You Should Follow – Day 1

Yesterday, my friend George Couros started a new hashtag on Twitter – #365greattweeps




I really like this idea more than the #FF – Follow Friday recommendations. Those tend to be lists and are often the same recommendations every Friday. While I believe those still have a place, I really like the idea that George started, because he also includes the “WHY.” Why should you follow someone I recommend?

This got me thinking… if I could choose anyone to recommend right away – someone whom I followed and then met “in real life,” who would it be?

I knew instantly that I wanted to share my friend, Rafranz Davis. I had followed Rafranz for a while on Twitter, but only just met her in person at ISTE this past summer in San Antonio. Wow! What an amazing person!

Rafranz has a passion for learning and sharing! Every day, I see her tweet something that makes me really think. Her blog posts are direct, poignant, and from the heart. One in particular left me in tears – and that doesn’t happen very often for me.

Rafranz also has a smile that goes on for days, and she is such a positive person to be around.

I feel incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to meet some of my Twitter friends at conferences here and there, and meeting Rafranz was definitely a highlight of ISTE for me.

I hope you follow her on Twitter – @RafranzDavis and read her wonderful writing at ! #365greattweeps



Investing the Time

For the record, I’m a HUGE advocate of leveraging social media for professional development and making connections with other educators. The network that I’ve built over the last few years is so very important to me, both professionally and personally.

But the keyword in that last sentence is “BUILT.” I’ve spent time building a network of people who are of value to me. A lot of time, actually.

I was thinking about something my friend, Jennifer Wagner tweeted out yesterday. By the way, I have never met Jen face-to-face. We have Skyped- a few years ago, she was gracious enough to call into a session I was facilitating about web tools- and we have conversed through Twitter and blog posts, but we have yet to meet in person. (Hope to change that status some day soon!) The point is… I still consider her a friend. She is helpful, responsive, sharing, and caring. This will be an important fact later in this post.

Yesterday, Jen said this in response to someone’s statement about the value of online communities:

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… and I remembered then that the network/community that I so value now has taken me nearly 2.5 years to purposefully cultivate. When we share our enthusiasm with others, do we mention the time investment? How many people do you think would be willing to wait that long for the pay off?

Granted, there are some great ways to get started building a network- many have paved the way and want to help make it easier. Some examples:

I built my network through reading blogs, following blog writers on Twitter, finding who they follow, and then stalking lurking through Twitter for a while until I found the people who became of value to me. When I was a kid, there was a commercial about shampoo where one person told two friends, and they told two friends, and they told two friends… I use that same philosophy with blogs and Twitter. When I first started following others on blogs and Twitter, I looked to see who my friends were following, and I started following them, too.

The most important thing you can remember about building a network… be patient. And then:

  • Involve yourself.
  • Complete your bio on your own blog and/or Twitter (this is a must! Most people I know don’t follow people with empty bio’s. We want to know who are you and what you think!)
  • Jump into conversations on Twitter.
  • Read and comment on blogs.
  • Know that you’re probably not going to get immediate responses from around the world until you’ve invested some time. A lot of people get disappointed because they don’t receive a lot of comments on their blog posts or responses on Twitter after they first start using those tools. It really does take some time.

And that’s okay… because you WILL find value in that network or community you’ve helped to build. Soon, those people whose names cross your Twitter stream or whose blog posts you’ve been reading… they become valued friends who will be glad to share, listen, and learn with you.

Gearing Up For NETA 09

Tomorrow is the first day of the 2009 NETA Conference.

After preparing all day, I’m really excited for this conference, as well as meeting and re-connecting with other educators.

Day 1: Looking forward to Hall Davidson’s opening keynote.

Also, NETA is providing a Bloggers’ Cafe this year. If you’re attending, plan to stop in and see us. You can find us on Wikispaces at

If you’re on Twitter, you can follow, and of course, you can always follow me, too: If you’re looking for more people to follow, there is a microblogging page in the Bloggers’ Cafe wiki that lists several educators on Twitter.

The best part of these conferences for me always comes from the conversations had with the people I meet… I always thoroughly enjoy the sessions and speakers, but I think I personally grow more when I participate in the discussions about what we all experience in those sessions. Really looking forward to that!

Balanced Connections

The term “social media” (or “social networking”) has always bothered me for some reason… but until recently, I didn’t truly understand why.

I’ve done several presentations about web 2.0, the changed nature of the internet, and what all that interaction really means to us. Often, I’ll hear from several adults, especially those who do not use web 2.0 tools, about their concerns regarding face-to-face time. Their concerns are that kids spend too much time plugged in and not enough time learning how to interact with people in person. They don’t think that ‘social networking’ actually promotes anything truly social.

Because I came to be a web 2.0 user as an adult with what I would consider fully developed social skills, I can’t really speak from my own experience. Or can I?

I don’t really have problems interacting with people in person. Although painfully shy as a child, I learned strategies to overcome my shyness so that I could interact with others. I use those strategies every day.

When I started blogging, chatting, texting, IM’ing, Tweeting (verb for using Twitter), Second Life-ing, [insert additional web 2.0 tools here], I wondered if all of that ‘plugged in’ activity would change my social interactions. I have to say… IT DID. But here’s the surprise: I honestly think it changed everything for the better. And here’s how:

  1. When I met other ed tech people online through their blogs or via Twitter, for example, those online connections made it easier meeting them eventually face-to-face at a school or conference. We already knew we had something in common. Our previous online experiences became our ice breakers. We could get past the early (sometimes awkward) small talk that inevitably occurs when you first meet someone, and move to what we really wanted to discuss. [Image credit:pengo-au]1
  2. With people I already know, it’s difficult to maintain connections in our extremely fast-paced lives. In addition to our jobs and families, there are so many other obligations. I feel like I don’t always have time to make a phone call or pay someone a visit… especially if they don’t live in the same area. Online opportunities like Facebook have provided a quick place to catch up, share photos and videos, chat, and more. Does it replace the face-to-face I wish I had with my friends and family? Not all the time. Sometimes, however, it does provide a more timely connection than I would have with those people if I waited for the face-to-face time. Plus, I know more about some of my college friends and their families now than I ever did before. In more cases, I’d lost track of some friends who eventually found me on Facebook. I can honestly say that social networking has really enriched some of those relationships.
  3. My kids use social media. There are MANY times when Facebook, texting, or IM have taken the place of the reminder note on the refrigerator. I KNOW they check those online tools daily. Our communication has definitely improved because of these tools, AND sometimes it encourages new face-to-face discussions. All of my children have endured several conversations with me that start out, “So tell me what you meant by your Facebook status/comment/post today.” They don’t always like it, but it definitely beats the worn-out “how was your day, dear?” usual fare. Our conversational topics encompass school, friends, dating, driving… you name it. If it’s on their Facebook (or glaringly omitted), it’s open season for discussion.

In my opinion, It all comes down to balance. I do not spend all my waking hours online. I set boundaries for my kids about their online time. If a conversation can happen face-to-face, that’s encouraged. If it’s an emotional issue or serious situation, we discuss that face-to-face. [Image credit: dirkjanranzijn]2

And for those people who are concerned that our kids will turn into texting, posting, chatting machines who are completely bereft of social skills… I think you need to dig a little more deeply into what kids are actually doing online. Learn more. Try it yourself. You may be surprised how much better YOUR OWN communication can be, as long as balance is a consideration.

Oh, and don’t just take my word for it. Here’s an article in Time’s online magazine that I found today before posting.

1pengo-au. “PV Connectors.” pengo-au’s photostream.6 Nov 2008. 19 Jan 2009.
2dirkjanranzijn. “Balance.” dirkjanranzijn’s photostream. 17 Jul 2008. 19 Jan 2009.