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.

Time Is What You Make Of It

December Think-About:

I’m often asked about the issue of “time”- usually during presentations/workshops about anything associated with blogging, wikis, microblogs, shared bookmarks, RSS feeds, etc.

“Who has the time to do this?”
“Why would I ever want to do any of those things? Where would I find the time?”

“All those things are great, but I have a life. There just isn’t time
to do it all!”

As a rule, I usually note during those sessions that I don’t sit behind a computer 24/7/365. BUT… I wonder if the participants really believe me? My guess is that many don’t believe me (I’m a ‘techie,’ right?), or they assume that the nature of my job affords me more time to read blogs, share on Twitter, add shared bookmarks, and post to my own blogs every single day.

The fact is… my job doesn’t really afford me more time to do any of these things. Instead, I’ve made the decision that using those tools help me to grow as a professional. I’m connected to people all around the world who are willing to share their ideas with me, collaborate with me on projects and ideas, and learn with me about preparing 21st century learners for future success. Why would I NOT make time for that?

We know that young people are also using these tools and gaining extraordinary benefits- when the tools are used appropriately. Perhaps that fact alone would be the motivating factor for making time.

I’ve always been told that you make time for those things in your life that are your priorities. So… why should this be a priority?

  1. If you’re preparing students to be successful for the future, you need to understand the learning tools they have at their disposal. We all understand best by DOING.
  2. These tools should be used in schools. Period.
  3. You will see a substantial increase in your own personal growth. I learn every single day from someone who shares with me. If you follow others in your field who are positive, strategic, and visionary, it’s nearly impossible to find these experiences unworthy of your time.

Here is a sampling of some “web 2.0” tools I use- those that I use most often:

I don’t use every tool every day, nor did I try to take on all of them at one time when I first started. In each case, I found a tool, tried it for a while, then decided if it provided me any advantage or benefit. What I found was that each one serves a different purpose, and I go to them for very different reasons. Of course, there were some that I found weren’t useful to me, so I don’t use them. In some cases, especially communication, I’ve found these tools actually save me time!

Because I’m seeking balance in my life, I’m also very deliberate about how much time I spend using these tools when home. That tends to be more difficult, but it’s important to make my family time a priority, too.

Just like we all need to findĀ  time for recreation, for exercise, for learning, for SLEEP… I think it’s also possible to find time to blog, or contribute to a wiki, or share with others in your field through some otherĀ  web 2.0 tool. Maybe it’s once a week or once a month, but the time is there if you make it.

Is it a priority for you?

An Early Think-About: What’s Your Top 5 Wish List?

What’s on your Top 5 wish list for new technologies you want to bring into your school/district? Even if your wish isn’t really a “technology,” please leave your list in the comments. I’ll post results soon.

My Top 5 (in no particular order):

1. Skype

2. An unfiltered internet connection for all– or a less restrictive filtering policy.

3. The opportunity to help others see that technology is a tool, not an extra to teach– and that using this tool could help students demonstrate proficiencies differently. Additionally, students might be able to think more critically, creatively, and digitally if given the chance to learn in “their own world.”

4. Wikis, Nings, more teacher blogs, and other social-networking-collaboration options. I use them constantly for my own work, but I don’t think we have enough people taking advantage of these fabulous tools! (for some, it’s a policy thing)

5. The chance for our students to participate in something like Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsey‘s Flat Classroom Project!