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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!