Archive for May 6, 2012

Is social media taking away from personalization and relationships?

When the topic of social media comes up in conversations (both in my personal and professional circles) I am still amazed by how many people say “social media and technology are taking away from the personalization, relationships, and face-to-face conversations.”  I beg to differ.

In my personal life, facebook helps me to connect with family/friends much better than I would without it.  My closest family lives 10 hours away and we only drive for visits once or twice a year, so I post pictures/video clips on facebook for family to see my children more often.  I also see all of their pictures and random updates.  There is no way I would ever talk to all of my relatives back in my hometown on the phone this often without facebook.  I do have friends/colleagues on my facebook page that also see my pictures/video clips and random status updates and are then able to ask, “so how was your trip to Lego Land?”  I probably wouldn’t have brought that up in our conversation at the BBQ or in the teachers’ lounge, but she saw it on my facebook page.

In my professional life, guess how many other elementary principals I have in my district to go to for help? NONE. I am the principal of the only elementary school in a small, rural district.  A couple of years ago, I did make some random calls to nearby districts to form a network with other elementary principals like @SchlenderJ and @MrAaronOlson which has been helpful.  Although, trying to coordinate schedules can be tricky and we are only able to get together every other month at the most.

If I didn’t have other people to call on to seek advice or input, it would be like living on Gilligan’s Island, only having the same people to rely on (don’t take offense to that John and Aaron-you’re great to have in my network!)

Fortunately, by joining Twitter, I have been able to expand my Personal Learning Network (PLN) and I know I can turn to…

Educators in Wisconsin…

@CurtRees (Curt) – for RTI questions, because his school is a model school for RTI and has presented at a couple of conferences.  He’s also been a principal far more years than I have so I call on him for general advice as well (along with his knowledge of random songs/movies from the 80’s).

@PosickJ (Jay) – his school was one of few that went 1:1 with chromebooks for their 4-8th graders and has some great tech gurus in his district.  He doesn’t tweet much other than how far he runs everyday (which also is motivating for me), but he hasn’t ignored my direct messages or emails.

@ReadbyExample (Matt) who is an awesome elementary principal focused on literacy and is a grant-writing guru.

@chadkafka (Chad) who is my go-to guy for anything google.  He is the google guru! He also has the MobileReach podcast to share all kinds of great apps and advice for integrating mobile devices in education.

@Taml17 (Tammy) who joins Chad on the MobileReach podcast and shares awesome tech tools/tips.

@pernilleripp (Pernille) who started the Global Read Aloud project and is so reflective on teaching in her blog.  She is so sincerely honest about her practice and giving the classroom back to the students.

I’ve met almost all of these colleagues in person at conferences.  If I hadn’t known them from twitter, I never would have sought them out at the conference to chat with them…I would have just attended sessions by myself.

Educators out of Wisconsin…

@mmiller7571 (Melinda) a principal from Missouri who started a podcast years ago that I found by chance and enjoyed learning anything I could about being a principal.  It was her podcast that led me to learn about twitter and online, 24/7 PD opportunities.  She also has far more years of experience than me so I’ve called on her for help with a variety of admin questions.

@shiraleibowitz (Shira) and @KathyPerret (Kathy) who both co-moderate the #Educoach chat with me every Wednesday night.  Shira is a Rabbi/Principal in New York with a wealth of knowledge (how else would I connect with a Rabbi?) on coaching teachers versus just evaluating them.  Kathy is a very well trained Instructional Coach in Iowa, also with a wealth of knowledge.

@NMHS_Principal (Eric)  who is very well known of across the country for having his New Jersey high school utilize social media.  I’ve seen video clips, news articles and blog posts about him and his awesome school.

@bhsprincipal (Patrick) another principal who’s Massachusetts high school has been in national headlines for going 1:1 with huge success. I’ve podcasted with him on the EdAdmin show and enjoy learning from his experience.

@L_Hilt (Lyn) an elementary school principal in Pennsylvania who is another leader on integrating technology and podcasts with us on the EdAdmin show.

@Eduleadership (Justin)  A principal from Washington who has taught me so many organizational/time management tips to keep up with the crazy amount of workload a principal has.  He’s also the director of The Principal Center.

@rondmac (Ron) a  principal that has a lot to share in regards to school leadership.

@hopeleaders (Raul) who I actually had the pleasure of working with during my 1st year as an assistant principal in Arizona. He was an awesome principal that taught me almost everything I know.  He’s now a principal coach in his district.  Even though I moved across the country, I can still keep learning from him via twitter.

@TeacherCast (Jeff) who started TeacherCast in New Jersey, which provides great podcasts to learn from, along with many other great resources for teachers/educational leaders.

@akevy613 (Akevy) another Rabbi/Principal with many years of leadership experience that I enjoy learning from.

Educational Gurus…
How else could I continue learning from my favorite Educational Authors or even ask 1:1 questions of Todd Whitaker, “The Sisters”, Jim Knight, Donalyn Miller, and Regie Routman (Regie just started her twitter account and I’m SO excited to follow her!)

In addition to just following the tweets of these great people in my PLN (along with many others), I have exchanged emails, had 1:1 skype chats and had scheduled chats with several all at one time on Google + Hangout (just like skype, but allows for up to 10 people).  I am certain that I would not do my job as well as I do now without all of these great people in my network to learn from.  So, to those of you who think that technology takes away from personalization, conversations and 1:1 conversations…you have NO idea what you’re missing out on!

Chatting with Todd Whitaker about Shifting the Monkey

I’ve shared in a previous post that one of my favorite educational authors is Todd Whitaker, so it’s no surprise that I pre-ordered and immediately read his latest book Shifting the Monkey: the Art of Protecting Good People from Liars, Criers and other Slackers.  If you’d like to read an educator’s reflection on this book, you can find one here written by Justin Tarte.

After I read Todd’s book, I was so excited to discuss it with others that I organized a Twitter chat on it and asked Todd to join us (just another great example of how great twitter is).  Unfortunately, the twitter spammers jumped into the conversation and we didn’t get to chat for the entire hour (apparently the title “Shifting the Monkey” can turn into an entirely different conversation by spammers with other interests).  Due to this unfortunate turn, it wasn’t worth archiving the chat, so I’m going to include some of the tweets from the conversation here:

The term “blanket monkey” refers to a message that is given to everyone that is really intended for one or two people.  For example, if one or two people are showing up to work late, then don’t tell everyone in a staff meeting that they need to come to work on time.  Your good people will worry, “that day I had a flat tire I was 5 minutes late, now I feel even worse” and your slackers will be thinking, “so many people are late to work, no big deal.”  Instead, address those individually that you have a concern with.
A few more tips from Todd on addressing concerns individually:
The same idea applied in the classroom:
Whitaker states that “negative, poorly performing people tend to get a disproportionate amount of power, attention, and empathy. They continue to behave obnoxiously and unfairly because they’re rewarded for doing so. Who is shifting the monkeys in your building?
Everyone hates it when a new rule is made that is really intended for the one person that did something stupid. Don’t make decisions based on those people, Whitaker says to make decisions based on your best people, to treat everyone well, and protect your good people first. 
As educators and leaders, Whitaker reminds us that we should constantly ask, “who carries the burden of the policy or practice?”  Whether you’re in the classroom or leading an entire school, we need to pay attention to where the monkey is when we’re thinking about students, parents, and staff.  As colleagues, we can help each other out: