The Power of Social Networks

(I recently posted this on my own personal portfolio-blog and it was shared all over the world; thought I would share it here as well)

If you don’t believe in the power that Twitter has, hopefully this story will change your mind.

Wanting to show my staff the effectiveness and power of connections through social networks, I decided to place a bet.  The bet was that if I sent out a form over document, the educators in the Twitter community would step up and prove to me that they would help, showing my own staff the power of this social network.  Little did I know that it would go beyond my wildest dreams.

I woke up at 4am before a staff meeting with an idea.  I had done the Twitter “shoutout” before, where I would say hi to my Twitter followers and they would tell me where they were from.  I had thought maybe I would try something a little more and increase the stakes.  If I sent out a short Google Form survey, hopefully a few people from different areas would fill it out.  This way I could show staff how easy it is to connect to a few people that are educators and spread their idea.

Because I know the power Twitter has, I tried to “hide” the form and test it in the morning with someone who I knew was up so early in the morning.  It started with this Tweet:

@SusanneGunning I actually just created a short survey that I am going to send out to the “twitterverse” during staff mtg to show pwr of pln.

This was followed by:

@SusanneGunning Want to be the first to fill it out? http://bit.ly/b2UDEy :)

She had filled it out and I knew that it worked.  Now it was time to wait.

At about 10:40 AM, MST, I sent out a Tweet to the world that stated the following:

@gcouros PLEASE HELP! Having a meeting with staff and want to show power of network. Please fill in form: http://bit.ly/b2UDEy Please RT!

My bet was that I could turn on the spreadsheet and names would be filled in. I specifically put in the question, “Have you ever met George in person? (@gcouros)”, to show that people I had never met were more than willing to help me. I was amazed by the response. Immediately people started filling out the form from all over the world and sending out the message to others.

Rachelle Lamoureux lamoureuxr RT @gcouros: PLEASE HELP! Having a meeting w/ staff & wnt 2 show power of network. Please fill in form: http://bit.ly/b2UDEy <done!

Patrick Larkin @bhsprincipal RT @lamoureuxr: RT @gcouros: PLEASE HELP! Having a meeting w/ staff & wnt 2 show power of network. Please fill in form: http://bit.ly/b2UDEy

I really enjoyed the following Tweet that showed people will help no matter who it is for.

Sean Heuchert @sheuchert 136 people respond to twitter query/experiment by @gcouros launched 2 hours ago http://bit.ly/aPC3DT. 133/136 have no idea who @gcouros is.

My brother, Dr. Alec Couros encouraged me to share the information:

 Alec Couros courosa @gcouros share the spreadsheet with us.

Others went a different step ahead:

Kara Cornejo karacornejo @gcouros I will send you a link for a voice thread that was put together to show teachers the power of twitter. Maybe you could use it

Then my brother wanted to show the visual in a different form through this map.

The results were amazing and I shared with anyone who was interested in seeing the information.

In the end, I knew my bet would pay off and that my professional network on Twitter would come through.  I had no idea on just how BIG they would do that, but I know that a lot of my staff are sold on the power of Twitter.  As I write this post, over 161 people had taken the time to fill out the form, and counting.  They ranged from teachers to professors, parents to principals, librarians to consultants.  The response was overwhelming and so helpful.

If you are not sold, read the survey as people shared how Twitter is beneficial to them.  My advice to you is to get on Twitter, start sharing your knowledge, build your network, and have patience in connecting.  You will quickly start to build your own network of people that will do amazing things for you and help you out in so many ways.  I have learned so much from my network, and just hope sometimes that I am of the same value to them.

It always amazes me how there are so many kind and passionate educators are willing to help their colleagues around the world, but from now on, it will never surprise me.

Volunteer Tea

I want to ensure that I extend an early invitation to all of the parent-volunteers in our school that do so much for Forest Green to make it a better place. Without volunteers, we would not have classroom helpers, hot lunch, pancake breakfasts, just to name a few. We are so grateful for all that the parents do in our school and having the volunteer tea is just one of the ways that we can thank them.

Please join us on Thursday, May 13 at 10 A.M. at the school! We look forward to hosting you.

Leading Our Way Forward

Currently twelve staff from Forest Green and Connections for Learning are at the Leading Our Way Forward conference in Edmonton.  It has been a great process for staff to work together on how we want to move forward as school sites to give students the best opportunities at school.  Increasing student engagement and giving them opportunities to further critical thinking within our school.

Some of the next steps that we believe are important as a school educational technology team:

1.  Working on our own school Information and Communication Technology Outcomes so that we have successful building blocks for where we expect our students to be from year to year.

2.  Using technology to enable students to connect with others learners and learn more about their global environment.

3.  Use technology to develop critical thinking skills.  We want students to ask questions and learn from others while being able to develop their own opinions and beliefs on different topics.  This is important that students have the opportunity to think and defend their ideas and opinions.  Technology provides a great opportunity to do this.

This conference has led to some great conversations and we look forward to continuously working to better the opportunities for our students.

Kidblog

As a school, we have been really focusing on working with blogs in the classroom, and role modeling what we would like to see as a staff when the students have an opportunity.  I am very happy that many staff have taken the opportunity to create their own blogs to communicate with the entire Forest Green community.

Recently, Ms Mahan and Ms. Aronyk came upon the site Kidblog that will give them the opportunity to create blogs for their students.  The students will now have the opportunity to have their own blog and write their thoughts on different subject matter.  The benefit of Kidblog is that teachers have the ability to monitor and see all of the posts that students are creating, while also having students in a safe environment.  Staff are able to set the amount of visibility each blog has, and can limit to teacher only, class only, class and guests, are worldwide.  Since this is a new endeavour, the staff have chosen to only have this open to students, so that they are comfortable with how they are writing in a very public forum.

It is important that before students take on this new opportunity, they are aware of any things that may happen on the Internet.  Before each class takes on this opportunity, we will be having a discussion with students on how they can be good digital citizens.  It is also important, just like anything, that they are aware of how to always stay safe.

We are really looking forward to this new opportunity!

First Nations Cultural Celebration Day

I would like to welcome everyone back to school after, hopefully, a nice restful break. I had the opportunity to go home and see family, and it was great to see friends over the break. I am glad that I am back and the students are already looking a little more tanned, and ready to finish off the school year strong.

Forest Green School is planning to host a First Nations Day in the near future, but the April date that was communicated in the March newsletter has been postponed due to some unforeseen circumstances.  This is something that we are REALLY looking forward to and are looking at having this possibly at some point in May.  We appreciate your understanding and hope that you are excited about this event as we are.

Just a reminder also that the Parent Council group will be meeting on Thursday, April 15th at 7pm.  This is a great opportunity for parents to advise the school on initiatives that are happening, or could happen in the future.  Parents and staff working together for the betterment of our school is something that we strive for at Forest Green and we greatly value your input.

Have a great month of April!

Amazing Video

I recently came across this video through my Twitter network of Adora Svitak, addressing a large crowd at a TED talk. She talks about how kids should have say in what they are learning and in their education. It is some excellent food for thought, and she is a very engaging speaker for someone who is 12 years old.

Spring Break

We have had a great two-thirds of school, and we are coming into the home stretch after Easter Break.  I wish everyone to have a safe and restful break, and I look forward to seeing everyone in April.  We have lots going on in the months coming up with the First Nations celebration happening in April, Hip-Hop Dance team in May, and trip to the Winspear also happening in May, just to name a few.  We are looking forward to a strong finish to the year!

I hope everyone has a good break, and I thought I would share this video by Sir Ken Robinson, who is famous for his thoughts on education.  At Forest Green, we believe that each child is unique and hope to help them find their passion, similar to the sentiments in this video:

Choral Celebration

Choral CelebrationNothing fills the spirit like song, especially when that song comes from such a gifted group as the Forest Green choir.  Today at Parkland’s Choral Celebration, the Forest Green choir started off the day with the “Choral Celebration Song”, displaying their leadership to the whole division.  Later they did their own song which was so well received by a HUGE audience.  I was very proud of our group, and am especially appreciative of the time our music teacher and accompanist put into this endeavour.  Thanks to all of the students, staff, and volunteers that took part to make this a successful day for our school!

Education Planning

As a staff, we were very fortunate to have parents attend and help to guide us in the process on March 11, 2010.  We are grateful for their comments and thoughts that will help us improve the culture and learning environments for the school.  Ultimately, we are all focused on the same objective which is what is best for the child.  With that clear focus in mind, and working together as a community, I was glad that we had such a successful day.

Thanks again to the parents that were able to attend.  I know that the more parents can be involved in the education process, the better it is for the child.

I have recently read an interesting article called “A Teacher’s Guide to Generation X Parents”, and I thought it had some very interesting notes on how parents want to be more involved in the education of their children, which we are totally behind at Forest Green School.

Here are some of the key points the author summarized:

Listen to Us

As insufferable as we can be at first contact, listen to us first. We may look and act like adults, but there is a part of us that still feels like a neglected kid inside. Paying attention to our concerns may be a little more time consuming, but the effort will pay off. We’re loyal allies, and we love to be helpful.

Include Us

Invite us to teach in the classroom for an afternoon. Or assign students free-choice homework one night a week, to be completed with a parent. Many Gen Xers are genuine intellectuals with interesting ideas and hobbies. We’d love to share them!

Put Us to Work

We share your passion for making schools more successful learning environments. Besides letting us help you in class or share a homework assignment with our kids, harness our energy by asking us to help plan a field trip or do background research or otherwise help you prepare a class project.

Give Us Limits

“I let parents know that I’m always willing to listen to their concerns, but that there are certain issues that are negotiable and others that just aren’t,” says Shelly Wolf Scott, an administrator at Brooklyn’s Rivendell School. Parents are not allowed to alter their children’s classroom placement, curriculum, or administrative decisions.

They are, however, permitted to offer information about their child that the school might not know and that could assist in making such decisions. “This group of parents seems to respond well to those boundaries,” she says.

Work with Us

“Parents don’t seem to know how incredibly carefully all teachers and administrators think about their children,” says Lynn Levinson, assistant director of Upper School (and a parent of two) at the Maret School, in Washington, DC. “I always reassure them that I know how many conversations have revolved around these children and their classmates, so I know that it’s the right decision, even if I’m not happy with it as a parent.”


I think these points are very helpful in guiding all of us to ensure the best for each child.  What are your thoughts?