Monday, July 29, 2013

People Make the Difference

I often think back to my early years as an educational leader in order to gain a better perspective on how much I have grown.  Almost all of this growth can be attributed to a point in time that I became connected using a variety of social media tools.  Prior to this moment I would say that I led my school in an efficient manner as opposed to effective.  More time and emphasis was placed on managerial tasks rather than those that could transform the culture of the school.

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I led in a way that I thought was best.  This was due to a lack of information on better ways of doing things.  Being on an isolated island in terms of access to information had a real negative impact on my ability to move my school forward during my first two years as principal.  Not only was I being held back, but also so were my teachers and students.  When we know what we know we develop views and perspectives that we think are spot on.  It is only when we push ourselves outside of our knowledge comfort zones that we can truly be the catalysts for change that our schools, districts, and communities desperately need.

As many readers of my blog know, the big changes in my career came when I discovered the value of social media as a leader and learner.  It started with Twitter and eventually led to the use of virtually every major social media tool available with the sole goal of improving professional practice.  Becoming connected and developing my own Personal Learning Network (PLN) freed me from the purgatory that the traditional system of education had created.  Social media and the resulting PLN provided a doorway to endless learning opportunities that have forever changed my professional practice.  In my eyes this was the freedom that I desperately needed to no longer be a cog in a wheel.  I want everyone to experience this freedom.  It is a rush like no other.

I finally became the CEO of my own learning as I began to forge a path that in time helped me to become more effective.  It really clicked after I applied what I had learned to transform the culture of NMHS.  What is even better is that these initial changes have been sustained.  As much as the social media tools were important to this process, they pale in comparison to the ultimate driving force of a connected model of learning – PEOPLE!  Social media is a catalyst for conversation, plain and simple.  In itself, it will never be a transformative tool.  It is the people that engage in conversations, participate in learning communities, share resources, acquire knowledge, and reflect on their practice that ultimately become the agents of change education needs.

Our voice, ideas, and opinions have never been so important.  We can choose to stick our heads in the sand and remain isolated within our buildings or our localized school communities.  In my opinion, this is not a wise choice.  Together, we as educators, have the potential to easily, and seamlessly, connect with one another and to be the driving force for professional development and reform, but only if we are united.  Social media provides the medium for us to collectively empower each other to become better while learning side by side.  It allows us to showcase everything that is good in education while providing inspiration to change.  

The more people we have engaged and connected will dramatically enhance our ability to learn from each other, elicit feedback on our ideas/initiatives for change, and magnify our voice as to what our education systems really need to be effective.  During a recent Twitter conversation Tony Sinanis stated, "The perk of SM is that we seem to have access to the best of the best in education."  I couldn't agree more.  I am indebted to the many PEOPLE I have connected with through social media that have made me a better leader and learner. The power and value of social media lies in the PEOPLE that connect, converse, engage, and learn in these spaces.  Make it a point today to get someone connected to strengthen our learning community and transform theirs.


  1. Eric, Thank you for putting into words what I've experienced since I started using social media as part of my professional learning. I'm curious if you've written a post about changing roles and responsibilities in schools now that we have social media available as a great connector and catalyst. Further I'm wondering if you've written about pacing with regard to change. For example there are still times that teams of teachers spend hours creating a unit or initiative only to find out the work is outdated before it is published. I think we need to focus more on process than product in this regard, but I'm wondering what you think since you're in a leadership position while I'm a grade level teacher. Thanks again for your wonderful leadership and support for all educators at your school and throughout your PLN. I appreciate your time, effort and impact.

  2. Maureen,

    We discuss the merits and value of connecting through social media at NMHS. I have not really explored in writing the pacing issue that you described. However, your point is spot on. Educators need to realize that collaboration is the future if we are to not only improve, but also stay afloat with all of the reforms being thrown at us (good and bad). You know what they say, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink it. When one becomes connected on their own and see the value that is when it really sticks.

  3. Well put! As part of my PLN in the Google+ Community, I've part of a conversation discussing the merits of using social media as part of the teaching process i.e. having students tweet the answers to math problems, preparing students to understand the etiquette of social media and how to use it to guide their own learning. I'm looking forward to the day when their is a social media strand of instruction that runs through the grade levels teaching students how to use it wisely and integrate it into their personal. scholastic and professional lives.