As discussed in my previous post, I thought I would share some social media tools that I have found EXTREMELY useful in my growth this year in the area of technology innovation. These are tools that I have found extremely useful for not only sharing my knowledge, but also connecting and learning from others.
I would say out of any website or technology tool that I have used, Twitter has had the absolute biggest impact on my learning as an educator, hands down.
When I first signed up for Twitter in December of 2008, I didn’t see the use of it past another way to “update your status” similar to Facebook. I did not care to know that you were about to “make the biggest paper airplane ever” or that you were the one who “stole the cookie from the cookie jar”. Having that on Facebook has become annoying enough, but having a service that ONLY did that, I though, would be WAY too much. I tried it for about a week, lost interest, and logged off for about a year.
Fast forward to December 2009, and a chance meeting with Will Richardson and my brother, and soon I was totally engulfed in the whole thing. I know that one of the things that really got me excited about Twitter was when my brother gave me a “shout out” and quickly, several educators around the world were connected to me, and then I became connected to them. It is tough to see the value of the “Twitterverse” when you are followed by 12 people and following 14 yourself. Now I am not saying that all the “tweets” I have sent out have been of the utmost importance but I have definitely had the opportunity to share links, useful tools, great blog posts by other educators and more to the masses but, to be honest, it is also fun. People learn better when they are enjoying themselves. That is what we want for our students, so why not us?
Watching my brother Alec speak at a session that was broadcast live on the Internet (which I found out via Twitter), he challenged educators to give it a try for 30 days. I totally agree with this sentiment, but encourage you to do what I did, and pester someone with Twitter “street cred” (someone influential who has a lot of followers) to do the same thing for you that my brother did for me. Ask for a “shout out”, up your followers, and start sharing your knowledge. You will be surprised at how quickly you will start to see the benefit.
Having used Microsoft products for the entire duration of my teaching career, I was also reluctant to start using Google Documents, as I believed it was just a web-based version of Microsoft Office to me. What I found is that the applications provided by Google are not only very user friendly, but they are a great way to connect with people and share and craft your vision together. We have started using them in my school on a regular basis to connect with each other and share documents and collaborate on projects. Staff is getting very comfortable with this and I see more collaboration with students in the future.
I have also found a great benefit of using the Google Forms option for getting instant feedback from people that I work with. I initially used the forms option to have staff sign up for professional development opportunities that we were hosting within our own school. Having 55 staff members send emails individually was something that took too much time, so I created a simple survey using the Google app, and it was done immediately. These forms would be of great use getting feedback from students, or anyone else in the school community, and they are simple enough for even the least experienced technology user.
Google Apps has many features, but the last one that I will talk about is Google Reader. I have started using this RSS feeder to not only connect with staff that have just posted their new blogs, but it is also very easy to share a simple website, where you can group blogs together to share to a wider audience. I have used this function to put all of our individual teacher blogs together for others to easily read, but to also share with our entire school community. There are lots of good RSS feeder sites, but having one with my gmail, Google Docs, Google Forms, amongst the many other Google applications, makes it extremely easy and convenient for myself, as well as others.
The last social tool that I wanted to discuss is Diigo. Diigo is a social bookmarking tool (that was shared on Twitter to myself and probably thousands of others), that is similar to Delicious, but at this time, has many features that I have not found on other social bookmarking sites. I do not only have the opportunity to share my great bookmarks with others, but I also have the opportunity to highlight, add sticky notes, or simply save it to read later. I have learned to LOVE this tool as I find it is a wonderful way to share great links I have collected with staff, while also serving as a way to organize sites for students. Ultimately, it would be great for students to be able to sort and find bookmarks that they can share with their own learning community.
These applications have been great for my own development as a principal and hopefully you can find them of some value as well.