Something Awesome Happened
A Celebration and a Call to Arms
While randomly checking my Twitter feed, I had to stop and marvel at an interaction between three colleagues that, when looked at in a greater context, was absolutely awesome. Before detailing this exchange that took place in 140 characters or less, it needs to be put into perspective.
Since our district’s opening Superintendent’s Conference Day in September 2013, Farmingdale has been on an exciting journey driven by Carol Dweck’s outstanding book Mindset and fueled by social media. Dr. Bill Brennan’s words, “We don’t know what we don’t know… yet” have become our mantra and we have been energized and empowered by the reality that we can learn at anytime, anywhere and from anyone. To enhance communication and become our own public relations engines, each of our six schools have established a voice in the Twittersphere and our collective number of followers is approaching 2,000. Individual teachers within each of the buildings have created class Twitter handles which they use to communicate with families, inspire their students and highlight their best practices. Daily, administrators and teachers are working to “flatten the walls of our classrooms” and we are sharing the exciting learning experiences we offer our children with the world. In doing so, we have fashioned new conversations between parents and their children about the six plus hours they spend in our charge. With each tweet, with every picture and video, we are “telling our story,” we are defining the Farmingdale “brand” and we are showing why we are “Proud to be Dalers.”
In addition to all of this, more and more of our us have began using social media as a way to take charge of our own learning. We are following the best and the brightest minds in our field and perhaps even more importantly, we have started following one another. It is in this context that I hope to share the very awesome thing that happened!
As building and district level leaders, we have been struggling with the following questions:
– How do we take the expertise that exists in each of our six buildings and network those understandings in a greater context that would promote the learning of our entire organization?
-How do we get this information out there? How do we take the outstanding practices developed within smaller Professional Learning Communities and share them with a much larger, perhaps virtual, community of practice?
-How can we share charts, mentor texts, graphic organizers, ideas and other resources between buildings?
-Where can we go when we need help?
The answer to this last question could very well be found within our own buildings. However, no matter how awesome the colleagues that comprise our Professional Learning Communities are, most PLCs are “closed” communities. As Eric Sheninger and Alec Couros suggest, they are limited by time, space and proximity. Typically, we only work with teachers on our grade level or in our department within our own buildings. It is time that we change that.
To do so, the hashtag (#fpschat) was created so there would be a place for teachers and administrators to share what they are learning about and to post the outstanding work that is happening in our schools. In essence, we are cultivating our own knowledge management system for our virtual community of practice. Together, we have the potential to develop a precious, organic, sustainable reserve of knowledge that can be added to and accessed by all.
But are we using it?
So, about the awesome thing that happened… Recently, one teacher tweeted, “Table teams made human number lines to warm up our rounding skills! Thanks for the idea @____. #fpschat” Here, the teacher was referencing a tweet sent by two teachers working collaboratively in an ICT setting in another building where that same practice was shared a few days prior. While I am sure that conversations like these have happened in person and perhaps on Social Media, this was this first time that the magnitude of this struck me. While this might seem like something small, it is groundbreaking in that it evidences how we are developing the Social Capital of our organization by communicating between buildings in a digital space that we have created! This is awesome!
While we celebrate this victory, we must also use this outstanding example as a call to arms to all teachers. You! Yes you! You are doing fantastic things in your classroom. You are reading books that others might not know about that you need to share! You are reading professional books to further your own learning! You are working with your colleagues in self-directed Professional Learning Communities and what you and your fellow teachers are creating and learning about is outstanding!
If you haven’t already done so, please consider joining us on this journey! We are stronger together! We need you!