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 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.

I keep forgettin’…

I was going to wait on this post until the new year. The topic has been in my “To-Blog” list for quite some time now, but after reading this article in the Huffington Post, I was inspired to go on ahead and write it.

My long-term memory is impeccable…I can still spout off my first grade best friend’s phone number.  I remember every detail of my grandmother’s apartment.  I remember being carried back to my crib as a toddler.

Short-term memory?  Ehh, not so much.

Too Young for “Senior Moments?”

When I was a kid, grown-ups used to tell me that if I had a thought that passed through my mind then disappeared (aka a “senior moment,” as many people call it), it probably wasn’t that important.  I’ve noticed that the older I’ve become, these senior moments have become more and more the norm.  What’s super-frustrating is when you know it was something important, but you just can’t freakin’ remember!

Take this situation, for example.  Right before break, I promised my co-workers that I would burn a CD for a school roller-skating party.  I came home, set up the playlist, then went upstairs to grab a blank CD.  When I got to my home office, I forgot why I was in the room.  So, I went back downstairs.  Five minutes later, I remembered…oh yeah, the CD!  I went back upstairs to get the CD, and almost forgot why I was there yet again.  Le sigh.

The Accident

Unfortunately, these moments happen more frequently than I’d like to admit, especially for someone my age (*cough cough* twenty-tween *cough*).  So, naturally, I attributed my shortcomings to an accident I had a little over two years ago.

*cue dream sequence music and zig-zags*

Two years ago, back in September 2011, I had a bad fall.  Prior to this incident, I was a freakin learning machine!  I was built for the academic life, soaking up information like a sponge, writing papers in record time, yadda yadda yadda, blah blah blah.  But one night, that all changed.  Dun dun dun.

I will save you all of the yucky, gory details…long story short, I ended up with staples in my head, and a very bad concussion.

If you’ve never had a concussion, let me tell you, it was quite an experience.  I found it fascinating, although incredibly sucky.  These are the main things I remember, from the following week:

  • My mind was moving at normal speed, but my body wasn’t responding as fast.
  • I’d try to send a text, but I realized that I couldn’t spell anything right.
  • I would sleep all day.
  • Strangers started being really nice to me, for no apparent reason.

Within a few weeks, on the surface, it appeared that I had returned to normal.  However, things were far from being the same.  For over a year, I was very emotional about everything.  I had little patience, and hardly any attention span.  This made teaching and studying very difficult.  However, my family, colleagues, and professors were very supportive.

Eventually, the moodiness and impatience diminished, and I found strategies to cope with the forgetfulness and lack of attention span (which have yet to ).  Most of these included technology.

My iLife

My students are always teasing me about my brand loyalty to Apple.  99.99999% of the time, I have either an iPhone (or iPad…or iMac…or MacBook) somewhere on my person.  However, these products help me to stay organized.  Here are a few apps that I have found useful, and you may, too (concussion or not):

  1. Evernote: allows you to take notes, and sync them across all your devices.  Even supports pictures, audio, and videos.  You can create different notebooks to organize the information you collect.  Teechur bonus: You can use Evernote to create electronic portfolios of student work.
  2. 30/30:  allows you to set up to-do lists with a specified amount of time to spend on each task.  This helps me with the whole attention thing, as I tend to get restless unless I’m multitasking.  Since multitasking may be counterproductive, this app helps me to stay focused on one activity, and reduces my anxiety by showing me how much time I have left.  Teechur bonus: Sound familiar?  A lot of people (including the little ones that we teach) can probably relate.
  3. Pinterest/Diigo/Pocket/etc.: (includes all the apps that can bookmark interesting content for later.)  I worry less about missing important information and can stay focused on the task at hand.  Teechur bonus: All these useful links come in handy when collaborating with my PLN.  (Did you know that you can set up Diigo to sync with your favorites on Twitter?)
  4. Parkmobile: never forget to run out and feed the meter again.  Also, it can even find your car for you.  Winning!
  5. Calendar:  Ohhhh, this is a lifesaver.  It’s pretty self-explanatory, but I have to say that I love how it auto-syncs with my Google calendars.  I must have about 15 different calendars floating around, from work to workouts, from social activities to gigs.  Electronic calendars that sync across devices?  Total game-changer.  I was sick of losing the paper one, anyway.

Closing Thought

Jerry Springer, I am not.  However, the Huffington Post article that I read today really gave me some food for thought.  After I read it, I wondered if maybe I became too reliable on all of this tech?  Is it possible that I could have made a full recovery, if not for these crutches on which I continue to lean?  *lawyer voice*  And is it not a coincidence that this aforementioned incident coincided with the release of the iPhone 4S, packaged with Siri and iOS5?  Is this just a classic case of “the butler did it?”  Just blame it on the a-a-a-a-a-accident???

Ok, I’m done lol.  Maybe one day, when I have a few weeks of leisure time to kick back, I can try to unplug totally and see what happens.

Leisure time…pshhhh…who am I kidding?  I’m a “teechur.”

What are your favorite productivity apps?  Chime in below.