It has been a long time since I sat down to write a blog post. I could give a million excuses, but frankly, I just haven’t felt like writing one. The death of a friend has prompted me to write a new post. KathiSue Summers passed away from COVID on Saturday, August 28. It was heartbreaking news for everyone who knew and loved her. I never had the chance to meet her IRL (in real life). Wait… you never met her? How could her death have an impact on you? The answer is in the relationship we had built as members of an online PLN community through Voxer. Voxer is a platform that allows for voice and text communication. This community has been together for roughly four years, and we connect daily about topics ranging from education, our kids, favorite foods, etc. I know many of these people better than I know some teachers I have worked with for 30 years. We have had some great times and some rough times. We don’t always agree. Sometimes I get angry at them, and I am sure the reverse is true. Ok…I know the reverse is true. But, in the end, we are a community that cares for each other.
Some colleagues I work with “make fun” (in a joking sort of way) of these connections, but they are real friendships. My charge to you is to find your group and start connecting. How do you get started? Make your Twitter connections more than just a Twitter relationship. Take the leap and invite followers to join an app that allows you to share your thoughts using your voice. Voice brings so much more to the table than texts. You can hear passion, excitement, and sadness through voice. While Voxer is the app that #4OCFpln uses, others like Synth and Skilled Space allow for the same types of interactions. I have recently become friends with Sara Candela. We use both of these apps to stay in touch. Sara lives 2,000 miles from me; we have never met IRL, but I consider her a friend.
Even though I never met KathiSue Summers IRL, I am thankful for the online community that allowed me to get to know KathiSue and feel the loss over her death.
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!