What Community Is

Is it better to bring people together around things or ideas? There are lots of communities in education: we have communities in our schools, we have learning communities with colleagues, social media communities, professional organizations that create a community around its members, and companies that create a community around what the company is all about for teaching and learning. Needless to say, we have options.

The professional communities that center around education in some way usually bring people together around a device or a platform. Not always, but often. It might be their product(s), software, or other resources that at first bring us in. But what these groups do to keep people active in these spaces matters more than the original hook to “get them in the door”. What are you offering? Is it always the same stuff delivered by the same people? Is it a lot of “old wine in a new bottle”? At the end of the day is it more about the business or more about creating diverse experiences and viewpoints?

A community is nothing without its people, obviously, but community leaders must be willing to put in the work to keep them there. To listen to them, to improve because of them, to be in a mindset of constant iteration, and serving the members. Do you tell your community how much you appreciate them? Do you show them? If I’m in your community, how do I know I’m more than just social media metrics or a bottom line?

A community is about connecting dots for others. We need to make sure we’re giving just as much if not more than what we’re getting.

Why I’m Awesome – And You Are Too

Over the last couple weeks, but really the topic has come up many times before that, I’ve seen folks talking about all of the self-promotion they’ve seen online from various authors, speakers, principals, teachers, etc., etc.  There’s plenty of it for sure – videos, tweets, blog posts, articles, keynotes, pictures with MC Hammer (yes, that really happened to me 8 years ago), and many more. Is it something that is over saturated? Yep. But let me ask you, would you ever wish that on your students that they would stop doing that? Isn’t that something we encourage them to do in this digital era we continue to craft for them?  To highlight their accomplishments, to create that oh so important “digital citizen” we want them to be. By the way, let’s just make that “citizen”. Let’s strive for good humans that know how to do amazing things with the tech and connections we provide for them. But I digress.

Why is it bad (negative) when a teacher or a principal or a superintendent does the same thing? Is there some kind of malice or other ill-intent I’m missing or just something I’m naive to? Is it because they’re trying to sell books or get more speaking gigs? For the people who are out there doing this that I know as friends, it makes me proud to know them. We should be happy for them. Why shouldn’t we encourage our teachers and teacher leaders to promote themselves in a positive light just like we do for students? Picture of Bitmoji Kyle

So, I’m deciding to put myself out there with this post. I’m going to get out of my comfort zone and list reasons that I’m awesome. For the simple reason that I hope it encourages lots of others to step out and do the same thing. I’ve never been a “toot my own horn” kind of guy, and I probably will never become one, but I’m doing it today. We need more people to share the great things about themselves and the work they are doing. What can it hurt?

Why I’m Awesome

  1. I have good people skills.
  2. I put relationships first.
  3. I recognize that a team decision is always better than just me making a decision.
  4. I’m funny (I would likely pick stand up comic as a career in another universe).
  5. I am great at explaining things in a way that’s easy to understand.
  6. I don’t talk down to people.
  7. I really enjoy bringing people together for the betterment of themselves and our students.
  8. I’m approachable.
  9. I make people feel comfortable
  10. I recognize peoples’ needs and do whatever it takes to meet them.

Well, that wasn’t too awful. You should give it a try. It doesn’t feel horrible and we need to hear why you’re awesome. Let’s not stop having our students do this and let’s be less hesitant to do the same for ourselves.  Use #whyimawesome if you share yours online!

How about a little of both?

I still see the debating on social media, in news articles, blog posts, and the like. Some healthy debate is good. It creates learning, it broadens horizons, it gives us those, “Oh I hadn’t thought of that” moments. I’m talking about comparing one device or platform against another and trying to figure out which one is better for kids. It feels like we still want there to be “the one” that is all encompassing and all powerful that we put into our students’ hands. Hint: there isn’t one. 

picture of rock em sock em robots toy

It’s like how people are surprised sometimes to hear that I own Apple products. “Kyle! I thought you were a Google guy!”. Well, yes, that’s true I am but did you know that the very first computer I taught myself was an Apple Performa 550? Or did you know that I stood in line at 4am to get the iPhone 3GS? I love my MacBook, iPhone, and iPad but I also love me some Google Drive, Gmail, and Google Calendar just like I love some Clips, iMovie, and Keynote. I have different preferences for different things that I need to do on any given day. I also use PCs and Chromebooks too (cut to dramatic visual). Honestly, I don’t want to be an expert on any given one. I like to know enough just to be dangerous and then I learn more as I need to. 🙂

My point here is that yes, we need to be doing our homework when trying to decide the kinds of devices and platforms we want for students to create and learn with, but maybe it’s time we stop trying to be so locked into just one? Let’s just focus on what our students need and not make it a this vs. that thing anymore. I’m not saying throw proper planning, professional development, and financial responsibility aside, but let’s be more open to what’s possible. As technology departments and as school districts, maybe we need to be thinking bigger about what role we want technology to play in our students’ learning opportunities. We must remember that while learning is no longer tied down to happening just during school hours or just from our formal teachers, learning also isn’t tied to just one platform.