Plan Now for a Year of Social Success

Welcome back to school in Ontario.  Today’s the big day for most.  I decided to drag out this old “Post from the Past”.  It goes back to the start of the school year in 2012.  I thought that it was good advice then and I am equally as convinced that it’s just as good or better advice today.  I’m not sure that I would change it much if I was writing it today.  One of the things that comes to mind might be to include a class Instagram account in addition to the Twitter account.

It’s funny; having written this so long ago – I can actually put faces and names to the social media activities described in the post.  Can you?

Are you one of them?  If so, why not take a moment and share in the comments exactly what it means to you and how you do it.

Labour Day!

The last day before getting back at it. Flash forward 9 months and the school year will be just about over but you’ll be scrambling for content for the yearbook and/or end of the year assembly. A little planning now could make that so easy and social media is the answer.

All that is will take is a Twitter account and a blog. Done properly, all the pieces will just fall into place.

First Step – Grab that Hashtag
Hashtags are Twitter’s way to tag or follow a conversation. Before your students even cross the threshold into your classroom, decide on your class’ hashtag. #MySchoolG5R3 or whatever will uniquely identify your classroom. This is the basis for retrieving all the data that you’ll create. (Do a quick search for your proposed hashtag now, before using it, to make sure that it’s not in use by someone else.)

At any point in the future, a simple Twitter search where you enter your hashtag will bring back all of your content. Share the search with your students, with their parents, with your school, with your principal, with anyone who might have a vested interest in your classroom.

Second Step – Use that Hashtag
But, where’s the content? This is typically the stumbling block for many well-intentioned plans. It takes time to come up with content. Suggestion – crowd source it with your students. They’ve been in class all day long – at the end of the day, do a little wrap up before they head home. It might be questions like:

  • What was the neatest thing we did today?
  • Who was our classroom guest today?
  • What are we excited about for tomorrow?
  • What books did we read today?
  • ….

Any of a myriad of questions that elicit any thoughts on the day will do! Just as long as they can be summarized in 140 characters or less. Then, post it to Twitter. It could be from you or the class scribe for the day or the tech helpers or …

But the key is to make it positive and upbeat. In YOUR classroom, of course, it will be the best of the positive and upbeat!

This daily positive message will make it home before your students.

Third Step – Blog it!
If you’re not a daily blogger, that’s OK. How about being a weekly blogger? Friday night, Saturday morning – create a blog post. Don’t worry about writer’s block. You’ve got at least five pieces of inspiration already. Just do the Twitter search for your classroom hashtag, copy the results, and paste them into a blog post. It’s a leisurely reflective 10-15 minutes to expand on your student crowd sourced raw material. Post it and the week is in the bag. Do you have any pictures or a video to support the Twitter messages? Stick them into the blog post and they won’t get lost or crumpled like they might in the file folder in the top draw of the filing cabinet.

Fourth Step – You’re a Genius
There are always times you need good news stories and you’ve got them all in one spot!

Parent conferencing? You can lead it; students can lead it; Twitter can lead it; your Blog can lead it.

End of the year celebrations? Piece of cake. You’ve been celebrating and reflecting on the great things that happened all year-long. There’s no need for deep memory searching or looking for that elusive piece of information. It’s all there in your blog! Pull the pieces together and you’re good to go.

A year’s worth of successes is a good thing. Crowd sourcing them from grass-roots 140 characters at a time leverages the technology and makes a big task easy.

And, next summer when you look back over everything – you’ll be fully justified in saying “That was quite a year”.

All the best to my teacher readers for a successful 2012-2013 school year.

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Managing Social Media

Hootsuite posted this to their blog and made it available on December 29.

Managing Your Social Media Profiles While On Holiday

I suppose that it could, or should, be posted/reposted during any holiday period as a way to remind folks that there is a great deal of power available in the tools that you use.  In this case, Alyssa Kritsch is pointing to some of the strengths of their product which has become the social media browser of choice for me.

As I read her article, I realized that I was using the features that she talks about on a daily basis – not just when I’m on holidays.  Also, in the reading, I detect that perhaps her intended audience was for business but it all rang true for me and I’ll bet it does for you.  After all, we’re all selling something – ideas, concepts, promotions, friendships, learning opportunities, …

I recall a comment I heard from an edtech “leader” once and he was running down the concept of a Twitter workshop.  “Who needs a workshop on Twitter?”  I suppose that there may be some merit to the concept if all that a workshop did was cover signing up, sending a Twitter message, replying, favouriting, and sending a direct message.

Is that all there is to it?

Absolutely not.  Hopefully, by the time you get to this line in my blog you’ll have opened the link above in a new tab and read it.  Effective Social Media use does involve using the tools for more than sending a simple message or reading a couple of others.

Under the hood of the tool that you’re using, there are many features that will empower your presence.  Even something as simple as scheduling a message or a post to your blog or a picture to Facebook at the time of your choosing lets you take control.  Another simple technique of sharing an article the moment you read it helps feed the community of learners of which you’re a part.

One feature of Hootsuite that I use all the time is access to my Twitter Lists.  My Ontario Educators and Ontario Educators 2 lists are invaluable for keeping focus on Ontario things.  (And it makes #FollowFridays easier too!)  I also realized that I have a particular sleeping pattern.  Basically, I sleep at night.  There’s a whole other group of people who are busy tweeting and sharing while I’m asleep.  My way of coping is to create a special list for them – Over There – so that I can catch up when I get up.  Any list that you create would have to be done to meet your needs, but why not do it and increase the value of being connected?

The power of sharing cannot be underestimated – the more you share, the more people share back.  Consequently, you and your community of learners have the potential of being just that much more informed and, ultimately, smarter.

And isn’t that what we’re all here for?

If you care to share, what tools do you use to manage your social media presence?

Checking Out the Big Social World

Now, before you read on, a disclaimer.  This is in no way an encouragement for you to do all of this.  Remember that you have a life, a dog to walk, a family to hang with, a job that needs attention, a garden that needs weeding, …

You get the point.

It’s very helpful to use the same brand name across social media platforms.  It carves out your identity and make is easy for people to find and follow you if they’re so inclined.

How do you know if a name or what you’re proposing as your brand is available on social media services?

One way is to visit each site and see if it’s available.

OR, just use namechk!

It’s as straight forward as can be.  Enter what you’d like for a username and Namechk checks to see what’s available.

When I ran it, it checks 158 different resources.

This is addictive!  It’s so useful at so many levels.

  • It’s a great way to find new services.  I had no idea of some of them.
  • It’s humbling for people with big egos like me to find out that I’m not the only “dougpete” out there.  I wonder who was the original?
  • It’s also a nice check to find some resources that I might have signed up at one time and haven’t used for a while.

So, if you’re interested in the motherlode, this is a great place to start.


The LifeBlood of any Blog…

…is the interaction with those who read the content.

With this blog, you might be reading it online and you might also be reading a copy that’s mailed to you because you have subscribed to it.  Either way, I really appreciate that you take the time to take a look at the things that I write about.  I recognize that, in the big scheme of things, my ramblings are pretty small potatoes and I’m good with that.  It’s just a chance for me to share what I’m thinking and it’s so rewarding to see folks interact by reply, or liking, or sharing on Twitter, Google +, or Facebook.

Analytics don’t necessarily drive things for me – it’s the interactions.

Recently, it’s been the interactions that have me concerned.  Not the interactions from you good folks but the interactions from people I don’t know.

There’s a common practice that people come along and “Like” a blog post.  I’ve enabled that as a quick way for the good folks to say “Hey, I, well, liked it”.  But, if you look at the Gravatars from the people that are “liking” it, some of them are not educators.  I’m guessing that it’s a modern equivalent of link spamming.  They’re hoping that you click their Gravatar and going to their website where who know what you’ll find.  I hope that you’re not doing this.

The second thing that I’m seeing recently is a big upturn in people that are subscribing to the blog to get the content emailed to them every morning.  When I look at the email addresses, they’re sort of non-descript names usually attached to a Hotmail account.  I’m at a loss to come up with a reason why they would do that.  All that it serves to do is let them know that this blog is alive and well.


I got a whack of both this morning.  The “Likes” aren’t even of the current post.  So, I decided to look at the WordPress support database and see if I was the only one.

Somehow, it was comforting to know that I’m not.  Others are discovering and guessing much along the same lines as me.

So, what’s a blogger to do?  I could turn off the features but that adversely affects people that would use it effectively.  To do so would be to admit defeat.

Fortunately, I don’t think you can see the list of people that subscribe to the blog.  But, you can see the “Likes”.  I would suggest that you either ignore them or hover your cursor over them and look at the name that appears in the popup and think seriously before you click.

If anyone has any more detailed or insightful thoughts about this matter, please chime in.

Welcome to the internet.

Check out a follower

For all of the great tools that Twitter provides your account, there’s one that’s missing.

I can, for example, take a look at my followers or who I follow.  But, it’s in a list form.

What to do, though, if I want to know if a specific person is following me.  It’s easier to find out if I’m already following someone by trying to add them again in Hootsuite because I’m presented with an error and a suggestion that I’m probably doing it.

If I have time to wait for SocialBro, a great monitoring service to complete it’s update, it does the trick and more.

But what if I just want a quick test?

I like the service “DoesFollow“.

At present, it does one thing and does it well and quickly.

Just complete the fields with user names.

Does my #ECOO13 co-chair Cyndie Jacobs follow me?  (She better…)


Positively Tweeting

A while back, had an infographic generator that claimed to analyse your Twitter patterns.  The resulting image gave some facts and I could, of course, save it.  I did and it’s on my About Me page on this blog.

One of the things that it found, and I’m proud of was this.

It’s not necessarily for the offset geeky grin (although that’s kind of cool) but that I “tweet” more 😉 than (:.

That’s not by accident.  My foci and interests surround education/learning and technology.  If one looks, and wants to find both positive and negative perspectives, one certainly can.  In fact, reading and learning is best when you’re looking at both sides of an issue.  I find that incredibly healthy.

From my perspective, there are a couple of important things.

  • First, with both education and technology, finding negative things to say is a piece of cake.  Neither area is perfect and there’s so much room for improvement.  I think it’s testament to the professional that they look for these areas of improvement, identify them, and make positive suggestions for improvements;
  • Secondly, dissenting opinions can help shape your understanding and give insights that might not be found otherwise.  For those who share these insights on a regular basis, I’m infinitely appreciative.

Discussions are so powerful when you identify both sides of an issue and discuss them civilly.

I did some mental math today during one of my dog walks and I think that I’m up to five now of individuals I do follow (and originally did with best intentions) who absolutely do nothing to help seek answers.  Message after message is constantly negative or demeaning, even spewing venom, with not even a crack open and available for discussion.  It comes to the point where the content is either immediately disregarded by me or an affirmation that I’m thinking 180 degrees in the other direction.  Heaven help you if you make even the slightest error in your facts.

Fortunately, there are a great deal more people who are experimenting, trying, refining, and searching for solutions.  Positive support and ideas encourage their work; curating their content and the best of the best pushes the cause forward.  Now, I’m not advocating for the proverbial echo chamber.  There’s danger in that as well.  However, you can disagree without being disagreeable.

The sad thing is that, by their nature, you can’t engage in a conversation with this type.  They might well have some great ideas but I’m not interested at all if there’s nothing positive coming back.  This is one of the cases where we need to heed the advice that we give our students – think before you post!

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Learning Together

My learning started today with a sharing of an article to my Twitter stream.  It was about a new extension for Google Chrome called OneTab.

The claim was that its use would save up to 95% of memory usage.  That’s an interesting number but it’s the “how” it does it that really caught my interest.  It does so by collapsing open tabs into a single tab which you can restore selectively or all at once.  As an embarrassingly “over-tab” user (or when I do a presentation to have a whack of them preloaded, I was immediately interested.

I shared it with the sharing link from within Zite so that anyone else who is interested knows about it and the post serves as a bookmark for me to follow up later on.

As it turns out, @bgrasley saw my post and was interested as well.  I’m guessing that he has a sore spot for tabs too.

He hopped in asking questions before I had a chance to test it out.

The bottom line, ended up doing a little co-testing of the application and sharing what we were finding.  My Hootsuite ended up tracking two conversation chains.


I’m sure that there will be more to follow but that’s where we stand as I write this.

And the verdict…


There are a number of interesting things to note.

  • if I wasn’t connected and online, I would never have had found about the extension in the first place;
  • if I wasn’t friends with @bgrasley on Twitter, we would never have had this discussion;
  • if I hadn’t shared my thoughts, nobody else would have known;
  • if I hadn’t shared my learning in the open, my personal testing wouldn’t have gone as deeply as @bgrasley has taken it.

The bottom line for me is that this one little example just shows how important being connected is for my own personal learning.  I can’t imagine swimming in the big internet pond without folks around me to help out.