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.

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.

Edu Match: Not a Dating Site

On Friday night, I was bored.  It was one of those rare days when I was home with nothing to do.  Well, I had plenty to do, but I didn’t feel like doing it.  That would have gone against everything that Friday night stood for.

Anyway, my mind started to wander as I was sitting on the couch, playing on my phone.  All of a sudden, I had a #showergem moment.  FYI, in case you’re wondering, here’s the definition of a #showergem.

Showergems

In other words, a #showergem is when your brain is on pause, and all of a sudden, you have an awesome idea.  Here are a few previous #showergems:

  • With seven billion people in the world, we are each only a dot.  But what a beautiful picture we make when we start to connect.
  • Being a connected educator is like using augmented reality on our profession.
  • Relationships are the most important things there are.
  • Everyone has their own version of the truth.  Why should you put anyone else’s above yours?  Don’t worry so much about what other people think of you.
  • Your mama’s so stupid, she stuck her head in the washer because it said, “Permanent Press.”

As I’m sure you can infer, the last one was from when I was in fifth grade.

Anyway, one common theme of my #showergems tends to deal with helping educators connect and collaborate.  This is the focus of most of the things that I choose to do in my free time.

I was sitting on my couch, playing on Voxer, chatting with one of my #eduhomies (new hashtag that I’m totally Columbusing, btw), telling her how she and my cousin would hit it off.  Not in a dating way, but they would have so much to talk about, since they geek out over the same things.

Ironically, I had been joking around with another #eduhomie about how we should team up and make a “Teachers Date Teachers” website.  Well, the #eduhomie was joking.  I was half-serious.  Kidding!  Maybe.  Totally.  Anyway.

So back to the story.  I made a remark in my vox to my #eduhomie that I pride myself in being an educational matchmaker.  Long story short, @edu_match was born.

In my research, I saw there was an #edmatch, but that was about fundraising.  There were a few @edumatch accounts, but none of them appeared to be what I had in mind.  So, I jumped in feet first, just adding the underscore to make it unique.

Screen Shot 2014-09-28 at 7.40.54 AM

It was very silly, and I decided to keep it very Sarah.  Those of you who know me know exactly what I mean.  I was dead serious about fully exploring the potential, but I wasn’t going to do it if I wasn’t entertaining myself in the process.

Screen Shot 2014-09-28 at 7.43.31 AM

Side note: even though I’m pretty Google-savvy, this was the first time I ever used Google Draw for anything.  I was not shy about admitting how horrible the logo is, but honestly, I don’t know if I’ll change it.  It sets a tone for how informal and fun this experiment is.  In addition, people love to tell me how horrible the logo is, and this is great!  Especially because it’s usually followed by, but the idea is awesome.

Personally, I’m more inclined to click on something that catches my attention, good or bad, and see exactly what it is.  I could, possibly, have the same effect with an awesome logo, but this experiment is still in its infancy, and I didn’t want to drop a ton of money on something that I wasn’t sure would work.

Similarly, people tend to think it is a “Teachers Date Teachers” project.  LOLOLOL.  I welcome the confusion, because that gives me the opportunity to clarify it.  In my experience, people are more engaged when they are trying to understand something, than if you try to cold-sell an idea.  Confusing people can be good, so I really play up the, “it’s not a dating site” factor.  The follow-up question is usually, “then, what is it?”

So glad you asked.

According to the website (s/o to the #eduhomie for the suggestion),

“we use the power of social media in order to help foster collaboration and connections among educators around the globe.

Each day, we have an #edtech Person of the Day, and tweet out several bits of information that they have supplied. You don’t need to do anything, and there is nothing to lose.”

“We” sounds better than “I.” But truly, it is “we.”  I treat this with the EdCamp mentality.  My job is to facilitate these connections, but it’s all driven by the people who sign up, and who participate.

Yesterday, we had our first #edtech Person of the Day.  I asked him how it was going midway through the day.  Much to my surprise, he said that he had a bunch of new followers.  I was so happy to hear that, but it inspired me to change the sign-up form a little.  I added a place for the Person of the Day to write a discussion question to ask the Twitterverse.  Although follows are good, engagement is better!

As of this morning, we have 10 people signed up to be featured.  Wow!!!  This is great.

I’m learning as I go along…for example, today, I have scheduled the tweets to promote our second Person of the Day.  This helps me tweet at odd hours of the night being in EST, but our friends on the Eastern Hemisphere are wide awake.  Maybe there is a script or something so that I can automate it 100%.  That would be awesome.  Also, I’m trying to figure out what happens if/when this gets huge.  It would kind of suck to sign up and have to wait for weeks or months before you are “on deck.”  Maybe eventually we will have multiple People of the Day.  Hmmmm.

Tl;dr version: If you have a crazy idea, jump in and do it.

If you have any suggestions, comments, or feedback, please share below.  Thanks!

Gone Fishin’: Reflection on Social Media

Disclaimer: This post is going in a very different direction than usual. Not everyone will agree, and that is totally okay.  However, I wanted needed to chip in with my own two cents.

First of all, let me say that my PLN absolutely ROCKS!!!    

I have been having a blast over the past year, while learning alongside great teachers all over the world.  The collaborations have been excellent.  I am also thankful for the times when we have had those courageous conversations, for these are the moments when I get to re-examine my thinking.  We all need to be exposed to different perspectives in order to see situations from many angles.  It is in this spirit that I write this blog post.  

Please keep in mind that I am dissecting ideas, and not attacking individuals.  For this reason, I will not mention any names or specific blog posts, except for those that have inspired me in a positive way.  The views below are my own, and I am not speaking one else’s behalf.  With that being said, let’s begin.

The Fish

Rafranz Davis  wrote a phenomenal blog post this past weekend, which got my gears turning.  I told her that I loved it so much, that I could “blog about [her] blog.”  At the time, I was joking, but later that week, I saw some very different posts being spread so virally that now I’m dead serious.

Rafranz is totally right.  There is a weird Twitter dynamic in the world of educational technology.  Some of my other friends and PLN members have mentioned it, too, such as Elle Deyamport and Angela Watson.  They both utilized a metaphor that I really like, being fish in a pond.

To continue the extended metaphor, our networks would be the pond, and we educators are all the fish, splashing around.  I, personally, am thrilled to be a fish in the pond, swimming in this good salt water…or fresh water…whichever is in a pond.  Obviously, I’m not a science teacher.

There are all different kinds of fish in our pond.  I like to consider myself an exotic, quirky fish, if there is such a thing.  Maybe a little red one, swimming in the blue water…a Haitian fish.

Anyway, back to the point.  There are guppies.  There are goldfish. There are dolphins (I know there are no dolphins in ponds…humor me, people).  That’s what makes our pond so great! Fish come in all different varieties.  In all honesty, the size of the fish (i.e. how “known” you are) really doesn’t matter.  You’re a fish.  You’re already a rockstar.  But since fish size is a reality in the lovely world of educational technology (and most other fields), I’m not going to ignore the elephant in the room.

To loosely paraphrase Angela, sometimes you may be a guppy in one pond and a dolphin in another.  There is nothing wrong with being a little fish, a medium fish, or a big fish.  We are what we are, let’s face it.  It’s all good in the hood…er, the pond…however, lately, I’ve been reading some things that have made me go, “hmmm???”

There is no need for me to “call anyone out,” or for any rachet behavior of any kind.  This is not Worldstar Hip Hop, thus I will not mention anyone specifically.  The point is to address a certain way of thinking that goes far beyond a few blog posts.  Many people seem to share this philosophy, so I wanted to chime in and offer some food for thought.  Fish food, if you will.

We can agree, we can agree to disagree…it’s all good baby, baby.  I have love for my educators either way.  With that being said…

Here We Go!!!

Twitter is a social medium.  Let me slow that down and bring it back one more time…social…medium.  Those two terms would lead us to believe that it is a tool for collaboration, oui?  Twitter and other social media have brought me out of teaching in isolation and into 20-freaking-14, allowing me to collaborate with, and bounce ideas off, educators all around the world.  In other words, using social media has put me into a new pond.

(BTW, here are some ideas to get you going if you want to rock social media for collaboration.)

The way I approach Twitter (and other SM) is that I am here to learn.  I am here to share.  I am here to grow…with you.  However, lately I’ve seen a few blog posts, with the writers sharing their criteria for following back.  I totally respect that everyone has their own methods.  Yours may be different from mine, and that is A-OK.

However, I’ve been seeing one recurring word that doesn’t sit quite right with me.  This word is, “impress.”  A lot of times, people say they won’t follow back if they’re not impressed. I’m baffled.  I’ve heard this term enough over the past week that I would be remiss if I didn’t address it.

What, pray tell, are the criteria for “impressive?”  If I have less than 1000 followers, am I not impressive?  If I don’t have 50 million accolades listed on my bio, am I not impressive?

Personally, I’m impressed simply by the fact that you’re on Twitter, trying to better yourself for your students. The last time I checked, we were all fish.  Do we not have fins to swim?  Do we not have gills to breathe (ok, science teachers, I know…just work with me)?  And since we are in a magical pond where fish can change species, did we not all start out as guppies?  

Don’t get me wrong…I have criteria, too, for when I will follow back.  Obviously, you can’t follow every single person who follows you, or your timeline will be complete junk.  I made that mistake on my first Twitter account. But, what is junk?  To me, the voice of a fellow fish will never be junk.  Junk is that spammy stuff that pollutes our beautiful pond.

***(Random sidenote: Dolphins can learn from guppies as much as guppies can learn from dolphins.  I’ve met some great dolphins who know this, and some great guppies who had the confidence to insist upon both listening and being heard.)***

Here are my criteria for following back, in a nutshell:

  1. Are they clearly involved in education?  (If yes, follow back.)

It’s that simple.  Every now and then, someone flies under my radar, but that is an oversight.  I apologize profusely to anyone whom I may have missed.  That being said, every educator fish is welcome in my pond.  The more, the merrier.

To reiterate, I’m not attacking individuals, just dissecting ideas here.  I’ve heard the argument that people’s streams will get diluted by info they don’t want, etc.  Again, I believe that everyone has a voice and something valuable to bring to the table.  In addition, you never know what guppy is going to become your “personal dolphin” someday, i.e. have a great impact in your life.  I cannot begin to tell you all how many seemingly random strangers I have connected with online, who have come to play a major role in my life.

However, I do understand that there are certain people you want to connect with more closely, which is hard to do when you follow hundreds or thousands of people.  That, my friends, is the beauty of Twitter lists.  I just created one with about 100 of my personal dolphins…close friends in my PLN with whom I want to stay tightly connected.  I set this list to private, and I check it frequently.  It’s the best of both worlds.  I can now have that ever-growing pond, while still having that VIF (Very Important Fish) feed.  Ok, I’ll stop with the fishy metaphors now.

Nobody has to use my methods.  Who am I to tell you who/how to follow?  However, as a friendly fellow fish (I totally lied about stopping with the metaphors), I wanted to share what works for me.

Conclusion

Student voice is a concept that has been gaining ground in terms of best practices for instruction.  In my district, teachers cannot be evaluated as “distinguished,” unless they give every student the opportunity to be heard.  To me, this is phenomenal!  Why are we not treating each other with the same respect?  We need to start knocking down these walls, and shattering glass ceilings.

I’m not going to mince words.  Like I said, I am all for collaboration, and will continue to actively pursue and facilitate those connections.  I have love for all fish, regardless of size, but I personally do not have any interest in “impressing” anyone.  There are plenty of other fish in the sea, willing to work together for the sake of all our students.

Guppies.  Goldfish.  Dolphins.  Who knew that we fish could make so much noise?  The funny thing is that Twitter is just a tool!  It really isn’t that deep…at least it shouldn’t be.  We are here to listen.  We are here to share.  We are here to do right by our students.  Make your own pond, and fill it with all kinds of fish.  Don’t forget your personal dolphins 😉

Some awesome quotes to leave you with:

I’m proud that I can inspire someone but what makes what we do even more amazing is that we are also constantly being inspired by others. – Rafranz Davis

We need to continue venturing into other ponds and making connections so that every fish can feel welcome wherever they go. – Angela Watson

I was glad to take the plunge because below the surface I was able to find my school of fish. Now I feel I can take my next adventure out to sea, and this time, I don’t have to do it alone.  – Elle Deyamport

What is your $0.02?  Chime in below in the comments.