Monday, August 30, 2010

The 6 Step Plan to Using Your 21st Century Voice to Make a Difference

When I speak with innovative educators about preparing students for the 21st century, some work in schools where they are off and running, but more often than I’d like, I’m met with frustration. It’s as though believing that school should look more like the world in which we live instead of a place students go to power down and disconnect is a futuristic notion.

These educators (and their students) are frustrated reaching out with Tweets like this:

I really really really don't understand banning all social networking between teachers/school staff and students.

and emails like this.

Email: Unfortunately, I will not be using cell phones with my students because: 1. My district bans them and 2. my 4th grade students don't have them. I would love to have access to cell phones especially for things like PollEverywhere, but at this point it isn't going to happen.

Banning everything in school that students need to succeed outside of school is no longer okay. We are not preparing students for the world that existed back when Rip Van Winkle first took his slumber. As innovative educators we need to join, start, and keep the conversation (about how school should be) going. If you’re reading this blog, you’re already there, or on your way, but how can you help others take the steps necessary to start the movement to prepare this digital generation of connected and interactive learner wanna be’s trapped in the past behind school walls?

While there are some educators in leadership roles and policy makers who are thinking outside the ban we need more to become active participants in our student’s digital worlds. When I presented at a superintendents conference about preparing digital learners they admitted they are not adequately prepared to make decisions about today’s digital learners and they were not participants in the Web 2.0 world in which many of our students live (or want to live).

The good news is innovative educators are participants in the Web 2.0 world. Because you are, you have a stronger and louder voice then many of the policy makers and educational leaders making decisions for schools today. If you want to see a change, just start (or continue) using your voice and help others to do the same.

This matters because whether they know it or not. Whether they try to silence you or not, educational leaders, policy makers, other educators, and parents need you to speak up and share your voice and your work. They need you to guide them.

If you’re reading this, you’re already ahead of the game. Whether you realize it or not you are the key to getting the message out, breaking down the walls, lifting the bans and making a change. Just put one foot in front of the other and follow this simple six step plan.

The 6 step plan for using your web 2.0 voice to make a difference.

Join (Week 1)
Start with the biggies. Join each of the following. It only takes a minute and it’s easy. Here’s where you can begin.
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Classroom 2.0
  • Blogs you like
Lurk (Week 2, 3, 4)
What are people doing? Find out. Here’s how.
  • Take a look around.
  • Watch.
  • Learn.
Converse (Week 5+)
You’ve had a chance to see how things go and get used to the norms, protocols, and procedures. You’re ready to say something. Here are some ways to get started.
  • Reply on Twitter. Retweet. Participate in a chat i.e. #edchat
  • Comment on or like a status update on Facebook
  • Participate in a Classroom 2.0 discussion
  • Comment on a blog
Initiate (sometime within the first six - twelve months)
You’ve joined, looked around, and conversed. It’s time for you to get something started. Here are some ways to do that.
  • Tweet
  • Update your status
  • Start a discussion
  • Contribute a guest post to a blog
Launch (If you feel ready)
You may be ready to get things started on your own. If you’ve engaged in all the previous steps, congrats! You have joined the conversation. If you are ready to do even more you may want to launch your own Web 2.0 presence in one of these outlets.
  • A blog
  • A learning network
  • A Twitter chat
  • A Facebook Fan Page
  • A movement
Share / Publish / Establish Your Digital Footprint (for the rest of your life)
If you’ve engaged in most of the previous steps, you’re well on your way to establishing a digital footprint that shares your message and tells the world what you stand for. Now you just need to ensure the following are in place.
  • You know what you stand for.
  • You have a clear message to deliver.
  • You find those who might want to hear it.
Once you begin following this plan, ask yourself each day, am I getting the world out? Am I a part of the conversation? Am I changing minds and policy? If you follow this plan, the answer, will be: “YES you are!”


  1. Perfect!
    This concise reference list is an excellent guide when following the PLN (Professional Learning Network) path.
    Life is much easier when taken one step at a time along a well marked path.
    I always find valuable nuggets of insight in your blog.
    Thank you.

  2. These are great suggestions but their success is contingent of one very important condition related to the often overlooked topic of school culture and leadership that either sustain or undermine it. I am talking about LEARNING culture where all adults (and students of course) constantly strive to improve their practice in order to meet the needs of all constituents. Show me a leader who preaches AND practices learning and I'll show you an innovative, information rich and effective school where the steps you describe are not suggestions but unconditional expectations.

  3. Great reflection questions at the end of this post. Am I part of the conversation? Am I changing minds and policies. Bookmarking this page on my diigo PLN list.