Growing Your Twitter Influence

“Social media is not a media. The key is to listen, engage, and build relationships.” by David Alston

Guest blog post by Phil Echols

There are 330 million active monthly users on Twitter. Of those, 145 million, use the service daily (Twitter, 2019). That’s a lot of chatter. Now, more than ever, people desire to be heard and share something that might inform, inspire, and resonate with others. As the old saying goes, “We have two ears and one mouth for a reason. We should listen twice as much as we talk.” Here are a few strategies that I’ve found useful while growing my Twitter network and influence.

Balance withdrawals and deposits

One way to grow your Twitter network and influence is to spend time interacting with others tweets. Focus on interactions, not numbers. Examples of interactions include responding to questions, commenting on threads, “liking” tweets, and retweeting things your followers might find valuable or inspirational. There are a lot of “asks” on Twitter (i.e. Visit my, Buy now, Share our) and as beneficial as those resources might be, I equate those with withdrawals. It’s like walking past the person selling lotion in the mall. The lotion might be exactly what I need for my dry hands but your method of delivery makes me feel like you’re about to steal my credit card information. Are you praising and sharing as much as you’re asking? Be mindful of your ask vs. share and praise ratio.

“Likes”

Some Twitter users “like” tweets as a way to reference them later. Others might use it to acknowledge or validate a comment or resource. As your twitter network grows, it can be challenging to keep up with all the comments. I sprinkle “likes” like confetti as a means of interaction, almost like a virtual fistbump. If there are tweets I want to reference later, I save it by Direct Messaging (DM) myself. When checking tweets on the go, this is a great way to save something you might want to reference later when you have more time to craft a mindful response.

Be human/Show personality

Once you find your voice, go with it. Be authentic. Be yourself. Growing your connections and influence takes time. Trying to be someone you’re not, will eventually come to light. When we talk about our passions and things we love, our eyes sparkle, our face lights up, and the tone in our voice changes. The same happens on social media. People can read when a message (or tweet) is disingenuous or copied and pasted. The key to authenticity is finding your voice and monitoring the things that resonate with your audience the most.

Engage, Engage, Engage!

Use your manners

In the book Thank You Economy, Gary Vaynerchuk mentions no formula calculates how many positive interactions it takes to pay off in a sale or a recommendation. Every interaction is an interview and earning others’ trust is key whether you’re simply growing your network or selling goods and services. Gratitude is free. Without spending money, there are ways to build and strengthen virtual relationships by making others feel valued. Sending a “thank you” or an “I appreciate the RT” only takes 7 seconds, but the return on investment is exponential. First, it communicates a sense of appreciation to the person. Secondly, it increases impressions. It raises the visibility of your tweets. Finally, it models who you are to others, and when you finally do have an “ask” it increases the likelihood that your followers will respond to the call to action.

Revisit your lists

Twitter lists are a great way to target audiences and track your level of engagement. You created the lists and added certain people for a reason. Carve out time to scroll through your lists engaging in the conversations related to the list category. Let them know you appreciate their perspective by “liking” tweets, retweeting relevant content, and by connecting them with others on your list.

Twitter Chats

Connecting back to withdrawals and deposits, when is the last time you participated in or promoted a twitter chat other than your own or one your organization/school district is hosting? Occasionally, visit other twitter chats to contribute and learn. Be open to the ideas being shared and enter the conversation as you would physically face to face and not monopolizing the conversation.

A couple of things to be mindful of while engaging in twitter chats:

  1. Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
  2. When others contribute something that resonates with you, let them know.
  3. You don’t have to have the last word.

In conclusion, your identity, values, and beliefs are made visible through your words. Twitter can feel like a popularity contest when comparing your numbers to others. One of the best ways to grow your influence is to care about the people you’re interacting with and consider as many ways as you can to add value to your relationship. Twitter shouldn’t feel like a cold call. Focus on people, not numbers.

10 Ways to Get More Followers on Twitter

“Social media is not a media. The key is to listen, engage, and build relationships.” via David Alston

Twitter is a powerful social media platform for educators. It can help to grow your network and build a connection with others that are interested in the same education topics as you. To me twitter has been the best professional learning experience because I can learn from experts on different topics along with seeing different perspectives.

  1. Photo: Make sure you have a headshot instead of having no image or something random. Nobody wants to follow a faceless person.
  2. Profile: Your profile is what followers read first. It is a chance to explain who you are, what you do and what you are passionate about. This is why it is import to have a strong profile that represents you. Some things you should include in your profile are relevant keywords (shows up in searches), highlight your skills and include your interests.
  3. Banner/Headers Image: Your banner should also represent your personality and interests like your profile. When people click on you, they will be drawn naturally to your banner first, even before reading your profile so make sure you use that real-estate wisely.
  4. Tweet Frequency: Tweet content regularly including on weekends even if it is only a few tweets! You can do this without being on twitter all the time by using free services that schedule tweets such as Tweetdeck.
  5. Hashtags: Use hashtags to open up your tweets to more audiences – but also don’t put a lot in one tweet. You should also decide on which hashtags you want to follow based on your interests along with what is popular. You can notice these hashtag trends by seeing what others are using and following them to see if they are the right fit for you. Example: I like to follow #leadershipmatters as I am interested in leadership and I like follow #edutwitter as it seems to be a catch all for great idea sharing.
  6. Mentions:  Connect with followers by mentioning people in your tweets. For example say @(fill in the blank persons name) so that you are pulling them into a conversation.
  7. Chats: Attending Education chats on topics that you are interested is a great way to “meet” people that have similar interests as you. There are many education chats happening all week, here is a great place to start but please note twitter chats come and go so double check to see if the chat you are interested in is still happening by checking the hashtag.
  8. Follow: In order to get more followers you also need to follower others! Also participate in the #FridayFollow to promote people you are inspired by or interested in what they are saying.
  9. Tweet Content: Your twitter content should not always be your personal content. You want to make sure you are promoting others voices as well by retweet. Adding images to your tweets is also helpful for two reasons, one because the image will catch peoples eye and two because you can also tag others in images so they can see it and more likely will retweet your content.
  10. Call to Actions: Make your tweets actionable! Ways to make tweets actionable are by adding in questions to engage others or by introducing people that you think should follow each other – think virtual introductions.

If you want to follow me on twitter or want to see these tips and tricks in action you can take a look at my account – I am @edu_thompson.

Always make sure you follow good Twittiquette; for example – don’t buy fake followers, don’t spam people (including in DMs) and don’t be a troll.

Empowering Educators to Use Data to Drive Their Own Learning

“The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.” By Coco Chanel

We know that effectively using student data to drive instruction for student learning is a best practice. We also know giving students ownership through empowering them to use their data is another best practice. So why are those same best practices not being applied to our adult learners?

Personalized Professional Learning is becoming a popular educational term but just like personalization for students it is a philosophy, it should be the way professional learning should be for todays educators. We need to be providing educators the autonomy to personalize their goals and use data that support their needs.

Over the past several years, I have modeled personalized professional learning for educators multiple ways to allows them to see what learning should look like in their classrooms as the same best practices apply.

Here are a few ways that educators can be empowered to use their data to drive their own learning:

  1. Pre-assessment: Create a pre-assessment for educators to take so that you can meet them where they are in their learning journey based on their skill level. For example if I am providing a professional learning experience on “How to Implement Morning Meeting” the professional learning session should look different for those that have never heard what morning meeting is verse those that have been implementing it.
  2. Self-Assessment: This is different then pre-assessment because this helps to gauge the learner of where they feel they are based on their comfort level verse skill level. For example I may provide a self-assessment that has multiple skills/topics on it and based on the data they can chose an area they would like to further explore.
  3. Action Research: Allow learners to chose what they need to work on based on their interest. Provide them an action research template to help guide them and provide check points for feedback and support.

Interested in more of my thoughts on professional learning? Check out some of my previous blog posts.

Professional Learning Through Micro-credentialing

Creating a Face to Face, Self-paced Professional Learning Experience

Reframing a Paradigm for Professional Learning: Part 1

Reframing a Paradigm for Professional Learning: Part 2

I would love to hear how you empower educators to use data to drive their own learning.; please comment below.

Professional Learning Through Micro-credentialing

“Learning is an experience. Everything else is just information.” By Albert Einstein

Over the last few years micro-credentialing and badging have been buzz words in the education world. Yet if you look closely into what micro-credential and badges are; they have the potential to transform what professional learning for educators looks like. 

Micro-credentialing recognizes educators for the skills they learn in order to build learning experiences for their students. The perks of micro-credentialing includes the ability to have choice, pace and personal growth needs met. School districts can use micro-credentialing to provide incentives for educators to deepen their knowledge. Badges are the physical representation received once proficiency is met. 

Digital Promise is leading the way in Micro-credentialing and have characteristics  that distinguish the micro-credentialing approach from traditional professional development systems:

  • Competency-based: Micro-credentials allow educators to focus on a discrete skill related to their practice — for instance, checking for student understanding — and collect the evidence — such as classroom videos or student work to demonstrate ability in that specific skill.
  • On-demand: Through an agile online platform that clearly identifies each micro-credential’s competency and required evidence, educators can start and continue the process of earning micro-credentials on their own time. (Our district currently using Canvas to build our virtual courses)
  • Personalized: Because educators are able to select the micro-credentials they wish to earn, they can create their own professional learning journey aligned to their specific student needs and school-wide instructional goals.

Currently in my school district we have been using micro-credentials in isolation by department. For example, the Personalized Learning Department has a set of badges while ESL has a different set. This was a great start to micro-credentialing but we came across a few barriers such as:

  • Each department criteria was very different. If we continued working in isolation we realized the badges would not mean as much because they would lose their “value”. How do we build expectations to meet all department needs?
  • Each department was grading their micro-credential course work but some departments are smaller than others. How do we scale micro-credentialing to meet district needs?
  • Teachers are required to be continuous learners to renew licensure. How can we connect micro-credentials to credits without it being compliant?

In order to help overcome these issue and barriers, our district created a micro-credentialing steering committee. The steering committees goal is to unify the requirements, build consistency and sustainability for all educators in our district.

I hope our experience can help those that have not yet started with micro-credentialing learn from our mistakes. I would love to hear what other districts are doing with micro-credentialing so we can learn from your experiences. Please share in the comments below.

 

Creating Google Slide Templates

“Design is how you make your first impression with your consumers. Make sure it is a lasting one.” By Jay Samit

Tired of using the same old templates. Why not create your own! Below I give you step by step directions so you can create your own Google Slide templates in only a few minutes. Make them for your classroom, meetings or professional developments!

  1. Start by opening a new Google presentation and choose the “Simple Light” template.
  2. Decide what image/design you want for your template. For example, I am creating a template for a Google Training I am doing; so I am going to use the colors of Google as my background!
    • Tip: I like creating my images/designs in Google Drawing as it is FREE. Once I finish my image/design then I click on File, Download As, PNG. I can then later upload the image for my background.
  3. In your Google Slide template, click on View and then “Master”.
  4. Then click on rename at the top of the slide and name it based on what fits best for you. 
  5. Next click on the master slide and background. Here you can choose your color or upload the background you created from Google Drawing.
    • Tip: If you would like to change the fonts, this is a good time to do it because you will only have to change it in the Master slide verse changing each slide.
  6. To exit, click on the X in the top right corner and you are done!!

My Master Google Slide Template

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Creating a F2F Self-Paced Professional Learning Experience

“Being a student is easy. Learning requires actual work.” by William Crawford

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Recently my team and I challenged ourselves to create a face to face, self-paced professional learning experience. Why? For two reasons, we wanted to show how we take risks, like we are asking of the educators we support and also because from what we knew it had never been done before yet it mirrors a personalized learning classroom.

We first decided on what our objectives would be for the learning experience; as this allowed for us to backwards design our content. Our objectives were:

  • Teachers would be able to gain knowledge about personalized learning environments through active learning
  • Teachers would be able to identify the differences between game-based learning, gamification and how they can also fit together through a modeled experience.

We then designed content such as the why behind game based learning and gamification. After we finished all the content pieces we went back and added the fun! Our theme was “Let the Games Begin…” and we created different missions that highlighted our different content objectives. We created a Hyperdoc to host our content into missions. Each mission allowed participants to earn points (and level up) which created the gamification portion of the learning experience. Our missions were: 

Mission 1: Entering the UnKnown – During this time they learned how the learning experience was set up and what to expect. They also completed a self assessment to see what type of gamer they were.

Mission 2: Understanding the Why: During this mission the participants learned about game based and gamification learning.

Mission 3: Mission Control Station: During this mission, participants experienced four different game based learning activities which had content about personalized learning.

Mission 4: Transformation: During this mission the participants self reflected on how they could use the things they learned and apply it to their classroom.

We transformed the room into the different mission stations with balloons and signs to guide them. We played mission control music throughout the professional learning experience as we facilitated if there was any questions.

The participants LOVED the training, as we did as well. It was a lot of front loading but during the training it was smooth sailing! We will do this again but we will make a few tweaks. One tweak would be during mission three, some of the games would also review the content from mission two verse only being personalized learning content. The second tweak would be to set up mission two away from the music because it was hard for the participants without ear-buds to hear the video content.

We look forward to making more self paced, professional learning experiences and we hope you do as well. It not only models what you want to see in the classroom but it also allows participants to critical thinking, communicate, collaborate and self-reflect.

 

Conducting Focus Groups in Education

“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.” By Bill Gates

Why Use Focus Groups?

Focus groups are a great way to gain consensus or to use for improvement from different stakeholders such as teachers, students and/or parents. Having a set protocol will help the time you are holding the focus group be intentional based on what you are trying to gather feedback on for improvement. 

For example in my classroom, I ran focus groups on obtaining different feedback from projects to  overall class structure. With teachers, I ran focus groups to improve professional development by gaining their insights. With schools from my district I ran a focus group to gather feedback on an initiative to see how I could improve it.

Protocol Notes
Before The Focus Group
  • Outline goal
  • Determine questions* and time limit
  • Define roles:
    • Facilitator
    • Note Taker/Timer
  • Decide on space:
    • comfortable and circle setting
  • Invite participants to the focus group
During The Focus Group
  • Take attendance of who is participating
    • This can be anonymous such as 6 boys and 5 girls.
  • Review guidelines and moderate the session so that everyone gets a chance to speak and no one participant dominates the discussion.**
After The Focus Group
  • Compile all focus group data (if you hold multiple sessions)
  • Review the notes as soon as possible and fill in any gaps while the session is still clear in your mind.
  • Report out findings***

*When generating questions make sure:

  • They are open-ended and not “yes/no”
  • They are short and to the point
  • Max of 10 questions, 5-8 is ideal
  • You should have an opening question and exit question

**Script for Facilitator:

Welcome everyone, our topic is…. The results will be used for…

Guidelines:

  • No right or wrong answers
  • one person speaking at a time as we are recording your answers anonymously
  • You don’t need to agree with others, but you must listen respectfully as others share their views
  • As Facilitator I will help guide the discussion

Examples to help participants expand ideas/thoughts….

  • “Please tell me (more) about that…”?
  • “Could you explain what you mean by…”?
  • “Can you tell me something else about…”?
  • “Could you give me an example of …”?

***Report out findings:

  • Populate exact statements of the participants
  • Descriptive summary
  • In order to have valid data, you need to have at least a few focus groups with the same questions being asked

Learnings from #EDCampQC 4.0

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” by Walt Disney
Yesterday I had a great day at #EDCampQC. It was awesome connecting with new and previous colleagues to learn about what others are doing/trying in their classroom. Below are just a few of the cool new tools I learned about and will be trying. I plan on trying one at a time until I master it, so I do not feel so overwhelmed!

  1. Telestory is an iPad app. It allows students to be creators of content and show mastery through different modes such as creating a music video, news report,  writing their own stories etc. 
  2. Kid-Pix: is a tool that allows students to create drawings and flip books.
  3. RoundMe is a paid web site that allows people to create virtual reality. 
  4.  My Maps: Teachers and/or students can create and share custom private maps. You can add icons to locations and insert images and text to that location.
  5. Deck.Toys is in beta and is a real-time classroom engagement platform that allows you to teach and manage students. I like how you do have the option of allowing self pacing for students and that is how I would utilize this.

 

Reframing a Paradigm for Professional Learning: Part 2

“Action is the foundational key to all success.” By Anthony Robbins

Last week I talked about why we need to Reframe a Paradigm for Professional Learning. This week I share with you some ideas of how to do this in your schools/districts. We should be modeling what you want to see changed in the classroom. Here are three ways to model.

Face to Face (F2F): Traditionally in a F2F professional development it is a sit and get and the instructor teachers to the average. In a F2F professional learning educators should take a pre-assessment and the instructor should use that data to drive the instruction and next steps. Just because it is F2F doesn’t mean it should be one and done; this is a misconception. F2F should meet throughout the year, just like a classroom, but they should not sit through lessons/skills they already know.

Virtual:  Virtual allows for anytime, self paced choice for educators to choose what they want to learn based on their needs. 

Micro-Credentials: Micro-credentials allows educators to receive ‘badges’ signifying mastery of  a specific skill. This is a ‘newer’ concept in education. Learn more about Micro-credential from these school districts that are using it: Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s Personalized Learning Department, Kettle Moraine School District and Surry County

Six ways to offer professional learning that are not sit-and-get with resources to learn more on how to implement.

Here are three other ideas:

  • Teacher and/or Student Showcase: Have educators and/or students ‘share’ and ‘showcase’ something that is working well in the classroom. I have seen this done many different ways such as through old schools science fair style or through Ted Talk style approaches.
  • Innovate Time: This is time you allow teachers to research something they are interested in implementing in the classroom. The Principal or another administrator teaches the class so the teacher ‘gains’ time to do this research.
  • Project Based Learning (PBL): Educators can do action research to help improve their classroom instruction.

Do you have other ways that you, your school or district are doing professional development differently? I would love to hear about it in the comments.

Reframing a Paradigm for Professional Learning: Part 1

“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning. ” By Benjamin Franklin

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The research on professional development shows that the older “drive‐by” workshop model does not work. We also know that no two people learn the same way;  yet many of us do not change the way we provide instruction for students nor professional development for teachers. 

Just as we personalize education for students, we must also personalizing professional learning for adults. Notice I said professional learning, this is because I want to make a clear distinction between professional development and professional learning because to me, PD is a one and done verse professional learning improves educators professional knowledge, competence, skill and effectiveness. 

Best practices for personalized professional learning closely parallels best practices for personalized learning for students. There are three key pieces we should be doing with professional learning opportunities for educators:

  1. Content: We need to relate the content to the classroom/school just like we relate content to real world for students as this is an educators ‘real world’. We also need to provide the learning goal and how it relates to the educator. For example explaining how it connects to their teacher evaluation.
  2.  Data and Feedback: We need to meet educators where they are and we can use data to do that. Having educators take a pre-assessment on the topic of the professional learning will allow the educator to start where they should. Educators should also be able to ‘test out’ of professional learning opportunities if they can show mastery of the skill, competence etc.
  3. Learning Environment: We need to rethink time, duration, and frequency of professional learning. Professional learning should be continuous and ongoing, involving follow‐up and support meeting the teacher where they are in their teaching craft. Educators should have the option/choice of face to face, virtual or blended professional learning opportunities so they can learn in their best environment.

Here is an example of professional learning based on these three key pieces. If you want educators to learn about morning meeting you need to have a goal for the content: Example – I will be able to effectively implement Morning Meeting into my classroom. This correlates to standard II of the North Carolina Evaluation. Then you need to provide the option of allowing educators to show they have mastered this topic. This can be done multiple ways for example they can provide a video of them implementing morning meeting or they can have someone do an observation while they are conducting a morning meeting. For the educators that don’t ‘test out’ we need need to have a pre-assessment to see where educators are in their understanding of morning meeting.  We need to use this data to place educators in the correct professional learning path based on their needs.

Next week I will share some of the other ways we can reframe the paradigm for professional learning!