New Year’s Challenge: Jump In!

Posted by Geoff Belleau on January 1, 2014

Logos in mortar boards: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, RSSMost of us entered a career in education because of the students.  The rapidly changing, technology-driven, mobile world is changing those students. They are still children—or young adults—but they have access to an unprecedented amount of information, and their social interactions have changed. In addition to Facebook, they use social tools like Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Tumblr, Kik, and Vine among others. Gone are the days when schools could easily restrict access to such tools; now they’re as close as the mobile device in each student’s pocket. Our challenge is to model appropriate social interaction using tools most educators are just plain unfamiliar with.

How?  Just jump in.  For starters, if you haven’t joined Twitter, do it. Twitter can be used to log into and share on many of the tools listed above. Next, as you make your way around your school building or district every day, make at least one day a “follow me” day. When you see an amazing lesson, snap a picture and post it along with a short note for your followers to see (yep, that’s called tweeting). If you see an orderly lunch line with a smiling food service employee, tweet it. Follow the good example of Kris Corey (@coreykrisc), superintendent in Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District. Those stakeholders who follow her on Twitter know when she’s visiting schools because she is sharing lessons, student work, special events and even the Chipotle fundraiser flyer. Several of her administrators have followed her example and share the daily activities of their schools:(@kristenwitt13, @crystalmiddleca, @annakyleelem, @principal439).

Recently, Twitter launched Vine. Like Twitter, Vine is microblogging (140 character limit), but with an added feature: 6 second videos that loop. Create a Vine video by simply touching the screen. Then add a short description and post. Since Twitter is used to create the Vine account, your post goes to both Vine and Twitter automatically. Many have said a picture is worth a thousand words; a video could be worth a million words!

Outside your office post your Twitter, Vine, and Instagram username, plus any others you may have such as Facebook and Pinterest. Next add these usernames to email signatures and newsletters going home. Let your followers build naturally and don’t worry if the count only goes up slowly.

If you are more inclined to share graphically, use Instagram to share the amazing things going on at your building or district. Instagram is a favorite because it makes those artistic looking square pictures with filters and borders. By linking your Twitter account on setup, you can automatically share on twitter whenever you post to Instagram.

One common element across all of this social sharing is use of hashtags(#) to code posts and call them out for attention from a specific audience.  Start using hashtags as part of your New Year’s challenge.  You could start with one I use: #makingheroes. When you post, add #makingheroes to your tweet, Vine video, Instagram picture or other post. Also start using a hashtag that relates to your building or district. That way when you click on those #hashtags you will start to see all of the sharing that is going on!

It’s easier than you think! Take this 5 minute challenge (modified from @digitalroberto).

  1. Take a picture of student work and post it on Instagram (Twitter). (1 minute)
  2. Shoot a Vine video showing active learning or a special event and post it on Twitter. (1 minute)
  3. Tweet about something amazing going on by describing it (1 minute)
  4. Share one of your colleagues posts from one of their schools with your followers on Twitter (2 minutes) If you at a site try to do this once a day, if you are a central office, try to get out and do this once a week. Set a reminder on your calendar.

Unlike our students who are digital natives, we are digital immigrants.  We need to become digital colonists and model good digital citizenship. If we are to help students be great digital citizens, we must be citizens in the same digital world.  Jump in!

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Geoff Belleau

Geoff is Education Program Consultant in the Career and College Transition Division of the California Department of Education and a member of the TICAL cadre.

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