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3 Friendly Reminders for Teachers With Social Media

As the school year begins, teachers start fresh. New ideas, new plans, new room layouts. While the new year prep work is completed, teachers shouldn’t forget to double check their social media accounts.

From Facebook to Instagram, Snapchat to Twitter social media has found its way into our lives. Not everyone is on social media, but those who are, especially teachers, should remember to keep these points in mind:

  1. Privacy– It’s always good to do a privacy check every now and then for all of your social media accounts. Check to see what things are shared publicly, and how easy it is to find you. Some teachers opt to use different parts of their name instead of their true last name. This is really up to the individual’s tastes and desires. However, do keep in mind that no matter how locked down you think your account is, it is not private. Those party pictures, drinking, or somewhat inappropriate posts can easily be used against your with screenshots by any of your friends or family, no matter how unlikely you think it is to happen.
  2. Friend Requests– As the year begins and things begin to settle into a routine, you may find yourself receiving friend requests from students and parents. Student requests should never be accepted. Some teachers opt to tell the student that they may send a friend request the day after their graduation from high school, while others do not want to friend students at all, even beyond high school. Parent requests are a tricky beast because while you may get along with the parent at the time, there’s always the chance of fallout. It’s better to be safe than sorry and refuse parent requests. I usually message students and parents who try to friend me to let them know my thoughts, and then I leave them in friend request limbo. Leaving them in limbo means they are always showing on your friend requests page, BUT they can never send a second friend request as long as they still have one pending.
  3. Content– Content brings our social media to life, but it can also be used against us at any time. No matter how locked down you think your account is, it’s not going to keep your content absolutely private. If you’re sharing drinking photos, party images, or anything that might come across as possibly offensive to someone, be cautious. The rule of thumb I usually tell others is that if it’s not something you’d want to share with a respected older person or religious figure, then it’s probably not something you want on your feed. Even if your account is locked to a certain group, always consider everything you post as having the potential to be very public.

If you keep these three things in mind, then you’ll find your life on social media much easier. Of course, you can avoid social media all together, but then you leave yourself open to other issues. That’s a story for another time!

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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!

#IMMOOC: 8 Things to Look for in Today’s PD

In his book, the Innovator’s Mindset, George Couros takes the “8 Things to Look for in Today’s Classroom” and tweaks it to align with professional development instead.

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Words by George Couros, illustrations by Sylvia Duckworth

I’m sure we can think of classrooms that are working toward infusing these ideas, and classrooms where these ideas are the furthest thoughts away from the teachers. Professional development is the same way, and there needs to be a shift in how it is given to staff members.

In my own district, I am of the minority when it comes to learning and expanding my knowledge as needed, especially when I start using Twitter. In fact, I recently received notifications from my administration alerting me to the professional development they would like to have provided to staff members for the upcoming beginning days sessions. I will work with another ITRT to present on these topics. The change in how PD was being provided at the beginning of the year was decided on by administration after we ITRTs had left for summer obligations, so we had no say.

What is wrong with this kind of PD? Easy. It is often a one time thing. The beginning of the year professional development is required so the staff must attend. Even if we offer follow up sessions throughout the year (which we do), they are not well attended. The staff that like the initial PD will use it, the rest will ignore it, especially if it’s not watched for by administration. Since the PD is mandatory, it’s made to be a one-size-fits-all session. This whole setup is a setup for failure, and one I don’t like because it wastes my time, and it wastes the staff time.

So how might this type of PD change in my district in the future? That’s where the 8 things comes into play. See a problem, find a solution to the problem, right? Here’s how I see the 8 things being used to change professional development in Fluvanna County:

  1. Voice- Educators want students to own their learning. The same should be expected of them at PD sessions. Just because the presenter is at the front of the room does not mean that they are the only expert in the room. Share thoughts and ideas. Use tools that can get others involved throughout the sessions.If you’ve ever been to an edcamp, you know that sessions are led by everyone in the room. If someone has something to share, they speak up and share. It’s a gathering of ideas, resources, and stories. There is no one leader. There is no one expert. Everyone has a voice and everyone has a say. Lecture has its place in the world, but it shouldn’t be at every PD session ever held.
  2. Choice- When is the last time that you had a say in your professional development? Never? Typically, there are two reasons why- You only let your district provide your PD options OR your district doesn’t count your own learning methods as PD.If you are the first reason, then it’s time for you to take control of your learning. Not every district is ready for choice just yet, though this is not a conversation we should be having in this day and age. If you want something, ask! From my own viewpoint, I love when teachers ask me for professional development. I am willing and able to make it fit their needs and wants. I believe I need to make that even clearer this year though. Last year was my learning year…this year there’s not an excuse.

    If you find yourself falling into reason number 2, it’s time to reevaluate your feelings on professional development. Are you only doing it to earn recertification points, or are you doing it to better yourself and your students? If you want the points, it’s time to turn that extrinsic motivation into intrinsic motivation. Yes, we cannot be motivated by every PD session we attend, but do we need someone dangling a reward in our faces? If that’s the case, then why do we act baffled when students do the same? “Is this a grade?” is to students on an assignment what “How many points will I get?” is to educators on professional development. We don’t like our students doing this, so why is it okay for us as educators to do the same?

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  3. Time for Reflection-  This ties in heavily with self-assessment later, but how many times does a professional development session allow for reflection on knowledge learned? Do you find this is often on an evaluation sheet about the session itself? “Gee, let me just BS this answer here so I can be done and out the door.” We’ve all been there before. This kind of reflection helps no one.Instead, PD can and should provide times throughout the session to reflect and connect with others, and not just through written word. Use pictures and video to shake things up a bit. Give attendees time to think and then let them respond. A good video tool for this process would be Flipgrid. Twitter can be used, and so can Padlet. Want to have a back channel chat running? Then TodaysMeet might be more your style. Each tool lets users reflect beyond traditional responses.
  4. Opportunities for Innovation- Teachers cannot learn everything there is to know about a product, tool, or method in one PD session. It doesn’t matter how long the session is, or how many interesting tips are shared, we are not sponges that automatically absorb everything. These beginning sessions only help us scratch the surface of what we can do with the tool.Instead, teachers need time to come together and create. They need time to work with the information given to them to see how it can be adapted to their own classrooms and needs. This time should not be provided during the initial session itself. Teachers are just starting to absorb the information. They have not had time to reflect and think about the learning that took place. However, time given in a few weeks to create and come together would be more beneficial. During this time, educators can create and share their work with their colleagues so that more ideas and creativity can be sparked.
  5. Critical Thinkers- Time and time again, we tell our students to critically think and evaluate information. They have 24 hour access (for many) and must be able to evaluate on the fly. Educators must be able to do the same. They need to feel that they have a space to push the boundaries of thinking, and to suggest new ideas. They need a space to question and challenge others, and where others can do the same to them.Educators should be able to challenge the way things “have always been done”. It doesn’t have to be that way, and it doesn’t have to be only administration who tries to change the status quo. Of course, to be able to do this requires a good relationship between administration and staff, and the willingness to look beyond titles and rank for the good of the school community.
  6. Problem Solvers/Finders- One of the marks of an innovator is the ability to find problems and find solutions to them. Ever been in the teacher’s lounge during lunch? It’s a nightmare to those who are above the negativity. I have dealt with this because my office at the high school is tied to the teacher lunch area. The negativity is overwhelming, and so I often escape to the library to get away from it. Those folks can certainly FIND problems, but they have no interest in solving them. Thus, the cycle continues daily.Instead of simply complaining, recognize there is a problem and then begin working on ways to solve it. This can be done through PD, though it may not be traditional to many. Research. Find literature and books that can help with new methods. We can create a better environment for our students, if we are willing to try to solve the issues that arise in front of us. Ask questions, learn new knowledge, try new solutions, reflection, and keep trying. You can improve the opportunities for students if only you are willing to try.
  7. Self-Assessment- Do you only rely evaluations from your superior or administration to tell you how you’re doing? Stop that! I get one evaluation per year. Just 1! Truly that could make or break me (thankfully I do well typically).Relying on only that one or few times a year evaluation doesn’t provide a full snap-shot of who one is as an educator. Think about the year state exams we put students through. We don’t let that define our students, so why define ourselves that way.

    Professional development should allow time for attendees to reflect. This reflection doesn’t have to occur right away, but it should occur shortly after the presentation. An easy way to do this is by keeping a digital portfolio. There are many ways to do this. One can use a Twitter account to share snippets or short videos. Over time, these snippets build up, and give a better look at any educator than an evaluation could. Another way is through blogging. A blog could host longer videos, resources, ideas, etc. The posts don’t have to be long, but they showcase the sharing and reflection process the educator goes through while learning.

  8. Connected Learning- Learning alone is fun, but learning together with others can have an even bigger impact. Twitter is an amazing way to connect with other educators on the topics and ideas one is most passionate about. Resources are shared, ideas gathered and discussed, and learning reflected upon. It may be hard to get into the habit at first, but in time, it pays off. Teachers can share ideas they’ve learned at PD sessions and get feedback from others who may not have been there at all. Discussions can be prompted by the simplest of ideas on Twitter.Got a question to ask Google? Ask it on your Twitter feed as well, and use tags to get input from certain groups of people. Share snapshots of things you are doing. Use it to take notes at a conference that get shared with the world (These are great to refer back to later on). It may seem like you are small and have very few connections at first, but if you work hard to give and share ideas, your network slowly grows. I’ve been dedicated to growing mine for about 3 years now, and it has paid off.

How would your district stack up? What are some of the things you would change about PD where you are?

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!

Copenhaver Institute 2017: Day 1

I just got back from Copenhaver Institute today, and man is my brain on fire! I loved this training, and am so glad that I had the chance to go this year. I’m so glad that my district helped to sponsor so that I was able to go on scholarship. I couldn’t miss, and in fact, I would have been so disappointed if I did. The only reasons I wanted to go to it was because both Dave Burgess and George Couros were going to be there. I knew it was a rare opportunity to see both men in the same place, so I happily volunteered to go.

I arrived early Monday morning around 7:15. This was a task in itself, as I had had a concert the night before in Richmond and didn’t get home until 11:30. Then I had to get up at 3:45 AM and hit the road by 4:30 AM. I was tired and sleepy, but my coffee was finally kicking in. Check-in was easy, and I was able to take my gear to my dorm room (yes we stayed in those!) before things got under way.

Day 1 meant welcoming Dave Burgess to Copenhaver, and he did not disappoint! I had known he was high energy and passionate, but nothing could have prepared me for what I witnessed during the morning session. I kept joking that there was something extra in his coffee and that “Teach Like a Pirate coffee” would be a good seller for teachers.

Dave lived and breathed his presentation, and he definitely had us on our toes. He talked of how to incorporate the PIRATE system into teaching methods, and even demonstrated some ways to do/not do lessons. Educators had to learn that they cannot compete with the media and gizmos that students have today. Their content is not some raw, bitter pill that they need to make students swallow. If they don’t take risks and try new ways to teach, then they will never get better at their craft. An educator’s work isn’t supposed to be easy, but it is supposed to be worthwhile and fulfilling.

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Now why might he have this Victoria’s Secret bag?…

For the first time, 3 hours passed very quickly and I was in awe of the things that he covered. I wanted to bottle that passion and enthusiasm for myself. I decided that I would begin working on a plan for my WVSTC presentations. They would become my test run.

The afternoon was filled with workshops. We attended one with Dave, and then one with other presenters. The latter were first. I chose to attend the sessions geared to middle and high school educators, since I work with students and teachers in that area.

The first session dealt with creativity and technology, and it was horrible. It introduced both learning streams and hyperdocs to attendees. Learning streams were no good for me, as my district is working with Classflow. However, I was disappointed with the hyperdocs setup… I love hyperdocs, and this presentation did not make me want to go any further with them. It was cut and dry and bland. The presenter wasn’t engaging either. I had hoped for better.

Thankfully, before Dave’s session, I met up with some other educators who felt the same as I did about the session. We split ways, but I ended up staying with a wonderful new friend, Heidi, who had also attended the session. Heidi and I became fast friends. We shared very similar views on Dave and George, and we lived and breathed learning and expanding our minds at these sorts of things. People began to think that we had known each other before Copenhaver, but were surprised to learn that we had just met. It was great. Give her a follow on Twitter, especially if you teach foreign language at the secondary level or love technology: @htrude07.

Our second presentation was with Dave. He let us have a question and answer session with him, and he gave us some feedback based on his experiences. I think a lot of people started to shut down when they found out that he was no longer going to be in the classroom. He is working on building his publishing company and getting the word out about the PIRATE system. Another part that shut down educators was the discussion on homework. They did not agree with him, but that’s all right. However, I think for some it was the final straw.

A reception was held at the end of Day 1 for Dave. There were plenty of drinks and food. Dave signed books and took pictures with folks. He also had other books from his publishing company available. I could have totally picked up quite a bit. However, I only bought 140 Twitter Tips for Educators. I had been eyeing this book on Amazon, and it was the only copy left that Dave had brought with him. I took it as a sign and snatched it up. As he signed it and my Teach Like a Pirate book, he told me that tip #127 was the best and the most powerful in the book. At the table I discovered that it was not only powerful for it’s words, but also because Dave wrote that particular tip. I asked him to then write something witty for that part, so he did.

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Dave’s powerful tip!

The reception ended with Dave performing some magic for us. Heidi and I were right in the middle of the action, and she helped Dave with the card trick that he was doing. Even while doing magic, he was able to incorporate some of his hooks into his little show. I was glad that I got to witness it. He had presented this vibe all day, and I was still reeling from it even after heading for dinner. I couldn’t wait for the second day to begin!

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Dave performing some magic for us!

#IMMOOC: Open Sharing

Chapter 11 happened to focus on one of my favorite topics: sharing as an educator. I am always trying to get educators to see the power of online sharing and finding new ideas. I’ve already had the idea to try and get more educators using Twitter to seek ideas, even if they aren’t comfortable sharing their own work yet. I want them to see that the possibility of find new ideas is out there, and easily accessible.

When I first began teaching in 2009, I had no idea of the world out there that awaited me as an educator in terms of connections online. I was tech-savvy, but I didn’t know about the way that connections could have helped me as a first year teacher. It wasn’t something that was prominent back then, and it certainly wasn’t part of my course of study as an undergrad.

I joined Twitter in 2012. I can’t remember exactly why I did. I knew that I used that year to share my class’s stories on Twitter. I didn’t really interact with anyone else. It was a place where I could showcase student learning to parents. It’s been nearly 5 years since that time…and I didn’t start really using Twitter until after I became part of the TIS program. Now I couldn’t see myself doing without it.

Twitter only got better with Tweetdeck. My lists were so easy to read! What was this? I could follow hashtags and have lists of those! I made new connections and met those people at conferences and trainings. I found ideas and articles that changed my way of thinking and gave me new ideas.

If I had had all of this back when I first started teaching, I am sure I would have been an even better teacher. I wouldn’t have felt so isolated in my district. I would have been able to see out others to collaborate and connect with much earlier to reach beyond the sphere of influence in my small town world.

Today’s educators have access to all of this from the start, and yet they choose to ignore the benefits that they could find by connecting in the online world. It is a choice today to choose to stay disconnected. While that is up to each educator, they are making a clear choice to stay in a bubbled world. They are depriving themselves and their students of the ideas, connections, and collaboration that could be found online, if not through Twitter, then through some other means.

In the same sense, educators choose not to share their stories. They feel that they have nothing to share or contribute, or their work is not great. In this age of viral videos and news, it’s hard to feel like a simple lesson would wow the rest of the education world. And it won’t. Not everything that is shared will be the next best thing. However, each little story and idea contributes to a digital portfolio of the educator. Over time, over many years a story of growth and change emerges. We don’t have to say that we have spent time learning and trying many new ideas because our online footprint easily showcases that.

Want to show students the power of a digital portfolio? Show them yours. Model how you have created your portfolio, and let it be the springboard for theirs. Explain how it has provided you opportunities and experiences that weren’t possible before. Technically, I have two- my Twitter feed and this blog. If you go between both, you’ll get a pretty good idea of who I am as an educator, much more than if you had read only my evaluation from this year.

My growth and change is ongoing and always a progress. Yours is too. You share and I’ll share, and together, we only made the online world of educator a better place.

Mindset Switch: Schools & Branding

Social media has brought many positives and negatives to the face of education. However, today we’re going to focus on just one: branding. When you think of branding, you often think of a business. A business uses their brand to sell a product. They make money, and in turn, continue to build their brand in hopes of selling more products. Social media has made branding easier than ever in terms of reaching many people in one fell swoop. Whether Facebook, Twitter, or something else, various platforms exist to help brands make their image memorable and trustworthy. Gone are the days of buying a product only based on the advertisements alone. What kind of company does the business promote itself to be? How does the business assist communities? How does it interact on social media? How does it use social media to combat negativity about the brand itself?

Branding doesn’t apply only to businesses anymore. It can also be applied to schools. It seems odd at first, as schools aren’t looking to sell any kind of product. If the school is in any kind of business, it’s the business of educating future generations. So why brand a school? Many reasons, actually. Branding schools and social media make something possible that wasn’t before. Social media branding can transform how the community and other stakeholders view the school, for better or for worse.

Stop a minute and think: How do those in the community view your school? What stories are shared by others about your school on social media currently. How do both of these affect the culture of your school.

Now think about the barriers that can stand in the way of branding your school:

“I don’t have time to do just one more thing.”

“It’s just one more thing for my teachers.”

“We already share announcements. Why do more?”

“It doesn’t make that much of a difference.”

“Nothing bad has happened at our school.”

“We have good test scores. What more do they want?”

There are probably other barriers that are rolling about in your head right about now. Choosing to believe these barriers and not do anything about them places the school within a fixed mindset- just because social media is around doesn’t mean it affects my school. Oh, but it does, just as these barriers do.

The barrier of not enough time is common no matter what the topic or task is. The truth is, when something truly matters to us, we make time for it. We find a way to fit it into our schedule and make it work. School branding is no different. There will be time spent up front learning to use social media tools to share school information, but once it’s learned, the task flows more smoothly. If the administration has this mindset, they can help spread it to the teachers as well.

If your school is already using social media to share announcements, that’s great! You’re off to good start. Getting digital versions of school announcements to families is one way to share information. However, is that the only thing your school wants to be known for in their story? Announcements are a necessary part of school, but they don’t have to be the only thing, especially if you still implement paper versions of announcements. All you’ve done is take the offline skill and make it an online one.

Let’s combine the next two barriers- It doesn’t make that much of a difference and Nothing bad has happened at our school. The latter is a dangerous thought to have about anything. Just because it hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean it won’t. And when it does, it’s when it’s least expected. Once a negative event hits, then anyone will be looking to find out the dirt on your school, and chances are, they aren’t looking for positive stories. If the only stories about your school available online are negative, then there’s a good chance that reporters, community members, and other stakeholders will stack those against you. Posting positive stories about your school does make a difference, especially in this case. These positive stories can help to combat the negativity currently facing your school.

And that brings us to the final barrier- We have good test scores. What more do they want? If a test score doesn’t define a student, then why should it define a school? Schools are doing activities and hosting events all of the time. The only problem is that often others in the school don’t even know these things are going on! If you, as a teacher, put in the time and effort to organize, coordinate, and execute the activity, shouldn’t you want to share it with others to showcase that hard work? Indeed we should, and it’s our families and community members that would love to see the school and teachers brag on the things students have the opportunities to participate in. In many cases, these activities set the school apart from similar ones in surrounding districts.

In order for a school or district to begin sharing their story on social media, the above barriers need to be taken for what they really are- excuses. Gone are the days of trying to escape up and coming social media, disregarding those who are into it and shunning platforms. Gone are the days of only sending home weekly or monthly newsletters to families. Why not meet them where they already are? Why not tell your school’s story? If you don’t, someone else will, and chances are, it won’t be positive.