In online communities! 🙂
I am noticing that “community engagement” looks quite different for everyone. Some people are brand new to social media and are just setting themselves up with Twitter and venturing out their first tweets. Others are regulars in Google Hangouts. Others have their own blogging platform previously established and are augmenting this with their Coetail blog.
For me, I fall somewhere in the middle. I started my first blog on February 27, 2011. As my first post explained, it was a forum for me to store my thoughts and findings and digitally keep a record of what was happening in our lives. It was part education/family/crafts/food/funnies/current events.
Just over a year later on March 20, 2012, I started my ‘education’ blog as I wanted to switch my focus from ‘all things’ to ‘all things education’. And a new blog was born. This blog has been a great way to connect with other educators and to highlight the amazing work other people are doing. And another way to spark conversation – such as the recent request I got to participate in a “Dogs with Jobs” podcast about dogs in schools after I wrote about my experience in having my dog in my 5th grade classroom for 6 weeks back in 2012.
I learned a lot about linking my posts to Facebook and Twitter and started to think about the network I wanted to cultivate on Twitter. I went back through my followers and removed those who tweeted about their coffee orders and added those who I was reading about, emulating, admiring. The innovators, creators, authors, artists, and ideas people that inspired me. And then I followed the people they followed.
I am not scared of social media or of putting myself out there on this forum. I have had long ‘conversations’ with people I haven’t met in person, like NIST Tech Coach Tosca Killoran about TEDx and PYP Exhibition. Tosca worked at my old school (Bonn International School) and then my other old school (NIST) so we have mutual friends and I feel lucky to “know” her and know that I could ask her anything. Our first interaction on Twitter led to another conversation via #pypchat and a collaborative conversation with another former colleague, Lara Jensen.
I have had conversations with authors whom I adore, who’s books have moved me and I tell my kids about them to help them realize that they can reach out too. Lynda Mullalay Hunt and Austin Kleon are two who are so generous in the way they share themselves online with their readers.
I am not afraid to call out people I admire on my blog. To respond to ideas and to question them – isn’t that what we want from our kids too? My respect for people only increases when they take the time to respond to my wonderings – as was the case when Tony Wagner, an amazing innovator, was the Keynote at a Standardized Testing Conference…what???
I have had friends join COETAIL cohorts and have enjoyed seeing their posts pop up and have these spark conversations about where we both are or find ourselves in our respective careers. Some of these conversations wane between the personal and professional as we seek out advice on what to do next based on where we are now, but all still revolve around the sharing of ideas and innovations. They have also stretched to include people I haven’t met in person but know I am going to connect with someday – and until then, we’ll always have Twitter.
I love a good #pypchat when I remember it is on and when I am awake at midnight on a Friday (rarely!) a good #satchatoc (less frequent!). I have also made it to a #coetailchat although all of these require me to remember the time they are on! They are definitely well worth attending if you get the chance – and I would definitely recommend playing around with TweetDeck prior to the chat if you hope to keep up!
This year I became an Apple Distinguished Educator and a Book Creator Ambassador. Both of these have opened up further opportunities for collaboration and the sharing of ideas.
Toward the end of the school year, I started a group at my school for teachers interested in discussing Childhood in the Digital Age – an online course from Future Learn. Not only did this help me connect and engage with educators within my physical learning space, it also helped me connect with other educators virtually.
So where to from here? All of this takes time and when I have to choose between playing with my sweet 2 year old or Twitter, or going to bed early because I am pregnancy-exhausted or a #pypchat, my daughter and sleep are going to win out!
I still like being connected. And the good thing about being connected online is that you can close the lid, turn of the power, shut it all down. Just because it is there, doesn’t mean you have to be too. I take my hat off to those people who can balance the virtual/real world and maintain a massive presence in both. My involvement is more cyclical and comes and goes like the tides. As my daughter gets older, I am more conscious of not spending time in front of the computer when I could be with her. So I make every effort to dedicate the 4-8pm time slot a “real world” engagement.
Next steps? Through my blog, I was contacted by a teacher from NYC looking to learn more about tech integration and so I will be meeting with her at my school in early December.
I would love to get into Google Hangouts and more Twitter chats but I also have to keep that balance in mind. This course has been great and sparked connections that I hope will continue after it is all said and done. Already after one post yesterday that highlighted my concern about establishing authentic global connections for students, I will be joining forces with fellow Cohort member, Tom, to cohost an #edchat on collaboration. Join us for that in the new year!
For now, I am going to continue to nurture my own blog, linking to Twitter and popping in there as often as I can for sparks of innovation and inspiration. One thing I would say to those who are newer to social media, is to look at some of the date stamps on the images I have posted – none of this happened overnight or even over the course of this COETAIL adventure. It takes a while and I was a lurker long before I was anything else. I stuck around, I began to feed into the community (instead of only taking from it) and I believed in thanking people for sharing their work, showing their art, and contributing to our collective learning.