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.

The Power is Yours!

One of my favorite shows to watch as a kid was Captain Planet.  If you’ve never seen it, let me break it down.  There were five kids from different continents who each found a ring with a power over an environmental(ish) factor.

When the kids met up, they found that they could randomly point their rings somewhere and yell out a random word.  Sing the song with me now.  “Earth, Fire, Wind, Water, Heart!” Magically, this random blue guy with green hair would pop up and save the world against some random polluting bad guy.  (Side note: there is a hilarious, although NSFW, parody on Funny or Die featuring Don Cheadle.)  When he was done, he would randomly disappear back into the rings, while saying, “the power is yours!”

The power is yours.  Indeed.

I’m a huge conspiracy theorist, especially when it comes to cartoons.  For example, I’m fully convinced that Pinky was the genius, and The Brain was insane, and that is a conversation that I’m prepared to have if we ever meet face-to-face.  I digress.

Anyway, I think that what Captain Planet was trying to say to the kids, once you read between the lines, is that they didn’t really need him at all.  They had the power to save the world, as do all of us, the kids watching at home.  The kids who have now grown up.  (Psssst…you and me.)

We are educators.  We not only have the power to change the world, we ARE changing the world, whether we realize it or not.  That being said, we tend to have a lot more power than we even realize.  It took me a while to grasp this, but in the age of social media, we can move mountains.

I don’t know how many educators are on Twitter.  I’ve heard two million, six million, eight million, a few hundred thousand…it depends on who you ask.  For the sake of argument, let’s lowball it and say half a million (totally inventing that number…I’m sure it’s way more than that).

Generally I don’t care about numbers of followers, because it’s honestly stupid. #sorrynotsorry.  Twitter shouldn’t be a popularity contest; it should be about creating meaningful connections so that we get better as educators.  However, today I will entertain the discussion, again, for the sake of argument.  After all, if we are trying to move educational mountains, we cannot do it by ourselves…so the ideal would be to have a high number of high-quality connections (i.e. collaborators).

Let’s say you get 1% of all educators on Twitter on board with your idea.  Even with my fictional lowballed numbers, that is still 5,000 educators.  Get 1/10 of that, and that is 500 people in your corner, helping you to move this mountain.  Get it?

The power is yours.

Moment of honesty: I facepalm every time someone on Twitter asks me to start something brand new on their behalf.  No.

Don’t get me wrong, I love it when people ask me to be involved in what they’re doing, ask me to amplify (as long as they are not spamming me), or even give feedback/suggest improvements to something that I’m doing.  It frustrates me to no end though, whenever someone has a great idea and tries to hand it over to me because they think I have some kind of power that they don’t.  That’s ridiculous.

THE POWER IS YOURS DAGNABBIT!!!!  So stop it!

What is the difference between a teacher and a teacher leader?  It’s not a title.  Not some secret ceremony with your admin involving a sword and holy water.  A teacher leader does.  That’s all.  Be like Nike and just do it!  If you see a need, and are smart enough to find the solution, just do it.  Don’t ask me (or anyone else for that matter), because all I will say is, “do it yourself…let me know if I can help.”  Just save yourself the lecture 🙂

Featured image source: http://i.vimeocdn.com/video/417592894_1280x720.jpg

Don’t Be the Best, Be YOUR Best #BoredEduChat

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged.  It’s also been a while since I’ve done #BoredEduChat.  It emerged one day as I was…well, bored…and there were a few that we’ve done since then.  One in particular has stood out as my favorite.  I’ve always been meaning to flesh it out in a blog post.  Here goes.  This one is from September 25, 2014.  I’d love your thoughts.

That was the list from 2014.  (This year’s list)

(Now up to 108 billion.)

New figure: 9.25925926e-7.  My math may have been off.

What I should have said was multiply that by 1000.  New figure: 0.00092592592.  In other words, the “Top 100,000” who have ever lived have comprised approximately that percentage of the population.

Don’t seek to be the best, seek to do your best.  I was listening to Lewis Howes’s The School Of Greatness, and one of the guests, I believe Grant Cardone, said that greatness means a narrow the gap between one’s potential and what s/he actually does.  By this definition, we can all be great.

My good friend Sara Brooks expanded upon my “Connecting the Dots” metaphor, and said that while we are each just like a pixel on a TV Screen, we are HD together.  I dug that.  Actions live on way longer than we do.  Our legacy is built when we work together to improve the world.

Let’s work together to make the world a better place.

Week 1 Retrospective

Hello, friends!  I’ve been in high school (part two) for a full week now, and it’s better than I could ever have imagined.  Although it is a whole new ballgame, it takes elements from the two worlds that I’ve been living in for the past few years (middle school and professional learning), and splits them right down the middle.  I’ll keep this short and sweet, because I have to jet, but need to blog.  Here goes.

The Change

The opportunity to go to high school, after seven amazing years in my K-8 came along.  I realized that I had become good at what I did, but if I were to continue to grow, I’d need to try something new.  After making this creepily foreshadowing video nine days before I even knew about the opportunity:

I decided to go for it, with a little nudge from my PLN, as well as my family.

First Week with Staff

When I arrived at the first day back for staff, I was immediately struck by the happy realization that I left one familial environment, only to join another.  This was a huge relief, as I was going through major anxiety the night before, as evidenced by this blog post I wrote to process what was going on (lol…hey, we’re all human).

The entire staff was so welcoming, and I was happy to see many familiar faces: parents of former students, spouses of former co-workers, people who I’d been following on Twitter for years, and folks I had met through county workshops and conferences like ISTE.  I probably knew a good third of the folks there already, so this helped a lot.

My team was also on point.  I learned so much from them in the first few days, and am continuing to learn.  It was from our department chair that I got my first explanation of how 3D printers work, something I’ve wanted to learn forever and a day.  Everyone on the team brings the heat in his or her own way, and I’m so proud to be part of this.

The atmosphere was very high-energy and supportive, but it was still a major change for me.  At one point I started to doubt myself a little bit.  However, our final assembly of the week was all about how important we all are to students, and about moonshot thinking.  After watching an inspirational video and hearing the principal’s speech, I felt renewed and ready for Monday.

Time to Meet the Students

Sunday night, surprisingly I slept like a baby.  I woke up early to work out, which I incorporated into my daily routine before school (we have to be there at 9 a.m.).  I found that it helps me focus, and I’m in an overall better mood.

Monday was Freshman Orientation, and they stayed in each class for about 30 minutes to meet all of their teachers from both days (block scheduling).  In our class, we introduced ourselves, then played a game of Kahoot to go over expectations.  In it, there were questions specific to the course itself, the school culture, and random trivia about me to keep them on their toes.

The day went by fast.  Tuesday was the real first day, with the freshmen and upperclassmen at school.

Day One

Since we are on block scheduling, we have A Days and B Days.  So, this will be a culmination of both days.  I teach three different classes, but the first five days of each class is roughly the same.

Warm-Up

The students did a survey that I whipped up on Google Forms, which included info about their strengths, goals, and an anonymous gamer tag for our leaderboard.  When they were done, they signed up for EverFi Ignition, a free self-paced digital citizenship resource, and began completing the activities.

Class Time

After warm-up, I told students how important storytelling is, and how we each have a story and something to bring to the table.  I challenged them to prepare a presentation of no more than five minutes about themselves to introduce themselves to the class, and modeled what this could look like through an ignite(ish) speech of my own.

Afterwards, we played Kahoot again, because most students were not present on Monday.  Lastly, we went over class expectations.  On the last slide, there was a link to an activity, which we didn’t get to until Day Two.

Day Two

Warm-Up:

On the second day of class, students began the day with their EverFi warm-up, except for those who hadn’t yet completed the survey.  On Friday (B-Day #2), students were invited to vote for their favorite class more from the 3rd period A-Day class.  We have a new class showcased every day, and the public is invited to vote as well.

Class Overview:

I explained the routine to students, that we would reconvene after warm-ups to go over the leaderboard, as well as any relevant announcements.  By this time, I had updated the leaderboard with their pseudonyms and points earned on Day One, so then I told them about the items they could “purchase” with their points in the Swag Shop.

Next, we moved on to the Class Activity for the day, Balloon Cars!  (The site where the activity is described is hyperlinked on the last slide of Day One’s course overview.)  This was a great group work activity where the kids were able to get out of their seats and work together on the design process.

Some groups got it on the first try, and many more had to try and try again. Overall, it was a great learning experience.  I was really touched when groups who had success split off to help their classmates experience the same success.

In some classes, we were able to get started setting up reflective blogs via Blogger (thanks to the EduMatch crew for the sugestion).  In others, we jotted down notes for later blogging.

Homework

I’m not very big on homework, especially in a class pretty much rooted in PBL.  However, I am a huge proponent of flipping.  My school happens to have a 1:1 Chromebook initiative, so this will make flipping easy.  In addition, most students do have cell phones.  I took full advantage of this knowledge to craft my first 360 degree flipped video via my Ricoh Theta camera, to show students what is possible:

FYI, this video may not work properly in some browsers, but I had lots of success on my phone in the YouTube app, as well as on the YouTube site itself, where there is a directional control pad located in the top left of the window.

Reflections

I know I promised to be short and sweet, but I got carried away.  Here are a few take-aways that will drive me into next week:

  1. Find some comfortable shoes.  I’m not feeling heels.
  2. Stick to the model of one reading/writing day and one lab day.  This will help get students ready for the college model.
  3. Implement “Figure It Out” Fridays, where we all get together to…well…figure something out lol.
  4. Get the blogs up and running ASAP, so that students can reflect and comment on each other’s musings.

I’d love to hear what everyone else has going on the first week of school.  Please drop a comment below.  Thanks for reading!

The Personal Benefits of Having a #PLN (#EduMatch Tweet and Talk 2)

Most of us who have been connected for a while already know the professional benefits of having a PLN: we become better teachers, we share ideas, we discover new opportunities, we better prepare our students by encouraging them to connect, etc.  The list goes on and on.  Tonight, in our second #EduMatch Tweet and Talk, we discuss another topic: how being connected has changed us as people.

When we truly connect, it goes far beyond typing out 140 character blurbs or using some strange Nextel-ish app to talk to strangers all day.  This seems to be the impression that people have of “being connected,” and may explain why they are hesitant to join in.  What I wish I could tell them is that being connected has made me not just a better teacher, it’s made me a better person.

I’ve alluded to my experiences growing up in previous blog posts.  TL;DR: I grew up in a community where I was one of few people who looked like me, and have had some experiences that left a negative mark.  I’ve always been kind of a loner, and isolating myself became my main defense mechanism.

It was easier this way.  When you shut people out, they can’t hurt you.  But I have recently learned that when you shut people out, YOU are hurting you.

Being connected has allowed me to see that there are more kind, loving people in the world than just my family, friends, and a few scattered people here and there.  Over the past two years, I have met some amazing people, who have changed my outlook.  Of course, we are a far cry from utopia, but there is a lot of positivity out there if we are open to receiving it.

As a result, I have become more empathetic, but I am still a work in progress (as we all are).  The more people I meet, the more I see the good in others…the more I see how much we can learn from each other…the more I see how we can help each other.

This is why I choose to connect.  This is why I am so passionate about encouraging others to do the same.

Yes, it is important for us all to share our stories as educators.  We can all grow professionally, hearing about what worked (or didn’t work) for others instructionally, and building upon that shared knowledge.  We can collaborate, innovate, and spread our passion.  But what we don’t always discuss is how these personal take-aways can be just as important.  Many thanks to my #PLN for making me a better “teechur,” as well as a better human being.

If you are free, please join us tonight (June 7) for our Tweet and Talk on this topic at 6 PM EST (Live Google Hangout on Air) with #EduMatch Twitter backchannel.  The Twitter chat will be storified, and the panel discussion will be available as an iTunes podcast.

You May Not Be a Connected Educator If…

The topic of #Satchat this week is being a connected educator, and we are continuing that discussion on the Voxer group.  A very amusing, “You May Be a Connected Educator If…” discussion emerged spontaneously.

On Tuesday, I tried to formulate a thought that had been burning in my brain for some time, but wasn’t able to get it out.  Thus, I will use my preferred medium (blogging) as a second attempt.

In this post, I will adopt the awesome format of my #satchatvoxer friends, and debunk common misconceptions about being a connected educator (spoiler alert: having a Twitter account doesn’t make you connected).  I feel like I should put a disclaimer here, even though it should go without saying.  These are simply my opinions, and I welcome any constructive conversation.  Without further ado:

“You May Not Be a Connected Educator If…”

  1. …you have a social media account, but you haven’t signed on since you set it up.
    A lot of people equate Twitter with being connected, but one must put in work.  Simply having an account isn’t being connected.
    Quick fix: This one is simple: start engaging!  Check out CybraryMan‘s list of chats and educational hashtags.  Also, Susan Bearden‘s Tweech Me app is a great way to learn about Twitter.
  2. …you have tons of followers, but you only engage with a tiny fraction of them.
    Self-explanatory.
    Quick fix: Self-explanatory.
  3. …you treat people online as currency for your popularity, rather than as human beings.
    Some people seemed to lose sight of the fact that other people on social media are…well…people.  Following people, then unfollowing them once they follow back, in order to build follower count is rude and disrespectful.  The unspoken message is, “you are only a number. Your ideas don’t matter.”  I could go on, but you get the point.
    Quick fix: This is also known as narcissism. There is no quick fix.
  4. …you aren’t open to hearing what strangers (i.e. fellow educators) have to say, unless everybody else is following them, too.
    Social media is not middle school, but this behavior definitely is.  Being connected doesn’t involve a popularity contest.
    Quick fix: Create your own PLN, full of people that you value and connect with.  Recommendations from others can definitely be helpful, but I personally wouldn’t base the bulk of my PLN on “Who to Follow” lists.
  5. …you use social media only to broadcast, without sharing the work/ideas of others.
    Caveat: educators, please know that it is OKAY to share your ideas/your students’ ideas/ your school’s ideas online.  This is all part of building your brand, and it can be a very positive thing.  The point of this isn’t to discourage anyone from sharing…quite the contrary.  Share MORE.  Share everything that interests you, as it will likely interest someone else.  Just don’t forget to share the work of others, too!
    Quick fix: Check out awesome curation resources (such as Zite), which bring you great blog posts and articles on topics based on your interests.  You can even auto-schedule tweets throughout the day with resources such as Buffer (thanks to Shelly Sanchez Terrell for putting me onto it).

“Connected” is the operative word.  Just like you stick a plug into a wall socket, connections go two ways.  Sometimes we are the sockets, providing the energy; sometimes we are the plugs receiving it.  In my eyes, there is a huge difference between being an educator who uses social media and a “connected educator.”  Huge shout out to Brad, Billy, and Scott for putting this discussion back on the radar.

Day 10 – Clubbin’

Today, we took the SRI.  Nothing to report.  Almost everybody finished.  Most of Third Period got through it a little too quickly for my taste.  I asked them if they checked their work and they assured me they did.  A lot of kids said it was “easy.”  The scores will speak for themselves.

In Fourth Period, the kids took a little longer.  For some reason, this made me feel a little better.  I think (hope) they were careful.  There are about five students who need more time tomororrow, which is fine.

The big excitement for the kids today was turning in their club pre-authorization forms.  I lead five different technology clubs for the students.  That may sound like a lot, but really, it’s helping everybody in the long run.  The kids learn some cool skills that they can bust out later in life, and I get some help and don’t lose my mind.  These are our five clubs:

  1. A/V: Sets up and breaks down equipment, and runs the sound board during chorus concerts and plays.
  2. Photography:  Captures special moments at our school through photos and videos.
  3. Morning Announcements: Produces and edits our morning announcements in the school, via Google Sites (see video below).
  4. Yearbook Committee: Open to eighth graders only.  My right hand, helping me plan fundraisers and design the school yearbook.
  5. Repair Squad: Helps teachers with basic troubleshooting.  Also designs websites, logos, etc. for our special events.

The eighth graders have first dibs.  They are super-excited, because they paid their dues last year and took all the sloppy seconds.  Poor seventh graders, last year there were no sixth grade slots left for them.  This year, I’ll try to keep this in mind, and save a few spots for the underclassmen (and underclasswomen lol).  Most groups will have seven slots, four for eighth graders, two for seventh, and one for sixth.  This will be first come, first-served.  With Yearbook, though, all seven slots will be filled with eighth graders.

One year, we even had a Music Production squad.  The eighth graders of two years ago were incredibly musical, and a student approached me with that idea, so we did it.  Last year, I was stretched really thin, especially coaching basketball.  Plus, the students were more into sports than anything else, so it worked out.  One seventh grader asked me to do a Drama Club, but I really couldn’t fit it into the schedule.  Maybe we’ll try it this year.  We might try a Ted-Ed Club later in the year, since I’m freed up a little bit, but I don’t want to bite off too much.

Anyway, I was bombarded by students for signatures, ever since the papers came out.  When they turned in their pre-authorization forms with all of the teacher signatures, I passed out permission slips for them and their parents to sign.  Hopefully we will get clubs underway shortly.  The sooner, the better.

On another note, I explained to students about the self-assessment for the collaborative work that I talked about yesterday.  I actually developed a Google Form, and asked students to fill it in tonight.  The evening is still young, so we shall see what they report back to me.  So far, a couple of students have filled it out, and the comments are very fair.  One said to divide the points for his/her group evenly, and that the assignment was challenging, but s/he appreciated the teamwork dynamic.  Another assigned points based on contribution, and had similar feedback about the process.

One last thing…as a team, we came up with a way to hold people responsible for checking out the shared iPads via QR Codes linking to a Google Form.  I played with the customization.  Here it is.

Tomorrow: Genius Day, because it’s my birthday and we’ll be smart if we want to!  Woohooooo!!!  Adios.