Holy Connectedness!!!

I just completed listening and watching the recorded session with George Couros titled “Becoming a Networked Educational Leader” (you can find the recorded Blackboard Collaborate session here).  Once again George reflected on many amazing examples of how being connected to students, families and staff has improved their experiences all round. It’s not hard to listen to what either Couros bros (insert nintendo characters here)  has to say and the crowd cheered, ooohed and ahhhhed at all appropriate moments. That is, all but one! Throughout the conversation George questioned how we get our administrators connected? Many in that chat stream contributed examples of their own and all supported George in his assertion that connectedness is paramount. There was one brave voice amongst the crowd…..antiface.  I should have known by the name that he (assumption) was going to challenge the convention that had arisen.  I applaud his (?) gumption to speak out against the tide of nodding heads and agreement and express his (?) point of view.

The following is part of the dialogue that antiface evoked…

antiface :   Do you really want to connect with students via social media? I wouldn’t.

Maha    :  @antiface why wouldn’t you want to connect with students that way?

bonstewart :  would you not want your kids’ teachers/leaders to connect?

antiface :  I don’t need my teachers to connect with me outside of school.

anitface  : I think they work hard enough.

Kirsten Tscholen : you are right.  What happens to boundaries? I need time with my family.

antiface  : maybe it’s just me, I don’t want to spend time with my doctor either.

I found this conversation really confronting.  I was desperate to join in, unfortunately 36 hours too late! I hold dear the connections I have with my students and their families. I have always had an open door policy and endeavour to provide as many authentic opportunities to share my students learning with families as I possibly can.

When social media wasn’t available for me to connect with families, I was constantly writing notes, printing off tags to explain learning to be pasted in books, calling families, writing to families and I constructed weekly news with photos of student work, class activities and events.  This format restricted me to perhaps a page or two each week,  1 or 2 photos each time and normally no more than one students work showcased but I honestly believe that I gained so much by communicating with parents and investing my time to listen and inform them about what was happening in our classroom.

Now that social media IS available to me, opportunities have just increased and I am able to connect with families in a more immediate and authentic manner.  Using edmodo I can post photos of our learning at any point in time.  Students can engage in their learning online and it is immediately visible to their families.  I can update instantly, request support, add links for information and add reminders for my students, all in real time.

Does this increase the invasion of my “personal time” – YES! I do get edmodo messages from students and parents at night, on the weekend and during the holidays.  I also get text messages and emails! I have visited my students in hospital and I engage with them and their families when we cross paths in public.

Do I feel I HAVE to respond/engage? – No.  I respond because I know that the rewards are greater than the few minutes it takes to talk/type/text/post. Plus I kinda actually like kids (call me crazy).

I gain so much from engaging my families, but my greatest reward is TRUST!

The relationships I have built with my families means they trust me when I turn the curriculum upside down, when I challenge their children to try things they have never before. They may hold their breath a little, but they support me nevertheless. They know I have their child’s best interests at heart, that I am invested in their growth and success.

One of my students taking on a challenge to rock climb.  She has several disabilities and has trouble negotiating stairs!

One of my students taking on rock climbing.  She has several physical and intellectual challenges and even has difficulty negotiating stairs let alone a climbing wall!

So in response to the chat dialogue..

Do I really want to connect with my students via social media? – ABSOLUTELY! Does this mean I am FB friends, not at all.

What happens to boundaries? I need to spend time with my family. – This, you need to construct for yourself.  I don’t think it is healthy for families to have an expectation that you will respond 24/7 but what is wrong with being contactable 24/7?

Maybe it’s just me, I don’t want to connect with my doctor either. – Anyone who saw their doctor 7 hours a day, 5 days a week, 40 weeks a year, would have a pretty intimate relationship! I expect even a few house calls 😉

Obviously I am in disagreement with antiface on this topic of using social media to connect, however, I am grateful for the courage and stoicism he(?) displayed challenging an overwhelming tide. So many thanks to antiface for provoking dialogue!

Another post will be devoted to anitface’s thoughts on SM and introverts! To be continued……..

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7 thoughts on “Holy Connectedness!!!

  1. Rhoni,
    What a powerful post. There may be somewhat of a benefit in watching the recorded session. I was in the original session, and I missed the conversation you use to illustrate your learning. I was busy listening and missed much of the dialogue going on in the chat box. (However, as you noticed with most of us, when I did chime in, I was one of the head nodders!

    Like you, I can say:
    “The relationships I have built with my families means they trust me when I turn the curriculum upside down, when I challenge their children to try things they have never before. They may hold their breath a little, but they support me nevertheless. They know I have their child’s best interests at heart, that I am invested in their growth and success.”

    I think this is a beautiful quote about what I have experienced with my students’ families. I love the way you say it.

    Thanks for sharing this post. I love the look of your MOOC blog too.

    Denise

    • Thanks Denise,

      I must say I do like the “live” collaborative experience to ‘get in on’ the chat, but I have had to settle for 2 recorded sessions due to the time difference in Australia. The chat does fly fast at times and the recorded sessions provide the opportunity to pause and read comments that skip by. The chat definitely adds to the experience as, like you, I would have been happily bouncing along in agreement nodding to George and Alec. Having someone challenge our ideas is so important. It gives an opportunity to develop a better understanding of our own beliefs or the opportunity to change or adapt our views! This challenge has confirmed for me that valuing relationships above all else is paramount for me. Thanks for taking the time to respond.

      Rhoni

  2. Right on Rhoni…….you are right..in that there is nothing wrong being contactable 24/7, but not responding 24/7. This has totally been the case for my educational FB use. I laughed yesterday when a year 12 cringed about me asking her to be on year 12 FB page. She felt it was an intrusion on her space……for me as an oldie. I brought to her attention……I have been on FB since 2007, when it was more of an adults forum as younger people used MySpace. Then…..the inundation of millions…
    I have used FB with my vet music since 2008…….and I met say, not once have I had an issue of disrespect, pushing the boundaries or misuse of any kind professionally on social media…..after all……….as with everything there needs to be balance and boundaries

    • Now imagine what they will say to find you on twitter!
      I completely agree with you regarding “pushing the boundaries or misuse”. Fear is insipid and can prevent us from experiencing life to the full. Most of the time the risk is worth taking 🙂 My kids both have blogs and often the first thing people ask me is “aren’t you worried that people will write negative things to them?” Neither have ever received anything remotely negative via their blog, but they have certainly witnessed some pretty poor behaviour in public!

  3. Hi, I was in the live session and followed the chat with anti face et al. I was fascinated with his (?) take on not connecting with students in social media. I didn’t agree, but I liked how his comments made others think and challenged them to articulate why they thought it was important. It made me consider my social media connections with people I consult with. I’ve rarely made them, but antiface made me question why not. Exposing our own biases and assumptions through respectful disagreement is one of the great things about this MOOC. Courage comes in all dieffenbachia forms.

    • Yes it does, without an alternative view we are less oriented to consider alternatives and more likely to maintain assumptions and status quo. I am enjoying how the MOOC provides opportunities to explore ideas deeper. Thanks for your thoughts Alison.

  4. My own experience facilitating courses–including Social Media Basics–for adult learners and engaging in online courses and other learning opportunities leaves me very much in agreement with what you’ve written. It’s all about balance–knowing when to respond and knowing when to carve out some down time–and I’m grateful for the levels of interaction that online learning and face-to-face learning cibtinue to provide.

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