to make our students literate if we ourselves are not? If we cling to age old definitions and ignore the wisdom of one of the oldest professional education organizations we have in this country, how do we provide my kids with the experiences they need to fully understand what it means to be a self-directed, participatory learner in this century? How do we make sure that every child and every teacher has access to these tools and connections? And what do we do when the reform conversations are being led by a majority of folks who have no context for the changes that are happening every day in these connected spaces, folks that by NCTE’s definition, may have some literacy issues themselves?” ~ Will Richardson

As literacy is so fundamental to opportunities of learning, I have been thinking about Twitter and the use of it in our schools.  If you look at this video, you will see that the use of Twitter is going up exponentially and things such as hashtags are making their way into things outside of Twitter.  For example, have you ever read a text message that has the term “#fail” in it?  Why the pound sign?

Just looking at a random tweet from Patrick Larkin, I wonder if most educators are able to decipher what the message is saying or even where to go to find out what the “pound sign thingies” mean?  Take a look:

During this time in our world, if you can’t read this, are you missing out on something important?  It is not just the words, but the links and hashtags that are in the message as well.  I have done several workshops with educators and having something up like Tweetdeck looks like it is right out of the Matrix movies.  I know it did to me when I first started using it.  That being said, I am always appreciative when others are willing to take the time, struggle, and learn to get better at using this medium.  It is so important that we model our learning continuously as educators for the sake of our students.

“The new literacy, beyond text and image,  is one of information navigation. The real literacy of tomorrow entails the ability to be your own personal reference librarian—to know how to navigate through confusing, complex information spaces and feel comfortable doing so. “Navigation” may well be the main form of literacy for the 21st century.” ~ John Seely Brown

I have written about the texting improving literacy before, but I was again reminded of how much more our students read now as opposed to the time I was a kid when I read this article discussing a recent talk by Margaret Atwood:

Thanks to the rise of the internet and of social media, “I would say that reading, as such, has increased. And reading and writing skills have probably increased because what all this texting and so forth replaced was the telephone conversation,” she continued. “People have to actually be able to read and write to use the internet, so it’s a great literacy driver if kids are given the tools and the incentive to learn the skills that allow them to access it.”

Often you will hear things on how Twitter is “eroding society”, yet there can often be much more in a tweet then simply 140 characters.  Atwood goes on to talk about how people are using Twitter to express themselves in similar ways, further their learning through the links that are often provided, and are sometimes using the medium to do different things:

“A lot of people on Twitter are dedicated readers. Twitter is like all of the other short forms that preceded it. It’s like the telegram. It’s like the smoke signal. It’s like writing on the washroom wall. It’s like carving your name on a tree. It’s a very short form and we use that very short form for very succinct purposes. There is a guy out there who is writing 140-character short stories — I just followed him today…but that’s the exception. It’s sort of like haikus [and] prose,” Atwood said.

Journalists are quickly learning that a Twitter account can be the best way to connect with an audience and share information as it happens.  It is making the news more interactive and you will often see on newscasts the “Twitter handle” highlighted when a person is speaking.  Humans yearn for connections and Twitter is a great way to be able to interact with those that once seemingly were out of reach.  If journalists and writers are using this medium, should we not understand or share it with our own students?

Literacy is something that continuously evolves and I am not here to condemn those that don’t use Twitter.  There are many areas of literacy that I can continue to improve (especially in the area of media literacy), but I know better to not just brush it aside and ignore it.  We always need to get better for our kids.  If we can’t understand all of the symbols in Twitter, learn how to write a tweet, and use those 140 characters (not all of the time) to lead people to more information, are we missing out on something?

As evidenced in the video below, there can be a lot of power in a simple tweet.  We need to learn and take advantage.

Technology is More than a Tool

Definition: Tool – (noun) A device or implement, especially one held in the hand, used to carry out a particular function.

Often the saying, “technology is just a tool”, is said in the context of schools and learning.  I (vaguely) remember writing a similar comment and being challenged regarding that same statement, but since then I have looked at technology in a different way.  Based on the definitions I have read, and the way I see technology (in many cases) being used, it has the power to be so much more than a website, device, or app.  If technology transforms the way we do things, is it “just a tool”?

For example, Neil Postman talks about technology being ecological and how it changes society:

Technological change is not additive; it is ecological. I can explain this best by an analogy. What happens if we place a drop of red dye into a beaker of clear water? Do we have clear water plus a spot of red dye? Obviously not. We have a new coloration to every molecule of water. That is what I mean by ecological change. A new medium does not add something; it changes everything. In the year 1500, after the printing press was invented, you did not have old Europe plus the printing press. You had a different Europe. After television, America was not America plus television. Television gave a new coloration to every political campaign, to every home, to every school, to every church, to every industry, and so on.

There is so much more to the “just a tool” analogy in this example.  The invention of the airplane changed the way our world works and that would also fall under the realm of “technology”.  Even though Louis C.K. is joking on this little bit, he does show the transformation of our world when the airplane was invented:

People like they say there’s delays on flights (yeah) delays really New York to California in 5 hours. That used to take 30 years to do that and a bunch of you would die on the way there and have a baby. You’d be with a whole different group of people by the time you got there.

If you even look at modern day technology, the invention of Google (along with prior and subsequent search engines), has really changed the way school should be taught.  Why do we need to focus on content when all of the information you need is a “Google” away.  Really, can schools stay the same with Google existing?  It doesn’t make sense if they do.

Facebook, like it or not, is a whole different way of connecting with people.  For me, it was the phone that I spent an inordinate amount of time on, but for the new generation, it’s this social network.  It is not only a place you can connect with friends, but you can also share your life, play games, and even have advertising brought right to you.  Like it or not, it is a technology that is transformative.

Twitter and mobile devices have also pushed the edges of the way our society exists.  The recent pepper spray incident at UC Davis, still gives me shivers every time I think about it.  The way news can be instantly delivered from anyone with one of these devices and a social media account, is changing how we live our lives, and is hopefully creating more accountability for all people.  It is scary to think how many incidents like the UC Davis event have happened before the mass use of technology.

I guess the reason I even wrote this post in the first place, was from the inspiration of a picture.  I have struggled back and forth with the idea of whether technology is just a tool, or is it truly transformative.  Yes, the way people use technology is important, but again, when used in a certain way, it transforms.  I am certain I may be saying something that has been said by Neil Postman and others, but again, it was a visual that inspired this post.

If my examples above haven’t swayed you, maybe the picture below will:

I just look at that picture and think it has to be more than a tool.

You Should Read… (October 23, 2011)

Here are some interesting articles that I have found this week:

1.   Using Twitter in High School Classrooms - This post by Bill Ferriter is a great example of how some high school classrooms can use Twitter to not only improve their learning, but can also learn how to be active participants in their world.  His quote below shows how our students can have more of a voice in the democratic process:

“If we are going to prepare our students to be effective participants in this changing political landscape, shouldn’t we be showing them how to hunt down candidates for elected office in social spaces—both to learn more about positions AND to ask a whole lot of questions?That’s exactly what Jeremy Reid is teaching his Grade 11 social studies students, who have used a classroom Twitter account to reach out to candidates in local elections. Think about that for a second, would you?Social media spaces—which are students are drawn to already—have made interacting with politicians and their ideas easier.”

Take the time to read this and think of the ways that you can implement Twitter, which many students are already on, to help them build not only a positive digital footprint, but also help them to take leadership within their community as well as the world.

2. Social Media Policy – YouTube - The Department of Justice in Victoria, Australia, made this video to help their employees understand their roles and responsibilities in using social media.  This could be a great video to discuss with students and/or staff and some of the implications of what is being said.

One of the quotes, at about 2:34 in the video, really caught my attention:

“If it’s clear who you work for, be clear that your views are your own”.

The reason I was interested in what was said here was in education, is this different?  I believe that as educators, we are teachers 100% of the time and expressing certain views may be perceived in a negative way.  This is not to say that you are not entitled to your own opinions and beliefs, but, as stated in the video, there is a different blur between our “private and professional” lives when using social media, which is usually a public forum. We are entitled to our own views, but I don’t think by stating that it absolves educators of their responsibility, and sometimes consequences of things that expressing these views may bring.  The “blur” makes it more complicated.  I would love your thoughts on that portion of the video or anything else. (Check it out below)

3. Cyberbullying: The Power and Peril of Anonymity -This article gives some interesting ways that we can work with our children in social media spaces to guide them along their journey, but also give them some space to explore as well.  There are a few interesting quotes in the article below:

- Hawkins seconded that, insisting that the best way to intervene in cyberbullying at school or at home is not to insist on shutting access to social networking, but to be more present in students’ digital world.

- Rosalind Moore, a parent of two teenagers, said she does her best to do that, while at the same time respecting her children’s digital space and refusing to ask for things such as their Facebook passwords, in part because she thinks it’s counter-intuitive.

“They give you the password, then they go and create another identity with a different password,” Moore said. “You think you’re monitoring this password, and then it’s not really the truth.”

Any thoughts on the articles above?  As always, I am hoping that they are not only used as resources to help further our own teaching and learning practices, but also give you something to think about.  Comments are always welcome.

Have a great week!

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by gcouros

Defining the Technology

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by topgold

Still reflecting on the Sir Ken Robinson keynote last night, one of the points that I thought was very interesting in how we sometimes hold our students back is when he said the following (paraphrased):

We oftentimes use the new technologies to do the old things.  It is transformational when we use the new technology to do new things.

I couldn’t help but think of the development of Twitter as a networking tool and watching how educators have really leveraged this technology to build connections and enhance their own professional development.  My best guess was that Twitter was built upon the popular “status update” idea from Facebook which was often used to share simple “life updates”.

“George is eating pizza.”

“George is having nachos for supper.”

“George feels guilty and is going for a run.”

It is when people took this technology and started using it in a different way, is when it had become transformational.  The change in use of Twitter as defined by users, prompted a shift in the question “What are you doing?” to “What’s Happening?”.  This change was highlighted in this old (almost two years!) Mashable article:

On the surface it’s a minor change, and yet it’s significant in reflecting the shifting focus and user behavior of the service over time. As most users know, the official question is largely ignored by those who have found myriad ways to share pretty much anything they wanted, be it information, relationships, entertainment, citizen journalism, and beyond.

The change acknowledges that Twitter has grown far beyond the more personal status updates it was originally envisioned to convey, and has morphed into a sort of always-on, source-agnostic information network that is wholly unique. Twitter says they don’t expect the change to at all influence how people actually use Twitter, but might “make it easier to explain to your dad.”

We often talk about technology and how sometimes, it defines us (see the printing press, electricity, car, planes, etc.).  Often though, through our innovative ways of using new things in new ways, we define the technology.

Defending from Twitter Overload

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by renaissancechambara

I think that anyone who blogs and tweets, has written almost a seemingly mandatory post on the “Power of Twitter” (I know I have).  Seeing the power of connecting and sharing with passionate educators is pretty amazing, yet can sometimes be overwhelming.  As I have progressed in my own social networking, I have learned to tailor my social media stream to something that is more streamlined and beneficial to my own practice as an educator, while also ensuring that I take time away from the medium.  Balance is essential.  At one point, I woke up every morning to check my Twitter feed, and although I do check in at the gym in the morning, I rarely do that anymore.  There is such thing as “too much of a good thing”.

That being said, whatever balance works for any individual and their needs is important for them to figure out, not me.  When I do talk of balance though, I think back to Will Richardson’s post and think that we should, as educators helping our students navigate this world, include some component of social media into our own world.

“…the reality is that most of those folks who are concerned about kids needing balance are out of balance themselves, just in the opposite way.They’re not online enough, not reading, writing, participating, connecting and creating in these spaces as much as they need to be to fully understand the implications of these technologies for their own learning and for the kids in their classrooms. Lately, when I’ve been responding to people about the “balance” question, I go with “well, actually, you’re out of balance too, you know.” I get this kind of stunned silence. What a concept.” ~Will Richardson

What I have seen with many new administrators on Twitter that are finding great information (there is a ton), is sometimes they can “overshare” that information with their staff, therefore essentially making them hate Twitter before they are even willing to try it.  For example, “Adminstrator A” finds a ton of links on Twitter, and sends every single great article they find to the entire staff through email, where there is sometimes information overload already.  Eventually, staff see the emails and probably hit the delete button before they even look at the content.  Although the enthusiasm is legitimate and the intent is positive, people get bogged down from email overload.  The nice thing about Twitter is that I can go there when I need it, and if I take a few minutes, hours, or days off, it is still there running smoothly!  You can go there when it works for you, but email can feel quite different.

One of the things I have tried to implement with my staff and my own process is using Diigo to bookmark links and then send one weekly email to staff with some of my favourite articles.  Not all of them, but usually two or three.  Although I saw this idea on Twitter (of course), it was from Jill Gough’s PLC facilitator site where I started to actually envision what the site would look like.

Here is my process to share these great articles each week:

  1. Bookmark them using Diigo and make sure that they are public.  I did this last year with Forest Green School, and am now doing it again with my new role as Division Principal.  These links are some of my favourite articles of the week but I may not necessarily share all of them.
  2. Sharing some information for the week, I also add links with a short summary to the end of a blog post.  Again, I did this with Forest Green School and am now doing it again on my new Division Principal blog.
  3. Send out one email on a consistent day each week with the information.  I actually would not share any links besides this unless they were ABSOLUTELY imperative to send out before this date.  As Principal, you need to be a defender of time for your staff.  Sending a bunch of emails during the week is not helping that cause.

As for some of the benefits, you are obviously archiving some great articles in two different places (blog and Diigo) while also being able to have this great information shared with your staff, students, school community, and the entire world.  If it is good enough to share with your staff, why would you not share it with the world?  Staff can also easily find old articles if they are interested on your blog site, especially if you are thoughtful on how you categorize your links.  You are also creating a space through your blog to have some great conversations on the articles as well.  These are things that just do not work the same with email.

Hopefully as we progress, I will not even email this weekly post out as I am hoping more will subscribe to RSS feeds but it is important to meet people where they are at.  If they are not comfortable with sharing comments, that is fine as well.  As a leader though, I want to be open and transparent with my practice and role model that to my staff.  “Know the way, go the way, show the way.”

As the school year starts, I hope that some of these ideas that I have compiled from others and made my own, will help you move your staff forward in a positive and meaningful way.  This practice can be done by any administrator/educator with whomever they work with, to start some great discussions in their classrooms and help facilitate this open learning.  If you have any ideas of how this could be tweaked to become even better, I would love for you to share them!

Absence of Trust

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by dannysullivan

Nothing says, “I trust you”, less than blocking websites in organizations and schools.

I recently read how Rhode Island has now outlawed social media in schools (at last glance their legislative assembly currently has 11 likes on their Facebook page they must have a total understanding of social media) and it is just amazing to me the giant step backwards we see in some areas of education.  Now the purpose of law is a valuable one, as they are trying to limit cyberbullying and some of the implications it can have on the well being of students.  I am all for safety, and cyberbullying does exist, but does it help when we don’t work with our students in places that they will go anyway?  The article goes on to talk about how the “federal filters” may limit access, but only for a limited amount of time:

And we’ve seen that students, running into the filter, just shrug and access the content at home or on their phones or laptops, making the filters serve no greater purpose than to push students to the same content that is supposedly risky, except in places where there aren’t teachers to help them.

This slightly strange video (the voices are just off and weird) does bring up a good point about the blocking of these tools in schools.  The one character wonders out loud how she can become a journalist when schools are blocking the sites that journalists use to connect, learn, and share information with other.  We want students to be immersed in the real world right?

It is not only students have have this access blocked, but educators as well.  I could not even begin to tell you the number of educators that have shared their frustration with me that they cannot access valuable content at their schools, or connect with many in a real-time relevant way. I was actually working with a group this year in a school when Superintendent Chris Kennedy’s blog, “The Culture of Yes”, was actually blocked when I tried to access it.  I wonder what filter keywords stopped it? “Positive and upbeat” or “highly valuable information”?  Now I know it was probably remedied quickly after, but how it got caught in a filter scares me.  Were “blogs” being blocked because of the component of chat that can happen through the comments?  When we have resources like this sharing awesome information that most likely only educators would access, there is a major problem.

From a work study in 2009, it was actually noted that productivity did not decrease when sites such as YouTube and Facebook were opened:

Study author Brent Coker, from the department of management and marketing, said “workplace Internet leisure browsing,” or WILB, helped to sharpened workers’ concentration. “People need to zone out for a bit to get back their concentration…Short and unobtrusive breaks, such as a quick surf of the Internet, enables the mind to rest itself, leading to a higher total net concentration for a days’ work, and as a result, increased productivity,” he said.

As noted in the study though, the people with Internet addictions obviously had less productivity.  Although this problem is real with some, is it the majority?  Do we need to continue making rules for the majority when it is based on the actions of a few?

My own beliefs however tell me that people are not only missing out on the connection that social media may bring to them at their workplace (do we also ban phone calls home to family?), but it is the morale that is most highly impacted.  We should know that great organizations are built first upon trust, but by saying “we trust you”  and then shutting down websites that can actually enhance learning is simply a misalignment of actions and beliefs.

Recently I shared a YouTube video and I received a thank you from a teacher who said they were looking forward to watching it at home since  YouTube was blocked in their school. What? Really?

Someone said this to me and it really stuck in my head:

…there are two places that are making efforts to ban social media in the world; China and schools.

How accurate that statement is, I am not sure, but are schools rushing to open sites that have been continuously blocked?  The talk of “21st Century Learning” is so prevalent in our conversations yet teaching and working with our kids to ensure their safety is much more important than pretending the world outside doesn’t exist.

You see countries such as Egypt begin to block social media as revolutions begin; is there one coming the way of education?