Why Have You Not Become a Connected Educator… Yet?

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If you frequently read my blog posts, you know that I am a huge proponent of using Social Media as an educator for learning and to improve our profession. I am also a Connect_an_Educator_Day_2015_002realist and believe this concept of Educational Social Media is not a mainstay for the majority of educators around the world. To encourage more educators to engage in the use of Educational Social Media we will hold the first Connect an Educator Day on May 2, 2015 at 7:30am EST on #satchat. The hope is that those who have yet to find value in Educational Social Media will do so on that day. But those of us who are connected educators must also understand the reasons why other educators have yet to connect through social medial. So, I posed this question to my graduate students as part of their blog post responsibility for class:

Why have you not become a connected educator… yet?

The key is the word “yet” as I am hopeful that a time will come that every educator connects. I asked for the students’ permission to anonymously post their responses so those of us who are connected educators will understand why our colleagues are not yet connected? The four responses I picked to share below are verbatim from their post and open a window into why they have yet to connect. I hope their responses help you to move colleagues from not connected to connected educators.

And I’d like to thank all of my graduate students for providing their honest feelings on this topic.

Student 1:

I am intrigued by the idea of utilizing social media as a tool to enhance educational practices. It appeals to me because of the ease and speed of responses to personal questions that are posted. It also adds a more personal feel to finding solutions to problems. Instead of reading an article from an unknown author on the internet, the responses come from people whom you know or whom you know are reputable. Connecting through social media also greatly increases one’s professional network of educators, which is valuable for many reasons.

Despite all of these benefits, I have not become a connected educator yet. As we discussed in class, my main excuse is time. Due to other obligations, I have not set aside the time necessary to explore this concept, set up a page, and troubleshoot through its features. I have viewed the concept as “something I’d like to do one day” as opposed to “something I must do TODAY.” As we all know, life gets busy, and the “one day” items on our To Do lists rarely seem to be accomplished in a timely fashion!

Another excuse for why I have not yet become a connected educator yet is because I already feel that I spend too much time in my day looking at computer and phone screens. Between emails and Facebook (my only social media account), it seems like I cannot go an hour without checking my phone. I try to break this habit, but in today’s world, it is challenging. I fear that, with another site to check, this habit will only grow.

I use the term “excuse” in this blog because I do realize that these are petty reasons to not try something new that could really expand my horizons. I welcome any feedback on this topic.  

Student 2:

I like to think of myself as a very private person.  I like to keep my personal life and professional life as separated as possible.  Social media is a large part of my personal life.  Currently, I have Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts to keep in contact with friends and acquaintances.  If I were to become a connected educator, I feel that the separation of my personal and professional life could become blurred.  Although I have my personal accounts on the highest privacy setting, I would not feel comfortable with the possibility of it being found and looked at.  Teachers are criticized now more than ever, and I would not want others to see what I have to say, regardless of what the topic is.  I also think adding on another social media account in order to become a connected educator would even more encourage my exhausting and time consuming habit of checking my phone all the time.

As we discussed in class, time is also a huge issue for me.  Setting up accounts and using social media to my professional benefit seems like another thing to do on my daily list.  There are so many other demands that come with teaching, especially now more than ever.  I feel that it is another item that I would like to give a try but do not find the time to do so.  

Student 3:

I really had no clue that educators were using social media, such as Twitter, in ways to connect with other educators.  It is hard to connect to something you had no idea about.  I use Facebook for personal purposes, and I am constantly checking my emails.  I usually use google in order to find information regarding differentiation, pedagogy, practice AP exams and practices.  My reason for not becoming a connected educator yet is because I do not have time.  I am a wife, mother, full-time teacher, and graduate student.  After our last class with Dr. Rocco, I realize that I could save lots of time and connect with various types of educators who have been where I am if I connect quickly.  I believe I will connect to Twitter in order to enhance educational practices very soon.

Student 4:

I would consider myself somewhat connected, but have not made the full leap to connecting to other educators via social media.  The reason I consider myself somewhat connected is because I attend PD opportunities and am able to ‘connect’ in person and learn from others.   I think ‘connected’ doesn’t necessarily have to mean solely connecting through social media.  However, I definitely understand its advantages, especially this day in age.  For example, after meeting people at workshops and conferences, the best way to keep that connection going is clearly through a form of social media.  Being a connected educator doesn’t have to stop at the PD workshop anymore.  It also doesn’t have to be limited to the people in a given area.  Everyone can connect online, and maybe you’d come in contact with someone you would have never met otherwise.  Social media makes this form of global connectedness possible.

Another reason I consider myself somewhat connected is because I use twitter to communicate with the families of my third graders.  It’s an additional way for me to communicate with my families, and it’s quick and simple.  I’m able to post pictures, links, etc. that I wouldn’t normally put in my weekly newsletter.  Also, I’m able to get information out right away, rather than waiting until Friday to print it in my newsletter.  Some of my parents actually follow me on twitter, while others can see the updates right on my webpage.  I follow other teachers and other organizations/companies on this account.  This account is for my families; it is not a PLN (Personal Learning Network) account, which is why I do not do anything other than post about what is going on in my classroom.   Although I’m not purposely connecting on this account, I do still feel somewhat connected.  I feel connected because I am able to get ideas for things to implement into my own classroom by seeing the things that other teachers/companies/and organizations share.  Hopefully others get ideas from the things I post/share, too.  Most importantly, though, I hope my families feel more closely connected to our classroom.

The reason I do not consider myself completely connected yet is because I have yet to use twitter or other forms of social media to develop and enhance my PLN.  I have made an account that will act as my PLN account, but have yet to use it regularly.  Although I meet people at PD, I have not completely jumped into the world of twitter chats.   I know that these chats are great, and would definitely connect me with so many more educators.  My fiancé, whom is also a teacher, participates in twitter chats each week.  Most of the time while he’s chatting, I’m working on graduate school readings and work.  So, I think the biggest reason I have not connected in this way, yet, is because of time.  I don’t feel as though I have the time to do it right now, but I hope that in the future I can make it work into my schedule.  I’ve seen firsthand the connections he’s made and the opportunities he has gained from connecting via social media.  I do think all educators would benefit from connecting in this way and having this opportunity to learn from so many others around the globe.

So the reasons are time, life, responsibilities, unaware of the resource, privacy, and personal space vs. professional space. All of these reasons are valid for why educators have not connected. Knowing the reasons for not connecting help those of us who are connected address these reasons and provide an opportunity to focus our efforts when we demonstrate the power of Educational Social Media. How will you use this information to connected a colleague?

Join us on May 2, 2015 for Connect an Educator Day and show those who have yet to connect how they can address their concerns and be a connected educator.

Connect an Educator Day

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The days and times are consistent but the topics vary. On any given day, at any particular time you can find educators joining together for a discussion on a topic Connect_an_Educator_Day_2015_002related to their subject area, students, or profession. These discussions happen on Twitter, Google Communities, Voxer, and other social media platforms. However, have you ever wondered what percentage of educators use social media? The ones that do use it are called connected educators. I have no statistics on this but believe the actual percentage, compared to the total number of educators in the world, is probably low.

Thinking back to when I first connected, I did not know where to begin, who to follow, or how to connect. Since those first days in 2012 I’ve figured it out along the way. For me, and many connected educators, this opportunity to be connected is of great professional value. The mere fact that I can simply jump on a social media platform of my choice and immediately connect to, learn from and collaborate with other educators based on an interest is simply amazing.

Over the years many connected educators have made an effort to help connect those educators who are not connected. On a recent #satchat discussion we discussed it with the topic being To Connect or Not Connect?. So many great ideas about why we should connect, what the value of being a connected educator has on our profession, and how to use it to improve ourselves were provided by the participants. During the discussion our #satchat team (@BradMCurrie @wkrakower @ScottRRocco) launched our next effort to help colleagues connect.

It is Connect an Educator Day.

The purpose of this day will be for connected educators to help a colleague who is not connected to connect on May 2, 2015. For those looking to participate here is how it will work:

Prior to May 2, 2015

  1. Model and demonstrate the value of being a connected educator with colleagues who are not connected.
  2. Encourage educators not connected to start a social media account.
  3. Show educators not connected what is available to them when they connect (resources, information, colleagues, etc.)

On May 2, 2015

  1. Have them join (and you too) #satchat at 7:30am EST for Connect an Educator Day.
  2. #satchat will lower the total number of questions to 4 during the chat to slow down the discussion and encourage the newly connected educators to participate.
  3. Resources, links, videos and other information will be provided to the newly connected educators who are participating.

Connect an Educator Day is designed to encourage those who have yet to connect to social media to do so with help of you, the connected educator. Will you help an educator connect? Will you be part of Connect an Educator Day? Let us know by leaving a comment at the end of this post.

A Super Day

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UPDATE: Due to interest we will start #ASuperDay on February 18th and run a second on March 18th. Hope you can join!

Great things happen in our classrooms, schools, and school districts. Each day teachers and students come together to teacher and learn. Building principals and ASuperDaysubject supervisors lead instruction, professional development trainings and building level activities. Office personnel, custodial and maintenance staff, classroom aides, and educational support personnel provide valued services and support to the facilities and educational organization. Classrooms, schools, school districts, and those who work in them are part of a complex educational system that has more things going on in a day than can be explained.

But over the last few years, as a connected educator through Twitter and other social media resources, I have read and viewed posts, blogs, and videos about the activities that happen in this complex educational system. I’ve also seen educators in classrooms and school offices describe what their days are like, what they do in a given day, and the activities they participate in based on their responsibilities in a school district. These windows into the life of a principal, teacher, or supervisor are enlightening, engaging, and positive examples of the great things happening in education today.

But friends and people outside of education often ask me, as a Superintendent of Schools, what  I do each day. They want to know what life is like as a Superintendent and the things that make up a “regular” day. Then, recently, I followed tweets from principals using #APrincipalDay. It was fascinating and wonderful to read what principals across the country were doing on this one day. Following the hashtag brought me back to my days as an elementary principal. But more importantly, the day highlighted the important things principals do during their daily routine as the educational leaders of their buildings.

That was the “ah-ha” moment for me. Why not have a similar day with Superintendents from around the country tweeting about their day, their activities, and experiences with a common hashtag. But what should we call the day? That’s when I reached out to Michael Lubelfeld (@mikelubelfeld) and Nick Polyak (@npolyak), two fellow connected educators and Superintendents, about the concept. I threw out a few hashtag ideas, but the one I thought would be best was #ASuperDay. Think about it, great things happen each day in our schools and Superintendents are part of those great things as the educational leaders of their school districts. Therefore, these days are Super Days!

So if you want to share what a day in the life of a School Superintendent is like join Mike, Nick and me on both February 18, 2015 and March 18, 2015 for the first ever #ASuperDay. Share your experiences, your activities and the great things happening in your school districts.

If you can join, leave your name, title, school district and state in the comments section of this post. I look forward to reading about your #ASuperDay.

One Hope

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The New Year brings anticipation, excitement, and hope for people around the World. Education should be no different. Even after a few tough years with how the educational profession has been perceived and the difficult debates on how learning should be evaluated, there is always room for hope. With that in mind I posted a tweet on December 31, 2014 asking members of my Professional Learning Network (PLN) to respond to this:

Edhope15

Over the course of the next 24 hours there were numerous tweets from educators using the hashtag and identifying their educational hopes for 2015. To me it’s important to have hope for what a new year can bring and I looked for the responses from my PLN as validation for my belief in hope. Here are some of the responses that demonstrate the true anticipation, excitement, and hope for education in 2015.

A number of tweets centered on what should always be our primary focus, our students:

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Joe_Scozzaro_edhope

Lindy_Henderson_edhope

Lisa_Butler_onehope

Some other tweets were reflective:

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Other tweets brought hope for teachers and educational leadership:

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Then others discussed hope for education overall:

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matt_moll_onehope

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What these and the dozens of other tweets validate for me is that a new year brings new hope and if we work together, focus on what is important in education, and advocate for our students, our classrooms, our schools, and our profession, then 2015 will shape up to be an amazing year. It can be a year where real change in education occurs. This change can be in how students learn, what they use to learn, how teachers continue to create engaging and effective learning environments, how educational leaders demonstrate the commitment to new learning methods in their schools, how those who make educational decisions do so for the betterment of all in our community, and how the negative perceptions of education are transformed into collaborative efforts. Those are not only my hopes but they will be my efforts for 2015. What are yours?

If you haven’t tweeted your #EdHope2015 yet, please do so or leave a comment below for others to read. I hope 2015 is everything you hope it will be!

Going Google – Part III

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December was a very busy month in Spotswood’s transition to Google Apps for Education. It was the month where the planning started to transform to learning. Here’s what the month brought:YouTube-banner2

  1. Our Google Apps for Education accounts started rolling out to administrators and staff in central office. It will roll out to all staff in January.
  2. Our first training on Going Google took place. I presented and answered questions for about an hour to about 70 or so staff members. The sole purpose of this presentation was on symbol recognition and the fact that what we are currently doing with the operating system in place will also be able to be done with Google Apps for Education.
  3. Our Spotswood PD Academy YouTube Channel was established. Its current focus is on our Going Google efforts but it will be used by our well established and outstanding PD Academy for other trainings. Just a little side note; the PD Academy was established long before I became Superintendent. Actually, it was established 2 Superintendents-a-go and has been a consistent, effective, and engaging way to provide professional development to our staff. The offerings are great, instruction by staff excellent, and participation, which is voluntary, amazing. The YouTube channel will have training videos and other information on Going Google for staff to watch when available. Here is the link to the YouTube Channel. It’s my first attempt so be kind!
  4. One of our teachers created a brand for the YouTube channel (see image above) and now it gives us a positive presence for our Going Google efforts.
  5. Our Pilot teams were developed and rolled out. Information on those teams was included in my December Spot-On to staff. This monthly newsletter, which you can see by clicking on the link in the previous sentence, also included information about how staff can find training resources.
  6. We added to our Going Goggle page on our district website.

December was very busy with Going Google but the months ahead are going to be busier. In the process the training, videos, blog posts, and resources will be developed and presented by staff. It’s an exciting time and a great collaborative learning experience for all of us. Going Google Part IV next month!

Going Google – Part II

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In my first post on the transition my school district is experiencing as part of       Going Google,  I explained that I will write a post monthly to discuss the events and activities that will lead us to being a Google Apps for Education (GAFE) school district. This month focused on establishing a rationale, discussing training and getting organized.

Since the last post, I sent out two monthly newsletters to my district. In October’s Spot-On I provided the rationale for our transition to Google. After having a discussion on the rationale with my central office administrators they suggested the concepts we were discussing be put in writing so everyone could read and understand the reasons for this transition. So as part of my monthly message I explained the educational reasons for the transition. In addition, the newsletter included videos and articles on GAFE. The November Spot-On included more videos and articles on going Google as well as the timeline of events for staff to train for the transition. In addition, a link in my message gave staff an opportunity to sign up for the first Google Training as part of our monthly PD Academy. This training will be done by our Director of Technology and Integration Eric Sheninger.  Eric’s responsibilities will be to train staff for the transition and assist students and staff in their transition to more technology integration in the classroom. Having a specific person whose responsibility is to bridge the specific needs of the Technology (hardware and software) Department and Curriculum and Instruction Department is essential to helping in the overall transition to technology.

In addition we have:

  • Officially changed our domain for the transition from Spotswood.k12.nj.us to Going_Googlespsd.us in an effort to clearly separate the two systems.
  • Begun discussion with our leadership team on how our school district will change with the infusion of more technology and the use of GAFE
  • Started accepting volunteers for the pilot program in January
  • Established training topics going forward
  • Set up our Going Google link for staff on our website
  • Made changes on the technology end to begin accessing GAFE in the next month

Our Going Google transition in well on its way. We are approaching this transition from programmatic, structural, organizational, and most importantly, educational perspectives. Next month we identify the group that will pilot the transition and much more.

I Can’t Do That

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cropped-image.jpgIf you have read my blog posts or heard me present, you will know right away that I am a huge proponent of using technology in our field of education. My philosophy on its use is simple and comes down to the fact that educational technology has to improve learning and teaching.  However, as we infuse educational technology into our schools we have to deal with a generational gap when it comes to effectively using this technology. As you read this you will immediately go to that place in your mind where you rationalize that our students, who were born into this technology generation, have the upper hand and our staff, who have immigrated into it, are at a disadvantage. I am of the belief that this concept is not true. I feel both students and teachers are at a disadvantage when it comes to effectively using educational technology, and it is our responsibility, as educators, to assure that both have a comprehensive knowledge of how to properly use technology for learning and teaching.

Why would our students be at a disadvantage and not be able to use technology effectively for learning? Simply put, because the technology they use and the purposes they use it for on a daily basis have little if anything to do with education. Their daily use has everything to do with communication and socialization. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this reason but their primary use is not educationally focused. Therefore, as educators, it is our responsibility to show them, teach them, and infuse in them the power of educational technology for learning purposes. This is happening at some schools across the country but it is not the primary focus when schools and districts infuse 1 to 1, BYOD, apps, new software, and campus wide wifi. Instead we say here it is, and now go use it. But I’ve heard from students, friends of my own children, and my own children this phrase, “I can’t do that.” The “that” is use the educational technology effectively for their learning. It’s not because they don’t want to, it’s because they don’t know how.

For our teachers the problem is similar. Technology is being infused into our schools and classrooms at an expeditious rate. But how to use it, when to use it, and how to assure that its use is improving the teaching and learning are secondary issues to having the technology available. Again, I am in full agreement that we need educational technology in our schools. But even our teachers feel the stress of infusing technology and the phrase “I can’t do that” is common when trying to figure out how to balance an engaging classroom environment, new Common Core Curriculum, standardized assessments, and the infusion of technology. I don’t blame them for the stress they are feeling but I realize that it’s my responsibility to alleviate that stress and help them in the process.

The solution starts with assuring our focus is on teaching and learning, and transforming our view of educational technology as something that is added to our list of responsibilities as educators to one that its use will help us teach more effectively and our students learn in new and better ways. In the process of transforming education through these devices, apps, software, wifi, etc. we need to explain the purpose, model the use, demonstrate the power, and teach both educators and students how this technology can and should be used in educational settings. The technology is here, we just need to remember that its presence alone does not produce a better educational environment for our students and teachers. But it can and will if we put a focus back on how these amazing tools can and should be used.  My hope is that in the end we will go from “I can’t do that” to “It can do that?” to “I did that!”.

Who’s Telling Our Story?

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On October 21, 2014 I had the honor and privilege to give the keynote address at the AlaskaAlaska Principals Conference in Anchorage, Alaska. The theme of the conference was Telling Our Story and my focus was on Who’s Telling Our Story: The Use of Social Media in Education.  The conference theme was a brilliant concept because as our educational system changes it becomes vital that educators, specifically principals and district administrators, tell our educational stories. Here is a brief glimpse into some of the main points from my keynote.

Who is telling our story? The question is based on media coverage of education. It is extremely rare to see the front page, above the fold, a story about education that is positive. Our current status with respect to news stories published about education is negative and the five major online news organizations (Fox, CNN, NBC, ABC) do not have a link on their main page to educational information. This is neither negative nor conspiracy theorizing. It’s simply a fact related to the world we live in and the issues we face globally. Take a look and see for yourself. Therefore, if the press doesn’t put education on the front page of the newspaper or provide a tab on their main page, why tell our story?

This was the question I posed to my professional learning network (PLN) on Twitter prior to the keynote and here are three summarized responses:

  1. If we don’t someone else will. Well that has some validity but I think it could be rephrased to say, if we don’t no one else will. So this is a reason but not the real reason.
  2. It’s the only good press we will get. At times it may feel like this and past history of reading stories in the paper would find this to be rather accurate. But this is not the real reason.
  3. Great things happen in our schools every day. Think about that phrase. Think about your classroom(s), school, students, staff, and community. Each and every day something great happens in our schools. This is the REAL reason why we tell our educational story.

Every day in our schools there are stories of how hard work paying off. How students overcome challenges. Teachers working to make a connection with students who haven’t found their place in school. Schools providing community service in our towns and cities. Academic and athletic success as an individual, groups, and teams.  Schools and communities working together. It’s there… every day… in each of our schools and the stories deserve to be told. Not for the glory. Not to be smug. But to recognize effort, success, hard work, and the fact that great things are happening in our schools and most people have no idea it’s happening.

But how do we tell our educational story and the great things that happen every day? We do it through storytelling. But we take the modern day version of storytelling and use digital storytelling through social media. We do this because using social media to tell our educational stories of the great things happening in our schools every day provides an opportunity for our schools to:

  • Interact with our community
  • Create and share information about what’s happening in our schools
  • Engage our stakeholders and allow us to socially interact with them

One of the challenges in using social media tools for digital storytelling is to decide where to begin. As complex as this may sound, with all the different options, it’s a rather simple answer. Just pick one. Don’t get hung up on a social media app, site or program. Just pick one and begin to put up relevant content for your community and you will begin to connect, share, and collaborate with them.

So who is telling our story? We are! We are sharing the great things happening every day in your schools by using social media for digital storytelling. Your students, staff and community deserve to hear these educational stories. So give it a try and let us know how it goes.

Going Google – Part 1

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Over the next 10 months my school district is “Going Google”. I made the official announcement in my September newsletter called Spot-On so that as a school community we can prepare for the transition. Some districts have already made the transition and to them I’m sure this type of announcement is not a big deal. But to others who have never made an operating system change, including my district, the change brings on a host of feelings, concerns, nervousness, and excitement.

While planning for this transition I had a thought about dedicating one of my blog posts each month to the transition and what we are experiencing. It will be a way to provide information about what works and doesn’t work, and hopefully get suggestions from those who have made the transition. My hope is that the blog posts about our transition are a living document of how the process goes and the lessons learned. So consider this the first in 10 installments of Going Google.

Making the decision on Going Google is educationally based on creating an effective learning environment for our students and an effective instructional environment for our teachers through the integration of technology. My own educational belief system about this type of innovation was outlined in August 2012 when I posted 5 Essential Questions to Ask Before You Innovate in Your School. In it I clearly identify the importance of focusing on learning and teaching, professional development, and a timeline. So with that in mind our first steps to Going Google included:

  1. Deciding on Google Apps for Education as an operating system that would help in the students’ learning and teachers’ instruction.
  2. Developing a timeline that goes beyond the next 10 months.
  3. Identifying broad topics and integrating them into our professional development schedule each month for the next 18 months (much longer than the transition period).
  4. Identifying and connecting with outside resources that can assist in the transition from both technical and educational perspectives.
  5. Identifying a new domain name for the transition. The reason for this is to clearly identify the old system from the new system.

Going Google will be a transition down a road that at times is smooth and other times bumpy but I hope you come along on the ride with us. And while we make the transition feel free to leave comments for us to help.

Next Month – Going Google – Part 2.

The 3 C’s of Educational Leadership

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The changing face of education means there is a change in educational leadership.  To keep up with these changes, educational leaders need to engage in the 3 C’s of Educational Leadership:  Connect, Contribute, Collaborate. Each C is essential to the professional growth of educational leaders and their effectiveness in the ever changing world of education.

Connect:  To be effective as an educational leader and to stay ahead of the changes in education leaders need to connect. These connections include the obvious, other educational leaders, but also need to include teachers, educational organizations, and political leaders at the local, state and federal levels. Connections provide educational leaders a window into the experiences, successes, and challenges of others in education. As a result, the connected educator is one who is better informed and prepared for what is to come in our profession.

Contribute: Our profession has heard from the “experts” in education for a long time. Those are the people making the policies and laws, developing curricula and textbooks, and creating the professional development for the classroom, principal’s office, and district offices. However, many of these experts are not practitioners. There is a need in our profession for those in the field, in the classrooms, offices and professional development departments to contribute to education. We need real life examples of success, and, yes, failures. We need to hear from those who are living in the now and planning for the future. We need to understand how what is being done in our classrooms, schools, and school districts is creating a better learning environment for our students and helping our teachers be better educators. This can only happen if educational leaders contribute through articles in educational magazines, blog posts, tweets and professional development presentations.

Collaborate:  For far too long educational leaders have limited collaboration to those within their school districts or surrounding area. To truly be a modern day educational leader the circle of collaboration needs to expand and expand with a purpose. Collaboration is easier now because of the use of technology but it still takes effort on the part of an educational leader. Educational leaders need to collaborate on programs, technology integration, professional development, student achievement gaps, addressing poverty in education, and every other issue that affects our profession. The solutions to what ills education or slows down our efforts to modernize an outdated educational system can no longer be done through collaboration with those who are closest to us by geographic proximity. True collaboration by educational leaders, that will make a difference in our students’ ability to be successful and our teachers’ instructional skills, takes effort by educational leaders and has no bearing on geographic location, time zone, or culture.

Moving educational leadership forward requires leaders to embrace and engage in the 3 C’s of Educational Leadership. Let’s have a say in the future of our profession by connecting, contributing, and collaborating.

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