Connect Before You Get Connected

OK, it’s the Tuesday after Simcoe Day here in Ontario.  It’s the day for which we can’t decide on a name.  In fact, the Globe and Mail had a feature on their website to collect suggestions.  For teachers (and students), it marks the beginning of the end.  In fact, @mzallieosin has taken it upon herself to ban the use of the “A” month so it’s something like July 36 as I type this.  It’s going to be rough on those of us with birthdays in the “A” month with the new date schema but she says it’s still OK to be a Leo.

Regardless of how you measure the dates, the fall will soon be upon us.

Like the leaves that will soon be at the side of the road, the digital landscape is covered with dead or dying social media accounts.  They were created with good intentions – who can deny the value of getting kids connected these days?  But, why do they fail?

There are probably a great deal of good theories.  Here’s one of mine.

Most districts have a back to school professional learning event.  I’ve sat through and lead many.  It’s almost cruel to be inside in the waning days of summer to hear about how somebody is talking about the “next big thing” and why you need to be on board.  They may even have got a copy of the “powerpoint” from the session that they attended at a conference and are relaying the message.  Maybe it’s about how to use social media effectively with students.  That’s the premise for the balance of this post.

Inspired, those in the audience make a vow to blog or use Twitter or create a wiki or use Facebook with their students – probably mid-September – and then return to the pool.

It might actually get started in September and some attempts actually enjoy success but many just fail.  Why?  I think part of it comes from the original message.  “Blogging is the new writing – do your stories online”.  “Twitter is a place to post pictures of what you have for lunch – see how easy it is?”.  “Wikis are just another kind of website”.


There’s just enough truth in those statements for some to say “Got it” and run…

…without giving it a proper chance for success.

It really is only after you get a bit immersed in the whole process that you see that it’s so much more than that.  Take a good look at those classroom teachers who have truly been successful with social media in their classroom.  Knowing the tool is absolutely important.  But knowing what it can do for you is everything.  Knowing that it’s about communication and connections puts you in the driver’s seat headed towards success.

If you do nothing else today, read these two stories:

The mechanics of actually creating something with social media are relatively easy to learn.  Create an account and then create some content.  Has that passionate person with the powerpoint got a social presence that they can model?  Ask to see it!  Is it actually there?  If it is, is it doing something beyond a “Hello World” experience?  Making one entry with the default colours is easy.  Making two entries is a start.  Sharing their thinking on a regular basis and encouraging interaction is success.

My advice/suggestion is to grab your laptop or tablet or phone and create the accounts that you want to use NOW.  Explore it as the learner that you are while you are poolside (if the signal reaches that far).  Determine how it works and then work on making your own personal connections.  With the right connections and a bit of effort, magic can and does happen.

Want a place to start?  You’ll find amazing contributions from other Ontarians here.

Ontario Educator Twitter Lists

Ontario Educational Bloggers

Use the balance of the summer to explore and experiment.  If you elect to continue, you’ll have a leg up on those who are trying to get started while learning student names, planning for parent nights, coaching fall sports, working on fall field trips, …

You’ll be able to do all of the above and your student creators will be there to document it as part of their learning!

OTR Links 08/06/2013

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.