The Domino Effect

Screen Shot 2019-07-16 at 12.53.46 PM

I know that I can be persistent. Some might even call me annoying. My goal over the last five years as a Technology Integration Specialist has been to get educators out of their bubble by making contact with educators outside of the city/state/region where they teach. While some educators took me up on my offer to help them connect, most of the times my pushing was met with quite a bit of resistance.

“I don’t have time for it.”

“How do I know the people I make contact with are good teachers?”

“Social media is stupid.”

“What I have been doing has worked so far.”

Thankfully, I have continued to be persistent/annoying because this year has been different. More teachers and administrators in my district have been taking to Twitter and Voxer to get outside of their bubble. I beam with pride (sort of like a proud poppa) when I see these new interactions on a variety of social media platforms. Consider these examples…

  • The 7th-grade math teacher who wants to flip his classroom began Voxing with the author of Tech with Heart, Stacey Roshan (@buddyxo) about her nine years of experience with flipping her math classes. There are no other “experts” on flipping a math classroom in my district, so Stacey has provided reflective, just-in-time answers to his questions. I sense his increased confidence level with every interaction.
  • The 3rd-grade teacher, Kelley Friedrich (@KelleyFriedric1), who wants to change up what and how she does things is getting involved in Twitter and making connections in order to learn more about topics like #geniushour. Kelley also wondered if there was a better way than charts and points to handle discipline in the classroom. I helped her make connections with Elizabeth Merce (@EMercedLearning), founder of #DitchtheClips, to discuss her experiences and expertise in social-emotional learning (#SEL) with early primary students. These conversations have taken place on Twitter and Voxer.
  • The high school social studies teacher, Jaclyn Smith (@JaclynSmith21), who wants to rework her classes to better meet the needs of her students is jumping into Twitter and Voxer to make connections with others who are on the same journey. I have had more contact with her on Voxer and Twitter this summer than I was able to have most of the last school year! That goes to show you that social media can connect people who aren’t all that far apart.
  • The elementary administrator, Michelle Peterson (@mbpeterson719), who was on Twitter but didn’t do much with it (she didn’t even have a profile picture) is now becoming an active contributor. She has also jumped into Voxer to have discussions with Jacyln Smith about the recent Strobel Summit sessions (@strobeled, #StrobelSummit). Imagine that…a high school teacher and elementary administrator having a discussion about teaching and learning!
  • The high school counselor( now elementary principal), Stephanie Brown (@brownfamoffive), who has gone from an inactive to active Twitter contributor also made the leap to Voxer. She is now an actively contributing member of the #4OCFpln on Voxer. This group has been a game-changer for me professionally! She jumped right into the new platform and is not only active in that group but brings her #SEL and trauma-informed instruction expertise to the group members. She even joined forces with two other #4OCFpln members (@jchandlerteach and @jmartinez727) to offer a Voxer book study on The Boy Who was Raised as a Dog.
  • The kindergarten teacher, Haley Veldhuizen (@HaleyVeldhuizen) who is new to Twitter but is jumping in with both feet! She has used this new medium to share her learning as well as finding resources for incorporating Seesaw (@Seesaw) into her classroom next school year. I can only imagine how she will use Twitter to share out about her class next school year!

Social media may have its faults, but it can and is used for good. If you are reading this and don’t consider yourself very connected, find something for which you are passionate and connect with others who share that same passion. If you are a connected educator, reach out to others (be persistent/annoying) and help them experience the power that connecting with others through social media can have on your classroom, students, and you as a professional. This is the domino effect…you push others, they get involved, and they push others to do the same. The end result is the positive impact that all of these professional connections will have on students!

Don Sturm

@sturmdon on Twitter

@dsturm823 on Voxer

Be a sprinkler, not a firehose!

Firehose

I have always been a reflective person…maybe even to a fault. I know that I talk a lot. It is hard for me to keep my mouth shut and not offer an opinion or ask a question at meetings. I can be seen as pompous and overconfident at times. I genuinely like to help people. Troubleshooting is a strength of mine and, as a result, I tend to be a fixer. Ok…you get the idea, but the one aspect of me that I struggle with the most and want to change is that I know that I can be a firehose of ideas and thoughts.

To those who have experienced my soaking, I am passionate about what I believe is best for the kids in our schools. My passion can sometimes be a bit much for people. Add to that the animated nature of my personality and you have a full-blown firehose going on! Some colleagues joke around with me about this proclivity to push and throw out idea after idea, but I know that there is some element of truth to their kidding. I really do get it!

sprinklerMy goal moving forward is to work to be more of a sprinkler than a firehose. People will still have the opportunity to get soaked, but it will be at their pace. Watch kids who run through a sprinkler. Some go full bore through it, some stand right on top of it, some hang back to get a little wet. This last type almost always ends up getting soaked once they get used to the temperature of the water or they see others having fun playing. This will be a challenge, but I think it is important for me to make this a goal. One way that I can work on this is to make sure that I am fully listening to those who ask for my help or advice. Truly hearing what teachers have to say will help me to better sense whether they are the run through the sprinkler full bore type of person or one that needs to feel the sprinkles for a bit before they commit to run through it.

My goal for the school year…Be a Sprinkler…Not a Firehose!

Don Sturm

It is all about perspective!

Buncee_Creation

I was helping a new instructional coach come up with ideas for a video she is making describing her new role. She mentioned that when she described the role of an instructional coach to a classroom one student mentioned that she must know everything. Her response was something along the lines that she didn’t know everything, but she could see the classroom from a different perspective because she wasn’t the classroom teacher.

This exchange really got me thinking about the importance of perspective in education. Vocabulary.com defines perspective as, “the appearance of things relative to one another as determined by their distance from the viewer.” There are many examples of how we try to gain perspective. Players on a football team can only see the field through their helmet. Even the best players can only see so much of the field at one time. Teams counter this lack of perspective by placing coaches in elevated perches to gain a view of the whole playing field. This new perspective helps coaches make decisions based on the big picture. NASCAR teams employ spotters who sit on top of the viewing stands to help drivers “see” more than they can while in the car. Urban planners use aerial perspectives to make long term decisions about how cities should expand. From their perspective, the Thai soccer team trapped in a cave only had one way out and it was blocked. It took others outside of the cave to see the big picture and make decisions that lead to the happy ending of that story.

So what does all of this have to do with education? As educators, I think we need to ask one simple question, “How can I get a different perspective of my classroom?”. The answer could be asking an instructional coach to come in and provide that added point-of-view. It could be visiting classrooms to see how other teachers are working with students. Recording your lessons and reflecting could help you see your classroom in a different light. Social media can add a different perspective as well. Becoming active on Twitter helps you to gain perspective because you have contact with others and how they educate their students. You may not like or agree with some of what is shared, but the experience will force you to reflect on what you do in the classroom. In other words, you have gained a different perspective. The app Voxer has been a powerful force for me in gaining a different perspective of education. My #4OCFpln Voxer group challenges me everyday to look at the field of education with different lenses. I believe my social media presence helps me to do my job better because I am exposed to a variety of perspectives ranging from different grade levels to different regions of the country and other parts of the world.

4OCFpln (1)

Simply put, today’s teachers have to gain perspective to be the best educators possible. Gone are the days of doing things the way that you think is right without considering other viewpoints and strategies. What will you do to gain perspective?

Don Sturm

Twitter @sturmdon

Voxer @dsturm823

It’s All Over but the Connections!

Buncee_CreationSo I am sitting here in Chicago’s Union Station waiting for the train to take me home from ISTE 2018. All I want to do is sleep, but I thought I would start the reflection process. Let me start by saying…WOW! As a first timer, ISTE was very overwhelming. Being someone who likes being in social situations and unfamiliar places, it is good for me to feel overwhelmed. It helps me to see how others view the world. I see why introverted personality types feel exhausted after being in social situations.

I have to admit that I was a little concerned after getting to McCormick Place on Saturday. There didn’t seem to be much open and things were crowded. Sunday wasn’t much better. The lines for sessions were over the top! People getting in line an hour and a half early for a one-hour session were common. There wasn’t much in the way of food. Complaining was common amongst participants.

Sound like a negative experience? Not at all! Prior to the conference, I got a lot of advice that connections at ISTE were the best part of the conference experience. That advice was SPOT on…my connections made ISTE amazing! Being able to see and talk with educators that I hadn’t met face to face was amazing. Hanging out with Dan Kreiness, Louis Soper, Sarah Fromholder, Jennifer Ledford, Christie Cate, Amy Storer, and SO many others was simply awesome. Those connections that we had forged over Voxer and Twitter transferred to the real world quite nicely. Many educators with whom I work say that they don’t like social media because of all the negativity or the time that it takes to make connections. ISTE made me further convinced that social media can be a positive, life-changing experience and it is well worth the time that I have put into it.

One other aspect that I was excited about was the opportunity to meet those educator “rock stars” who have written the books and blog posts that I spend much of my free time reading. Again, what a great experience. Every rock star that I met was a real, down to earth person who cares about education as a profession as much as I do. I have been BookSnapping since the beginning but had never met Tara Martin face to face. I don’t read the same since I started BookSnapping…my mind is awhirl with images and emojis! She was just as awesome and personable as she has been to me over social media. The energetic, thoughtful Jennifer Casa-Todd who has spoken my language in terms of the value of social media for students recognized me and gave me a big hug just like a regular person! What can I say about Dr. Sarah Thomas? Edumatch was my first experience on Voxer and my education life hasn’t been the same since. I had “met” her over a couple of Google Hangouts, but I got to meet her for real at the EduMatch Meetup. Such a great person. Sarah your passion for education and educators is much appreciated by many…I hope you realize the impact you have had on so many of us.

I do plan on attending other ISTE conferences, but what hit home about this one is the power of being a connected educator. My goal will continue to be to get my teachers involved in social media in some way. It is truly the connections that matter!

Don Sturm

One Week to #ISTE18

As a first timer, OVERWHELMED is the word going through my head right now. I have been to many conferences, but ISTE is by far the biggest. There is just so much to do and not enough time or human energy to be able to do it all in the Saturday to Wednesday time frame! I have read blog posts, followed hashtags, and joined the ISTE Voxer group all in the hopes of gaining some degree of comfort before stepping foot in Chicago next Saturday. The one thing I might have going for me is the fact that I have been to Chicago many times (I only live 2 1/2 hours away) so I don’t have the added stress of trying to figure out what I need to see outside of the conference.

What I am most looking forward to at ISTE is simply furthering the connections that I have fostered through social media. For me this is exciting! Many of the people that I have grown to know over the last two years will be there as well. Unless you have a strong PLN it might be hard to imagine what this group of people has given me professionally. They have been a sounding board, they have challenged my thinking, they have pushed back on ideas, but most of all, they have been there anytime that I have needed them. While social media has come under fire for its negative influence on society, my experiences have been the complete opposite!

I have one week left to put the “finishing” touches on my game plan to try to make the most of my time in Chicago. You can bet that I will be sharing photos (I’ll have my flat PLN ready to go) and Tweets about the experience.

Many thanks to my Voxer group peeps…#Edumatch, #Edumatch2, #4OCFPLN, #LetThemSpeak

I should also give a shout out to my roommate for the week Dan Kreiness.

I can’t wait to talk with you all in person.

Don

Goal for 2017: Encourage PLNs!

pln-wordle

Four simple words…I love my PLN! For those who are unfamiliar with the acronym, a PLN is a personal learning network where you decide what you want to learn and who will help you learn. It is an informal, organic type of learning where individuals engage with the goal of contributing to the overall base of knowledge. It typically starts online but may continue in person through attending conferences. One of my professional goals for this year will be to encourage others to build a robust PLN, using my experiences over the last year.

My online presence takes place on Twitter (@sturmdon), Voxer (@dsturm823), SnapChat (don.sturm) and Facebook (member of The Innovator’s Mindset and Teachers Throwing Out Grades groups). These four online resources have provided me with much inspiration as they are filled with educators who truly care about teaching and learning. Even if I don’t use specific strategies that are shared, the interactions inspire me to try new things.

Educators need to be encouraged to take risks and try new things. This is exactly what you can get from a PLN. It is very easy to bounce ideas off of others simply by posting it. The bigger your PLN, the more advice you will receive. People are more than willing to share their experiences, both positive and negative, so that the collective group can benefit. My philosophy is to follow as many educators as possible. As a result, I follow many more than follow me.

Online PLNs help to make collaboration more than just a buzzword. Working with others is easy if you are open to experiences. PLNs can be a one-way street, but if you are willing to share it becomes something more. There have been many times that a Twitter chat or Voxer chat has turned into work sessions with other educators. Most of these work sessions have taken place on Google Hangouts where your online colleagues are now “real” in the sense that you can see and interact with them. I have also had side conversations with individuals where we hash out issues that are important to us in our jobs. I have to give a shout out to Tara M. Martin for being a great PLN collaborator! We have had many conversations about teaching and learning. In the spirit of collaboration, I hope that I have given back…at least a little…to her. She is down to earth and has inspired me (and many others) to create and contribute to our PLNs so as to get the most out of the online experience. Her development of #booksnaps as a way to get students and educators interacting with text using emojis/Bitmojis and images is fantastic. I can honestly say that it has changed the way that I read. Her blog can be found at http://www.tarammartin.com. I have also included a few of the (from the MANY) #booksnaps that I have created. Search for #booksnaps on Twitter to find the hundreds of others who have added their own.

The chat capabilities of these online mediums are AWESOME! Twitter chats are probably the most well known, but I have also taken part in EdCamp Voxer, as well as regular groups that are part of the Voxer experience. My new interest is experimenting using SnapChat as part of my PLN. Recently, I started a SnapChat group chat that has been an interesting experience with the fifteen others who joined.  The point is that chats allow you to discuss real issues with real people and have real-time interactions versus the typical social media experience of posting something and waiting for a reaction. These chats sort of kill two birds with one stone. You get the professional discussion, but you also learn how to use the medium. The later is important with learning and understanding the social media lives of students. While many complain that this generation of kids always has their head buried in their phone, my experiences have led me to believe that kids are being much more social on their devices than we think!

The belief that we need to do things the way that they have always been done is one of the major ideas holding back schools from being even better. The sheer nature of online PLNs will help to combat this feeling. These PLNs surround you with people who do and want to try new things. It helps you to see that there are other ways of doing things. Teaching used to be a very independent endeavor, but it no longer has to be! Give an online PLN a try this year. Find someone in your district/school who can help or, better yet, get someone to join you on the new endeavor.

Don Sturm