Using Tech to Collaborate, Communicate and Innovate

Recently, I have had the honor of writing the “Tech Talk” article for the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration’s (CCOSA) publication, Better Schools.  I thought it was only fitting to post an adapted version to my blog. (Especially since posts have been sparse the last few months.) If you have resources of the technological kind, apps that are awesome for collaboration, advice for a principal in rural Oklahoma who desires to learn from others or took something from this blog that will help you connect, please leave me a comment. Or two. Or three. And, as always, thank you in advance for reading!  

I read a blog post this weekend by George Couros (@gcouros) titled, “It’s Possible.” In the post, Mr. Couros talks about believing in our abilities, even when we think something is “impossible”.  Couros (2015) goes on to state the following:

             I was reminded of this speech when I was talking to others on Twitter about some of the constraints in our systems that hold us back.  Sometimes we blame politicians, administrators, teachers or the “system” on why change isn’t happening. But when we look at other schools, classrooms, or large systems that are doing amazing things, it is easy to realize that those same “barriers” are things they are dealing with and breaking through.

So, when we see other leaders, teachers, or schools making great strides and being innovative under the same circumstances we face in our own situations, we KNOW it’s possible.  As leaders, we should seek out the opportunity to connect with others, with the mission of making our “impossibles” possible.  

Enter technology.  Enter Twitter.  Enter You Tube, WordPress, Periscope and Voxer.  This is a small sample of the apps and resources available to all of us for the taking.  There are countless ways to connect and share, but they only work if we “work” them.  Bill Cordes (@billcordes), an energetic and motivating speaker, has coined the term, “YOGOWYPI”, which stands for the phrase, “You Only Get Out What You Put In.”  Using tech like Twitter, or WordPress, or Voxer is much more beneficial to us when we engage in the conversation.  

Engage, you say?  You might be asking, “Can’t I just research what other schools or leaders are doing, and incorporate the idea at my school or in my leadership?”  Sure you can.  But, you could also tweet the author of the idea with a question, or respond to a blog post for clarification or talk about the idea, along with it’s pros and cons, with the author on Voxer.  Don’t get me wrong, seeking out innovative ideas is GREAT!  But engaging in the conversation about those ideas, putting them into practice, sharing what worked and what didn’t, sharing the growth that resulted, and celebrating success….those are what AWESOME, innovative leaders do with technology.  

As technology, and the resources created by it, continue to evolve at a rapid pace, we find ourselves at different stages of adapation. Maybe you’re already well on your way and reaping the benefits of connecting with others. Perhaps you’re a bit apprehensive about where to get started. It’s possible that you still believe that for you, all of this “tech stuff” is still “impossible”.

Here are a few ideas no matter where you are in your journey to become more connected:

Twitter:  In addition to all of the FREE resources that are shared on Twitter every second, chats are a great avenue for collaboration.  Chats like #OKLAED (Sundays at 8:00 PM), #satchat (Saturdays at 6:30 AM CST) #satchatwc (Saturdays at 9:30 AM CST), #EDBeat (Wednesdays at 7:00 PM) and #principallife (Wednesdays at 8:00 PM) are good places to start.  You can start by “lurking” or reading the conversation that is happening during the chat.  Or you can jump right in, introduce yourself and start engaging in the conversation.  You can also check out cybraryman.com for the Official Twitter Educational Chat Schedule.  AND are you looking to collaborate with members of your own school or district?  Create a school or district hashtag so all members of the school community (leaders, board members, teachers, parents, students, community members) can connect, collaborate, and celebrate together.  Check out these school hashtags for some inspiration:  #cpsreds, #middelmomentum, #SuccessTPS, or my school’s is #vpsindians.  
Voxer:  Being that I’m a fairly new Voxer user, I’ll briefly explain this FREE app.  Voxer functions very similar to a walkie-talkie.  You can search for users to add to your contacts or you can add people who are already contacts on your phone.  With the press of a button, you’re talking, sharing, questioning, and collaborating with the person or people on the receiving end.  I use Voxer as another way to communicate with teachers both individually and as a whole.  I’ve recently joined some Voxer groups with principals from all over the country, and the members of these groups are greatly influencing my leadership.  
#Edcamps:  Edcamps are also FREE, and are terriffic for connecting and sharing innovation in our schools.  We have so many leaders, teachers, and schools who are doing amazing things regarding makerspaces, genius hour, Google Apps and a host of other innovative subjects.  They are experiencing success, and ultimately enabling kids to be creative, innovative learners.  They have achieved the impossible, so we know it’s POSSIBLE. #Edcamps are organized in such a way that discussion is promoted, and the rule of 2 feet states, “If you are neither contributing nor learning use your two feet to take you where you can.”  

Since I’ve been inspired by George Couros to be more engaged in my school, with my students, and with my collegues, I will close with his quote:  “When we see “sharing” as something that both supports and pushes us to be better, the big winner will always be our students.”  

For us and for our students, anything is POSSIBLE.  

Refrences:

Couros, George. ‘It’s Possible’. The Principal of Change 2015. Web. 1 Nov. 2015.

Cordes, Bill. ‘Billcordes.Com | The YOGOWYPI Guy’. Billcordes.com. N.p., 2015. Web. 1 Nov. 2015.

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