Monthly Archives: June 2012

Blog Post #2

Here is the link to the blog post I am responding to:

The Power Of The Lurker

Any one who knows me or reads my blog and Tweets knows I am a big advocate of social learning. The idea that we don’t have to be the smartest or be an expert in everything should be a big relief in the classroom. When I started teaching I did everything I could to make sure I knew more than my students. Looking back, I know I wasted a great deal of time and many teachable moments with that attitude. I don’t have to know everything. I have a network of people that I am plugged into that can help me, advise me, suggest for me and point me in the right direction when I am wrong. And for all of them (and you) I am grateful.

It’s this idea of social learning, however that I have struggled with since I entered the space. I felt like I had to be online, all the time. I had to share something, all the time. I had to comment and react all the time. Over the few years I have been here and the many conversations I have had I know that not to be true.

I have heard rumblings, now and then, that the only way you can learn on Twitter or other social networks is to contribute. I might be making more extreme than it actually is but for some the mentality is that you have to contribute to learn.

Yes, it is very difficult to learn if no one shares. If we create new knowledge and don’t share it is it knowledge at all? But if we are plugged in and connected to Twitter, or blogs or other social networks, do you have to be an active contributor to find value and power in the network? I don’t believe so.

When I teach Twitter now I don’t start with sign up. And many times when I do my Twitter PD people look at my like I have 2 heads. Why would I bother teaching Twitter and skip the sign up and the how-to? Why? because like anything we learn, we have to make a connection. There has to be some hook to draw is in. Rarely, I have seen, when it comes to social learning, is the hook the technical stuff. And even more rare is a true desire to want to learn socially. (Not saying there aren’t those educators out there, because they are. Just saying its rare.) For many they have to first see the why. They have to find the value in these spaces to want to take it to the next level. Once they see the why, the light bulb goes off and they they are hooked. It just takes a little push in the right direction.

So, when I am doing my Twitter PD I start with searches. I start with hashtags. I show the power of the hashtag. I want to start with that instant hook, that connection to the network. If I have English teachers, I show them all the users and the tweets on the #engchat hashtag. I show them the archives of their chats. I do that for all content and curriculum areas. The beauty of all that is that you don’t have to be a Twitter member to find all that valuable information.

We will, of course, come back together and I will show them the sign up and the how-to’s. But if they never sign up that is ok with me. I will show them blogs and if they never write a post, that’s ok with me. I will show them other social networks and if they never engage in a conversation, that’s ok with me.

I want them to explore these spaces, as often as they can, as often as they see fit. I want them to be another tool in their toolbox for learning. But I will tell you. Many say to me they find value in lurking and searching. But the true value was when they took that next step and signed up and added their voice to the conversation. I didn’t have to push. They discovered that on their own.

There is power in lurking. To say you have to be connected, you have to be plugged in, contributing, sharing, I’m not so sure. Is the ultimate goal to get every educator connected and sharing? Definitely. But we can’t devalue the power in lurking and taking.

So, maybe instead of encouraging (pushing) others to contribute blogs and tweets and ideas, maybe we begin by having a conversation about the value of lurking. Show there is value in what we have here and in other social networks by encouraging others to get connected and take from the network. That just might lead to the growth of our networks.

If you are lurker, be proud!



I enjoyed your post about lurking in that there is much value in doing so. There is so much pressure to participate or contribute on social networks, that often times if you don’t contribute, you might get unfriended (Facebook), unfollowed (twitter), or humiliated.  I think that lurking also gives people a chance to become familiar, see what a new technology is all about, how people interact in the environment, and then decide if they want to get involved. I agree that it is difficult to learn if no one shares, but I also don’t think that there is much danger of this happening. I think that in general, there is a good balance of both, and many lurkers do turn into sharers at some point.



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Reflection #1

This course has been an eye-opening experience, as going into the class I was looking to get a better understanding of education and how technology was been incorporated into the process. I’ve learned the direction the system may be headed, by incorporating 21st Century Skills and hopefully moving away from No Child Left Behind. When I was in school, I always felt like I was being taught things that I would never use, but this course makes me feel like there will be less of that in the future. There are tools that I had not been aware of, but looking at them, I wish they had been available when I was junior high and high school as I think they would have added so much to my classes and helped out my fellow students. I think that we would have loved blogging and using VoiceThread to share information and collaborate.

One of the big things I have learned is how many available resources there are to teachers and parents to help theirs kids and students learn. I think that with the technology it has become so much easier to change your lesson plan to suit different learners and that is so important, I feel like that will encourage students to want to learn more on their own. I also learned about Diigo which is a wonderful tool as it’s so difficult to keep track of where you read certain things, and this is a great way to do that, the highlighting feature is wonderful!

I’m not sure that I will be teaching in the future, but I would definitely advocate blogging as a way to share your thoughts, receive feedback, and collaborate with your classmates. With VoiceThread, I feel like that adds a new dimension to your presentations. Also, with tools like Twitter and GoogleReader, I feel like it is so much easier to follow things that you are interested in. There is no need to go to many different places, everything is consolidated onto one site.

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Blog Post #1

Here is the post that sparked my interest for my first blog posting:

Looking to create a social media or BYOD policy? Look no further.

Editor’s note: I have received about a dozen requests for advice about policies concerning social media, BYOT, and cell phones. This is a hot issue. I hope this post will help address the concerns of others who are grappling with this topic.

Many schools and districts are putting in place policies about gadgets and media rather than people and behavior. In many cases this work is being guided by outdated policymakers and lawyers who don’t use the media or gadgets about which they are making policy. If they did, they’d realize this makes no sense. Imagine in their day if people made policies about telephones, televisions, books, films, pencil/pen/paper. It simply doesn’t make sense and is not necessary. there are forward thinking schools and districts that get this.

Patrick Larkin and Eric Sheninger are both principals who understand technology and digital media and have put in a common sense policy to address it. Larkin explains that “at Burlington High School they do not have separate policies. They are all integrated into one.” Sheninger goes on further to say that “At New Milford High School our expectations for device and social media use are all interconnected. There are no long, drawn out policies for BYOT, cell phone use, or social media. Each of these tools and their use in a learning environment are reflected in our Acceptable Use Policy.” Sheninger adds that “as the building leader, he can adapt policies for the students at his school as necessary.”

New Canaan High School is another school that doesn’t have policies for cell phones or laptops or BYOT or BYOD or social media etc. They have ONE responsible use policy that encompases everything. Unlike the policies of these other districts it is only two pages with a one page sign off for students and parents / guardians.

These schools get it. They realize that tools and media have no intent…people do and the policy is made for people. Real people with real language that can be understood by parents, students, and teachers. And, guess what? It works! At New Canaan high school they are guided by principles and provide a message to all incoming students from the teachers and students who stood before them. That message is: “We Trust You.”

When schools and districts put in place top down policies they fall short exactly because they are top down. Effective policies are developed with stakeholders, not just lawyers and policymakers. Parents, students, teachers, and school leaders should be brought together to discuss and create such policies. Additionally, district policies should allow room for school-by-school customization that works best for the students in each community.

In this post, Scott McLeod does a great job of providing a breakdown as to why one top-down school-district’s social media policy is so misguided. Did they listen? I hope so. In this post and this compilation, Michelle Luhtala explains why it is not in the best interests of children for districts to prevent teachers and students from being friends online and explains from personal experience at a school that encourages online relationships, the problems with such a directive.

If your district is dead set on making a policy for every single type of gadget and media than I suggest taking a look at the following guidelines that Steve Anderson created in collaboration with Facebook in his Edutopia piece: How to Create Social Media Guidelines for Your School. In it he lays out seven steps (and a roundup of valuable reflection questions and resources) you need to help bring social media in your classroom. His guidelines are directed at social media, but can really be used for any media or tool.

1. Examine Your School Culture

This is extremely important and the reason that districts should allow schools to customize policies.

2. Organize a Team

What is important to note here is that students and teachers are included and respected in the development of the policy.

3. Research Phase

Research the existing policies in your district or school as well as the policies in other places that share your values.

4. Draft Your Document and Incorporate Feedback

This should be transparent, ongoing, and not done only after the document has been created. Let stakeholders connect and interact with one another in the feedback stage. You can do this by using tools such as a wiki or Google docs. Do not ask stakeholders to email into a place where they and no one else will ever know if their feedback was seen, considered, or incorporated.

5. Make Sure the School Attorney and School Board See the Draft

Your attorney will need to approve, not drive, the policies and process. If you have a school board, they should be incorporated as well.

6. Introduction to the School Community

Educate teachers, students, and parents about what the document means to them.

7. Review Periodically

Technology is always changing and policies should be updated accordingly.

Like it or not, technology and the internet are not only here to stay, but they have become necessary for our existence and success. Let’s stop making multiple, restrictive, device or media-specific policies that work well for lawyers and policymakers and let’s start making policies that are in the best interests of our kids.


This topic is interesting because it seems the attitude towards cell phones in schools hasn’t changed much from when I was in high school.

I wonder if part of the problem is how most people think of the internet and smart devices and use them, a way to check email, social sites, watch movies, or just a way to goof-off or waste time.

Technology and the internet can serve as tools to enhance the learning experience, and as an opportunity on how to properly and responsibly use it in our day to day lives. With so much information available on the web, students need to learn how to use it as a research tool, what constitutes a good source when writing a paper, online etiquette, how to interact with people online, and how the information you share online can affect you and who sees it.


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