Shepherding Educators into the Connected Era

Last month, I wrote about my new adventures with @ONE (Online Network of Educators) and the California Community Colleges (CCCs) to design professional development experiences for faculty and staff throughout California’s 114 community colleges. I am now preparing for the launch of our first @ONE Reflective Writing Club, a 6-week blogging journey that will engage educators in a peer-based community. Currently, we have 35 educators signed up spanning 3 continents! Most of our participants (22) are from the CCC system and others represent colleges/universities in Washington, Florida, North Carolina, Texas, Australia and South Africa! We are hoping for more members — sign up here!

This is my first time facilitating a blogging club and am drawing upon my experiences in the Edublogs Club last year.  The concept is simple: set up a blog; write one post each week in response to the prompt provided by the facilitator; share your post; reply to peer’s posts. The sharing is super-fueled by a Twitter hashtag (in our case #CCCWrite).

Of course, like designing most learning experiences, it appears simple until you get into the weeds and realize just how much there is to do to create an experience that supports a range of experience levels and be there for those who may need extra guidance. For those who have a blog and are already on Twitter, the prospect of participating in the Club is more manageable than to those who might not fully understand what a blog is and have never Tweeted.

To date, I have developed the following resources for the @ONE Reflective Writing Club. I am keeping principles openness in mind as I design these resources. Unless otherwise noted, content is shared with a CC-BY resource.

  • A public website to support the Reflective Writing Club that includes a curated collection of “getting started” resources and a blog that I will use to publish the weekly prompts and other communications
  • hashtag #CCCWrite
  • Twitter list of members
  • A simple Canvas course (members-only access) with Discussions enabled and a link to our Club Lounge (a Zoom meeting room where participants can connect with each other and with me at designated times). I struggled with this resource. I get so much value out of my interactions on Twitter that I was originally not going to set up a Canvas shell — as I want to challenge and motivate people to try new things. But then I realized that might not be the right approach. As individuals get started with Twitter and blogging, they may not feel comfortable asking for help in a public setting. So I chose to set up the course so participants had options for getting help.
  • Ready Checklist  of things to do before the Club starts.

Social Media Principles for Professional Growth

Blogging and Tweeting, however, are just the vehicles we are using to move through this learning experience. What it’s really about is improving our digital literacy as educators by immersing ourselves in a digitally connected network of our peers. As we proceed, we will examine the uniqueness of digital writing and reflect on how the connected era is creating amazing opportunities and frustrating challenges for educators around the world.

Given this, the @ONE Reflective Writing Club is designed to engage educators in a mindful process of creating a professional digital presence. It’s not easy and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. I feel a great deal of responsibility as I shepherd newcomers to become connected educators. I have been reflecting about the amazingly generous educators who shed light in the early stages of my journey 10 years ago — Shelly Sanchez Terrell, Vicki Davis, Steve Hargadon, Alice Keeler, Angela Maiers to name a few. They shared. And they did so with such genuine kindness. I watched and learned. I started to share back. And that’s how the dance began.

But I did not know where my journey would lead and I did not know how to navigate every scenario I encountered. I made mistakes and I grew from those missteps. I made new connections that led to new opportunities. In 2007, I learned about VoiceThread on a blog post written by Beth Harris. I starting using VoiceThread in my classes and built relationships with their co-founders Steve Muth and Ben Papell. That led me to Michael Berman, who was coordinating a conference and looking for a speaker for VoiceThread. Michael led me to Jill Leafstedt, who hired me to be part of Teaching & Learning Innovations at CI. Along the way, Susan Ko started reading my blog and reached out with an offer for me to write a book in Routledge series, Best Practices for Online Teaching. My book is now in its second edition.

Reflecting on my own professional growth led me to develop a new set of Social Media Principles for Professional Growth, (thank you to Jim Julius and Katie Palacios who contributed very helpful feedback to these principles). I did quite a bit of searching for an existing set of principles to use, but could only locate guidelines and policies that universities and colleges had written in support of public relations and marketing. I am hopeful that educators who get started with building using social tools to build their professional learning networks and develop their digital presence will keep these principles in mind and find them helpful.

I am also hopeful that leaders of faculty development will consider adopting and adapting the principles for their own programs. If you are part of a professional development experience organized by a higher education institution/system that engages educators in the use of social media for professional growth, please contact me. I would love to connect to share our practices. Supporting faculty to develop digital literacy skills and prepare students for professional and personal success in the connected era are lofty objectives that we cannot achieve alone.

3 Comments to “Shepherding Educators into the Connected Era”

  1. Hi Michelle, question for you. I’m interesting in participating but wondering how specific the prompts will be to the community college environment, which I am not particularly knowledgable about. (I know, I’m a guy, writing about something I don’t know about really shouldn’t be a problem 😉

    1. Hi Michael. It’s nice to hear from you. Very good question — and one I have been thinking about a lot. I honestly don’t have the prompts drafted and I’ve been keeping my eye on the demographics of the participants to ensure the prompts are applicable to all contexts. We have a mix of teaching and non-teaching faculty, support staff, and administrators from 2-year and 4-year and all parts of the world. So, the prompts will need to be broad. My thought is I will get the club started and then ask the participants for feedback and suggestions about the prompts. It will be a formative process. I hope that convinces you to sign up. It would be delightful to have you be included. And if you have suggestions about prompts now, please share!

  2. Kathleen Gradel

    Michelle, thanks for sharing the process and outcomes…and modeling it all for us to re-use and re-mix! As usual, I am in awe. Blogging is not dead 🙂


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