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.

College and Career…Ready?

In U.S. education, we tend to use the phrase “College and Career Ready” quite a bit. This can mean many different things. To some, it means providing a robust* educational experience to make our students competitive in a global market. To others, it means purposely and seamlessly integrating technology to provide our students with skills necessary for 2017 and beyond**.

(*I’m purposely avoiding the other “r” word…shudder.)

(**I’m also avoiding the phrase “21st-century.”)

To me, “College and Career Ready” means all of this and more, but I had a major aha moment this morning, as I was listening to messages in the EduMatch Voxer group (this link will take you to our newest room). There, we have a free-flowing conversation regarding topics of interest in education. Today, a friend of mine was discussing a recent conference she attended, where several presenters discussed the need for student creation, rather than passive consumption.

Ok, that wasn’t the aha moment lol…many of us have been sipping this particular flavor of Kool-Aid for years. For example, I cited the National EdTech Plan (2015)’s recommendation for exactly that in my dissertation; however, my friend made a comment soon afterward that really made me think. She listed some tools that were mentioned and added a couple of her own: podcasts and YouTube.

Soon, my brain started doing something weird. I’m sure all kinds of areas started randomly lighting up and firing…whatever stuff fires when you get an idea. Synapses and stuff.

I asked myself why…what is different from the tools that the presenters mentioned vs. her idea of podcasts and YouTube? I had used several from both lists in the past, but all of a sudden I started singing in my head, one of these things is not like the other.

Bingo.

If we truly want students to be “College and Career Ready,” then we need to have them visible to…wait for it…colleges and prospective employers. Yes, I have been preaching to students at every possible opportunity, “Build your portfolio! It’s never too early! Blog! Get your name as a domain! Use YouTube and make videos for the world to see!”***

(***H/T to Kim RobersonRafranz Davis, and Jennifer Casa-Todd)

However, I did not explicitly make the connection in my mind that these things need to be seen. Many of the edtech tools out there are great, but the drawback is that some are set up only to be used and seen in-house. This makes total sense, especially for our little ones who have not yet met the age requirements to manage their own social media. But when you turn 13****?

Game on.

(****or whatever the appropriate age and necessary maturity level is for the given tool)

I’m not taking anything away from any particular tool…as a matter of fact, some even have built-in social media integrations, where students can share the artifacts with one click.

Of course, there should be some scaffolding in place, and this idea is not one-size-fits-all (yet another finding from the dissertation). For example, some students may not want to use social media or publicly display their work, and I absolutely support their right to choose. After all, it is their work. For those who are ready and willing, though, this strategy can play to their advantage. Some students are already capitalizing, and it’s paying off big-time.

Take, for example, perhaps the most famous example of a student hitting the jackpot through YouTube: Justin Bieber. I don’t remember his story exactly, nor do I really feel like researching it (working on this honesty thing), but I do remember hearing that he recorded a video of himself singing and put it on YouTube, where some celebrity saw it, and thus began his journey.

Our students can be the new Justin Biebers and Justina Biebers, but of education! (Maybe that wasn’t the best metaphor.) Anyway, who’s to say that someone won’t listen to their podcast or watch their YouTube video demonstrating their learning, and say, “hey, we need a student at our university who is doing this kind of work. Let’s offer him/her a scholarship!” Anything is possible…it’s 2017.

The key is to put your work out there. Creating content is exactly what our students need to be doing, but, again, it needs to be out there. It’s great to collaborate. Let’s face it, though…admissions officers and CEOs probably won’t be scouring new postings on the latest edtech tool, even if it’s open and visible to the world. Again, just being honest.

For that reason, I’d encourage interested students and teachers to take it a step further. Download that video you created on said tool, and put it on YouTube. Put your podcast on iTunes and/or Stitcher, and anywhere else you can post it. Share learning on a blog. Create a site and tweet it out. Make a LinkedIn page and get recommendations.

It’s your world, squirrel. Go get that oyster…or something.

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

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.

Day Four – Leveling Up

In the words of Ice Cube, “today was a good day.”

Feel free to press play, and let the instrumental serve as the soundtrack.  Let me steal a page from my homie The Weird Teacher, and I will kick a funky rhyme.  I can’t wait to hear Sound Gecko read this one aloud.

Today everything went so well

Slept in, still got to work before the school bell

Said hello to my principal and colleagues

Gave a hug to all of my little buddies

My eighth graders grew and now they call me short

But it’s ok, I’ll still school them on the bball court

Did some Snapshot for warm-up, #edmodo

Then we turned around and talked about the Dojo

Fourth period figured out their squads overnight

Looked around the class, there’s no drama in sight

Then we took a look at the leaderboard

We brainstormed some Item Shop rewards

Not from Chicago, no Bull, but he’s the realest

Shout out to my homie Chris Aviles

Used his model and I told him he’s a genius

Check it out on Teachers Pay Teachers

Class time flew by, both periods

No interruptions, so I wasn’t furious

I’m impressed the kids are so curious

Tech class: #digcit, the kids tried to Google us

They had lots of knowledge that they dropped my way

I gotta say, it was an awesome fourth day

Fiki fiki fiki. Take that, Sound Gecko 🙂

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.