connected educators

Lack of Passion to Connect

One thing I’ve noticed over the course of this year is that change is low in numbers. I do a lot of social media connecting, both for the school and for my own personal growth, and I’ve noticed it in both areas, so that’s where this post is going to focus.

I will admit that my posting slacked a lot until this month. I was far too busy with dealing with wedding planning and all that went with that. When I was home, my destressing time was spent with my wife and painting rocks, as well as planning a wedding and honeymoon. I had too much on the brain, and not enough to go around for everything I wanted to do. Pretty sure that’s okay, and now I’m back on track. Any big life event is going to cause a lapse in working toward change, specifically connecting and sharing one’s stories. Those are not the people I’m worried about.

I’m concerned with those who don’t feel the need to change, or to seek change. I’m concerned with those who feel they have nothing to share, don’t want to share, or brush it off. When it comes to our classrooms and schools, we should be proud to showcase what goes on inside with our students and the learning that takes place. We should want to show parents more than just a child’s grades and progress. As with anything else, one or two glimpses a year won’t tell the entire year’s story.

In my district, I run social media for the two schools I work at. I also can post to the other schools, and act as one of the social media leads for all of the schools. I have noticed that if I am unable to be at work on a given day that the posting isn’t done. I make sure events are placed on the school pages, that announcements are posted, and I try to create things where families can contribute. I love working with social media and spreading the good news about the schools in our district, but I am only one of many.

Over time, I have learned that it takes a passion for social media and leading change with social media to produce results. I can speak about being a connected educator and school branding all I want, but it takes audience members to make that change inside of themselves. Listeners have to want to make the change and follow through with the change.

Social media connectedness is a slow process. Becoming connected with others takes time and patience. One cannot start a Twitter account and expect to quickly gain followers and connections. Like a garden, one must cultivate and invest their own time in the process. I have been actively using my account for professional growth since about 2014, and it’s something I cannot stop doing. I still find some of my best resources and connections through Twitter, or because of Twitter.

For example, I went to Copenhaver Institute this past summer. Because I actively tweeted during the Institute, I not only made a new friend in Heidi Trude (@htrude07), but I also was able to connect and talk to Stephanie Doyle (@stephaniedoyle), who helps run the Virginia Teacher of the Year network. That has led to me being invited to present at the Teaching, Learning, Collaborating Symposium in Radford next month. Ironically enough, I elected to present on being a connected educator.

For as many as I see unwilling to jump on board and connect, there are others who work hard, despite obstacles. A colleague from my former district, Nicole Morris (@cnicolemorris), moved from the classroom to principalship at the beginning of this school year. She was already active in growth and learning on Twitter, and we also are connected on Facebook. What I have noticed about her switch is that as an administrator, she loves to share her schools’ stories (she is in charge of two small schools). While it’s a work in progress while she adapts to her new role, she still realizes that it’s important and shares the stories when she can. She even had each of her schools create a hashtag to use for their stories. I love seeing these little glimpses into her schools.

As I think about becoming connected, I realize that I still am looking for ways to get others to connect, but that it won’t come about without a mindset change. I cannot force anyone to become connected unless they decide that they want to do so. However, I do need to analyze my topics and how I present on becoming connected to see if I can find new ways to persuade others.

Tired of Your District Not Offering More PD?

Are you tired of your district not offering the PD that YOU want?

Are you tired of going to the same sessions year after year, and wondering “What’s in this for me?”

Have you just had enough of it all?

Then this is the post for you! Yes, we’ve all been down that road before. The district doesn’t offer the PD you want, or it offers hardly anything related to PD. They tell you there’s not enough money to send you to that coveted training or workshop, and you’re running low on funds to send yourself. Yes, these things are all certainly the pits.

However, educators have found ways around this tired cycle, and they are happily taking control of their own learning. After reading this post, you can, too! That’s amazing. Imagine no longer have to wait for anyone to give you the PD you want. In fact, you’ll wonder how you made it this far without it!

In this day and age, there is no need to wait for your district to offer you PD. A culture of open sharing and connecting in education has changed the bygone days of being isolated and alone. Educators are finding communities online where they can share and take resources and ideas for implementation in their classroom. They talk, they discuss, they read, and they write. They wait for no one, and they take what they want.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? You can be a part of this crowd, too! There are many ways to do so, but one of the easiest is by using Twitter and Tweetdeck in combination. Now before you brush Twitter aside as something celebrities use to insert foot into mouth, stop and think. Twitter itself is not the game changer. The educators that are there are the game changers. They start the discussions and share thoughts and ideas. How do you know if an educator is connected online? Look around their classroom and see if you can spot trends that seem outside of what the district has introduced. That’s your first sign.

Here’s how to get started:

  • Create a Twitter account
  • Log into Tweetdeck with your Twitter account
  • Search for hashtags in your area or interest
  • Tweetdeck will create columns for each hashtag
  • Use Twitter or Tweetdeck to create lists of folks in similar categories (STEAM, Edtech, etc)
  • Google your favorite educators to see if they have a Twitter handle to follow
  • Leave Tweetdeck running in the background and check when you can
  • Retweet what stands out to you

That’s all you have to do. You don’t even have to share at first. Granted, the list above doesn’t go into details, but you can easily Google instructions or watch YouTube videos. If that fails, ask a colleague for help! We are not so expert that we don’t need help every now and again. There are many folks willing to help you out if you only reach out to them.

Want other ways to get started? Here are just some of many:

  • Find a book that you want to read and go for it
    • Look for book study groups online, or start your own
    • Don’t want to write? Try using Voxer to document learning
    • Read, Reflect, Try, and Reflect again!
  • Look for Facebook groups of teachers to connect with.
  • Find online communities for your organizations
  • Seek webinars on the topic of your choice. Some cost, but not all

When we take control of our learning, then there is nothing that can stand in our way. Instead of saying “I can’t get the PD I want because my district doesn’t offer it”, say “What are some ways I can learn about Topic X on my own?” Reframe the way you look at the challenge, and you’ll find it’s just a little bit easier to learn what you want to learn.

Want help getting started? This friendly ITRT is at your service. I would be happy to work with you to get you started on your journey. Just comment below!

Copenhaver Institute 2017: Day 2 & 3

Day 2 dawned early, and I felt well rested after my early bedtime the previous night. I had a lot more sleep, so I was wide awake and ready to go. I met up with Heidi for breakfast and we talked of looking forward to hearing George Couros speaking. I knew how passionate he was about opening sharing and being connected through social media, such as with Twitter. Based on what I’d seen so far on Twitter from the Copenhaver hashtag, very few people actually used Twitter regularly. It had been disappointing because I was so used to seeing other people’s notes on learning.

Let’s just say that I wasn’t disappointed when it was time to hear George speak. He even recognized my face, and realized that he had been reading my tweets a little while ago. I was pleased. I love being recognized. Then again, who wouldn’t? I had a front row seat, and settled myself in with my Chromebook for some great learning.

George made many educators uncomfortable in the room. He totally threw them out of their comfort zone, and it was amazing. He wanted them to connect, share, and take risks. He did not apologize, and in fact, he said himself that he would make many uncomfortable and didn’t care. I would giggle to myself as I tweeted out bits of learning here and there.

A large portion of the time was spent on detailing why educators should share online. There is no longer an option to say “I can’t” because technology is so easily available to teachers. Teachers make the choice not to, and they harm themselves and their students in this regard. They are not regularly exposed to new ideas, viewpoints, or a connected network that they can reach out to at any time, not to mention the myriad of resources that can be found.

Discussion also focused on being open when it came to educational things. There is no separation of personal and professional online lives. Just because you think that your Facebook is locked down, doesn’t mean it truly is. It never will be, and to think otherwise is to have a false sense of security. There isn’t any need for a locked Twitter account. What are you hiding there? Why do you not have a bio, a good profile image, or a digital portfolio of any kind? What is holding you back? Are you the one holding yourself back?

When educators learn to use Twitter for educational purposes, they unlock a new community of educators, resources, and ideas. These educators are willing to grow and learn and try new things. They are also willing to help others as well. George even said at one point that if you can’t learn to use Twitter then you shouldn’t be an educator. It’s a very strong statement, but true. Why keep yourself away from 24 hour access to amazing things? Why harm your students in that way?

If you’re looking for ways to get started with Twitter, but aren’t really sure how, then there is a book you can read. I actually picked this up at Copenhaver myself so I could have it for the resources for other teachers. It does give you tips on getting started, and ways to use Twitter as well.

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You can find it on Amazon

 

George certainly did not hold back. He moved on to talk about a balanced lifestyle. We always hear of folks talking about leading a balanced lifestyle, juggling work, hobbies, family, etc. What is balanced for one person is completely unbalanced for another, or is not something they consider important. Instead, one should frame it as “Do I lead a meaningful life?” This way it can be adapted to anyone. Each person decides what the most meaningful things are in their lives and then determines how they fit together. If you can answer “no” to that question, then you need to reconsider your life and what you consider to be meaningful.

The final part of Couros’ presentation focused on leadership. He talked of how one person can make a difference within their faculty. Of course, that could be a good or bad difference. Twitter can help those who want to become better leaders, as well as books, such as Lead Like a Pirate. I haven’t read it yet, but my colleagues who have say it’s fantastic and worth it. I don’t want to be an admin at all, but I do want to lead better in the role that I have as an ITRT.

After George’s session, I was able to get my book signed and speak with him. He’s a great guy, and if you haven’t seen him before, you should. Be prepared for his brutal honesty though because he doesn’t hold back, and he doesn’t hold hands. He expects you to think and work the way that we want our students to think and work.

After that, it was off to the afternoon sessions! There were two this time head for, and I chose to hit up “Innovative Tools and Strategies that Solve Problems and Inspire Creativity” as well as “Books to Promote Creativity”. The innovative tools one was interesting, though many of the tools were things my district does not have the funding for or prefer. There were iPads that were driven by robotic legs, Google Cardboard, and an augmented reality sand table that focused on topography. The augmented reality table was built by hand, and after I shared video on Twitter, I ended up with instructions to build my own. Yes, Twitter is that amazing!

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This table was programmed to teach topography. As one manipulated the sand, the topography would change and update. It was a lot easier to see how changes to the land affected topography. I wish I had this as a kid!

When it came to “Books to Promote Creativity”, the session had so much to share, and so little time to share it in. The presenters talked about how it takes just one book or picture or phrase to spark something in a student. After all, most of us could recall our favorite books as children, and the impact they had upon our young selves. Many books today can be found on problem solving, creativity, and failure. These books fit perfectly into the innovator’s mindset that we want our young ones to take on. I would say STEAM/STEM, but this is truly a mindset that we want others to carry with them in all aspects of their lives. There were many extras to pick up at the end of this session, but I didn’t have time because I had signed up to join a crew on the River Walk. I hope that in the future they provide time between the final session and that so it’s not such a rush to get there!

Day 3 was mostly a reflection day, followed by a lunch and awards ceremony. We spend the morning reflecting on the things we had learned, and were able to travel to other rooms to see what had been generated. We basically were split into elementary, secondary, or admin groups, and in each room were bits of chart paper with headings. I actually was disappointed to see this, as George had mentioned the dreaded chart paper in his presentation. I posted a picture on Twitter, and was called out on it:

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I was happy to respond. Chart paper is always used to gather ideas, but is never used further than that. Often, it’s just tossed in the trash. The point of the paper in this case was to gather our ideas on what we had learned on different topics. It would then be typed into a list and shared on the Copenhaver website. This list would give no further ideas or details. There was no examples to go with it to show how or why this learning was relevant. It is an outdated mode of learning. Instead, why not show this learning in a video, a tweet, or other fashion and then link to that instead? It’s just a list, nothing more. What will you do with the information on the list? That’s what really counts.

Finally, there was the dinner and awards ceremony, which was nice. I did try asparagus soup for the first time in my life. And I won a nice prize as well, which never happens. At this point though, I was ready to head home (or to my parents to visit, in this case) and let the things I had learned marinate inside my head.

Copenhaver was definitely a blast, and I learned a lot. I’m so glad to have had the chance to hear Burgess and Couros speak, and to have met up with some amazing educators. This is exactly the kind of workshop I live for!

VSTE 2016: Connections & Connected Educators

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A group of us from the 1st Connected Educator session.

Connecting with other educators is one of my big passions, especially when it comes to conferences. I often end up going by myself, so I love having people that I can meet up with and talk to that I’ve spent the past year following and conversing with online. I wasn’t attending VSTE alone like I typically do with WVSTC, but I knew that I would spend much of my time away from my colleagues except for evening. We had a lot of different interests and we handle different things when it comes to being an ITRT, so we split our time wisely.

One thing I loved about VSTE and was looking forward to was the Connected Educator pop-up sessions. This was new to me because WVSTC doesn’t have anything like it. I’m going to see if I can get something like it going though this summer. I made some calls. More on that later if things work out. These Connected Educator sessions were led by Margaret Sisler (@Techy_Margaret) and Tamara Letter (@HCPS_TinyTech). You should certainly give those two ladies a follow if you don’t already follow them! Unlike a typical conference session, these were very laid back. Folks could pop in and meet up. They could add their Twitter handles to a chart that would later be tweeted out. If someone didn’t know about Twitter or how to use it to connect to Twitter, all they had to do was ask and their wish was granted.

During VSTE, this session was offered once per day, and at different times to try to catch as many different folks as possible. I was able to attend 2 of the 3 sessions, and meet other ITRTs. I ended up with quite a few new followers, and I still haven’t yet gone through the list to add folks from the sessions to my Twitter feed. I handed out some of my business cards along the way so that I could connect with people beyond Twitter.

Beyond this session, I found other educators to talk to and connect with. Some were technology folks, but others were teachers from all walks and grade bands. Everyone had a story to share, and it was nice to be able to hear them all! These connections rejuvenated me and my passions for instructional technology. Without connections, these conferences wouldn’t be nearly as fun to attend.

Building connections at conferences is a great way to find colleagues with similar interests, subjects, and grade bands. It can be really hard to find new folks, but they are out there. There are many friendly faces who would love to connect. One just has to reach out and try talking to someone. It is easier if there’s a session or meetup that encourages this though.

I ended up with 28 new followers by the time VSTE ended, and all but a few of those were VSTE related. I have new feeds and ideas appearing on my Tweetdeck, and I love it. I cannot wait to see what WVSTC brings this year with my connected educator group there. Don’t let anyone tell you that making connections like these or using Twitter is pointless. Without my crew of fellow educators to gather inspiration and knowledge from, I wouldn’t be the ITRT I am today!

Helping Others Become Connected Educators

I’ve mentioned numerous times about how being a connected educator has changed my perspective on my personal growth and development as an educator. One of my goals this year is to show other teachers how to become connected educators, and the benefits from doing so.

It took me some time to figure out just how to do this. As an ITRT in my district, I am required to offer professional development sessions after school. I will be doing two a month. This will be in addition to my club that I’ll be hosting once a month, and any other after school meetings that I have to attend. I didn’t want to just add another PD day after school, as I felt this might overwork me, but also because it might keep people from attending.

Instead, I took the 1:1 route. I did this for a few reasons. The first I mentioned above. Another reason was because I wanted anyone who wanted to learn to be able to choose their day and time. They could choose either before school or during their planning, but it would only be done in half hour chunks. I also would be able to personalize the training to meet the needs of the staff member that I would be working with at the time. I would move at their pace, and they wouldn’t have to feel overwhelmed.

I sent out an email to my middle school and high school staff, seeking those interested in becoming connected through blogs and Twitter. I was very surprised at the response, and have ended up with about ten people from the high school and middle school that would like to give things a try. It doesn’t seem like a lot, especially when the high school has over 100 staff members, but it’s enough for me. It’s honestly more that I could have ever expected, and I’m hoping to keep these members wanting to be connected.

Now that I have some interested educators, it’s time for me to take the next steps. I’m going to have them decide whether they want to learn about blogging or Twitter first. No matter which tool they pick, in most cases we are going to start with a “watch first” approach and then work on taking action slowly. I have seen and attended sessions where users are happy to join Twitter or create a blogging account, but then it’s never used again after that session. It falls to the wayside and is abandoned.

My goal with this program is to avoid that abandonment by providing 1:1 coaching throughout the year. I am hoping that by providing support all year long that these folks will become active with at least one of the tools and continue to find ways to support themselves. We shall see!

Positive Post Friday: 9/23/16

It’s Friday and that means it’s time for another Positive Post Friday!

Fridays mark the end of the work week. Fridays mark the start of the weekend. Fridays should end the week on a positive note. Therefore, I’m going to share 5 positive things that happened this week:

1. Today I am at a training for NWEA-MAP. We are ready to learn more about effective uses of the program. It really makes the training better when you have colleagues with you who are excited and love to share and discuss.

2. I met with more teachers who are part of my Connected Educator team this week. Both of them were interested in blogging and ready to learn how to share their stories. I really cannot wait to see where this professional development leads.

3. This week began participation in #IMMOOC, which is this massive book study group reading and responding to George Couros’ Innovator’s Mindset. Each week begins with a Youtube Live video, required reading, and possible ways to respond to the material, including quick video reflection. I was a little late in getting started, so I didn’t get my stuff finished until Wednesday night. I can’t wait to read more blogs and see what others thought.

4. I hosted #wvedchat’s biweekly chat this week and had a blast. I got a lot of comments and remarks about the topic. It was very fast paced, but oh so worth it. I love being able to host things like that.

5. I spent two days this week helping a MS student during Genius Hour with his project. He did his on video games and wanted to make his own game. His teacher contacted me and asked for help. He and I have been discussing his plans, as well as working on Gamestar Mechanic. He’s excited and eager ot figure out the program!

Your turn: Share your Positive Post Friday.

Until next Friday! Have a great weekend!

Need Twitter Teachers to Follow?

I was very, very excited yesterday when my fellow colleague Derek Oldfield posted a LinkedIn blog from Keith O’Neal on 100 West Virginia Educators to Follow on Twitter. Turns out O’Neal is doing the #eduFollowChallenge, and is working on creating a post for every state. At this point, he’s nearly finished, and his LinkedIn profile has every single post so far.

I decided to curate all of his posts into one easy list, not only for myself, but for others as well. That way I can always go back and check out new people I may want to follow. I went through the Virginia list this morning and specifically sought out edtech and ITRT folks. I looked through the West Virginia one last night and found I knew nearly every person listed.

I also plan to pass this list on to those teachers who are participating in my Connected Educator professional development. I know it’ll help them find new followers on their own time, and it’ll give them a big start.

Note: At the time of this publishing, 5 states still were not complete. I will add them later.