SAPS Model and the Connected Educator

The idea for this blog post originated through a conversation we were having in EduMatch Voxer Room 2. We have free-flowing conversations in both rooms (and some side groups) about any and every topic under the sun. In there, the topic du jour was about connecting. Go figure 🙂

First, we tried to figure out how many educators were connected. This is an elusive statistic, as I have been trying to nail that down for years…an impossible task because that number grows every day. If anybody has a source, please do let me know.

What I have found was this statistic via Katrina Stevens from 2014:

Educators like to tweet! Out of the 1/2 billion tweets that post every day, 4.2 million are related to education, according to Brett Baker, an account executive at Twitter.com. To put this in perspective, while you read this past sentence, over 3,000 edu-related tweets have flown across the Twitterverse.

To put it in context, this is from 2014. A large percentage of people I know connected within the last three years, so a possible implication might be that use is even more prevalent today.

Of course, the ratio of connected educators will vary by area. I tried to guesstimate the percentage of educators in my own district, settling on 10–15%. My rationale was as follows:

  • There are over 10,000 educators my district (probably closer now to 13,000, but 10K is a nice, round number).
  • I’ve been creating a Twitter list for the past few years of everyone I could find, using our district hashtag, as well as other related hashtags. This list is approaching 700.
  • I am positive that I haven’t gotten everyone, so I’ll round up to 1,000 (probably many more).

If my math (and guestimation) are right, that would be hypothetically 10%. If you add to that the number of educators connecting on other social media platforms, such as Facebook, Voxer, and many more, this could exceed 15%. Some of my friends have estimated 20% or more in their districts.

Next on Voxer, we began to discuss what exactly “connected” means. In my initial count, my sole criterion was using the district hashtag(s), but what if they had only tweeted once and never logged in again?

 

One friend shared that she believed “connecting” to mean engaging with other educators outside of one’s building. I’m paraphrasing here, but that was the gist. I’ll use that definition, although I know we can go more granular about what connection is and isn’t, but that would be a whole other blog post.

My friend believed the number to be around 2% of all educators, which is a possibility. Another friend in the group guessed about 12% in his school. Let’s take the average and go 7% for the sake of argument.

I consider myself to be an “oldhead” when it comes to using this stuff, even though I’ve only been using social media for professional purposes since 2013. Education moves faster than dog years; add connections to the mix, and it’s even faster than that.

The point is, the more you stick around, the more you bump into the same people. In 2015, there were 3.1 million classroom teachers in the US. Seven percent of that would be 217K, plus all of the educators in other roles. Additionally, there are educators in other countries, so I’m thinking the true number is in the millions. But still, that’s barely even scratching the surface.

How do we reach the other 93*%?

Perhaps one strategy is to engage the 8ish*% who were interested enough to create accounts, but have not yet taken the leap to making connecting a regular occurrence?

I’m reminded of conversations I have had with friends and gamification gurus, Chris Aviles and Michael Matera. Gamification, according to Michael, is “applying the most motivational techniques of games to non-game settings, like classrooms” (Explore Like a Pirate, p. 9). It can be a strategy for motivation, engagement, and empowerment…

some of the same ingredients that can help our colleagues get connected, and stay connected.

The first time I heard about the SAPS model was during Google Teacher Academy (now Google Innovator Academy) in Atlanta back in 2014, just days before ISTE. During a spark session, Chris shared with us his research and work with gamifying his classroom.

In his spark, I learned about how he used rewards and an item shop. I had also gamified my class for a couple of years at that point, but the item shop idea was totally new to me; however, as Chris explained, these items go beyond the typical pizza parties and toys that many teachers gave as rewards. Instead, he taught us about a new acronym, SAPS, describing what motivates “players” in gamification. Michael also goes in depth in Explore Like a Pirate. To paraphrase, SAPS is:

  • Status: elevation, i.e. special recognition;
  • Access: being able to access something that other people cannot;
  • Power: having control over what happens to other people;
  • Stuff: pizza parties, etc.

According to my gurus, this is a hierarchy to what people typically desire, in order. Of course, there may be some variability among players, but this taught me that there are other ways to motivate learners than just buying them tangible rewards. Here are the Item Shops that I used with my middle schoolers during school year 2014–2015 and my high schoolers during Q1 2015, before moving to my current position. You will see that there is some “stuff”-y stuff there, but this is because I added suggestions from the students as to what they wanted as well.

Not only does SAPS work in the context of gamification, but it also made me think about motivation in general. Circling back to the “connected educator” discussion in EduMatch, I’m not saying that we should gamify connecting. (For the record, I’m also not not saying it.)

Seriously though, what I am saying is this: if we want to help our friends and colleagues see the “why” of being connected, the SAPS model can shed some light on different strategies worth considering. Here are a couple of quick musings for my brothers and sisters on this journey to connect the other 93*%.

For the status piece, many districts encourage educators to share their learning, and provide recognition in ways ranging from retweeting, to interviews, to Vanguard programs, to district awards.

Looking back on my own journey, my hook was access. Once I got connected, I began to realize how much I didn’t know. My FOMO (fear of missing out) was strong, and my head was spinning with all of this new access. I jumped in feet-first. TBH, I also burnt myself out a bit lol. The lesson there is, everything in moderation, but this is another post for another time.

I’m not quite sure how power could work, but I’m sure somebody else might.

As a bit of a cautionary tale, I remember using stuff as an edcamp organizer a few times, by raffling off a grand prize to anyone who posted their learning to our hashtag. I know of some people who were hooked into creating an account and using it that day, but not again.

Or, maybe the best hook is just sharing our stories of how we have connected with others across the state/country/world/etc. and wait for Mohammed to go to the mountain. Who knows? Different strokes for different folks. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Thanks, and peace!

*These are not real statistics…just fudging to prove a point.

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