A problem can be the inspiration for innovation. When I started my career in education as a school librarian my problem was that I was an island unto myself. While the library was a wonderful place to work, I longed for a community with which I could share ideas and learn.
That was one of the problems that became the inspiration for the work I do now which was recognized by the Center for Digital Education who recently selected me as a Top 30 Technologists, Transformers and Trailblazers.
As the director of Digital Engagement and Professional Learning at the NYCDOE I was thrilled to be given permission by my forward-thinking supervisor Jane Pook to do the job of ensuring educators were engaged and connected. I accomplished this by creating digital communities across various platforms.
It was our Facebook community that really took off. We now have more than 2000 members, who are passionate about innovation and technology, connected, sharing ideas, and providing support to one another. In addition to teachers, the community has experts from companies that provide the platforms and programs we use, who serve as a powerful resource to directly support educators. District leadership has also been inspired to join the group. As a result our teachers have access to and support from decision makers. All this has resulted in a tremendous level of trust and a feeling that we are a team in this together to support our students.
Some districts fear social media, but ours embraces it. When an online community is run effectively (here are tips on how to do that) you can create a supportive tone and culture. Gone is the negativity sometimes associated with social media platforms. The teachers appreciate that they are no longer alone. In an instant they have a large network to provide support and guidance. The community also provides a wonderful platform not only for sharing upcoming learning opportunities but for teachers to connect with and know which of their colleagues are attending events.
Now teachers across the largest district in the nation find, connect, and support one another via a tool that many districts ban… Facebook!
As I shared in my interview with the Center for Digital Education, “In my career, I never have experienced so much excitement across a district.”
We did not need to make an investment in an expensive platform or secure funding for this work. Instead, our district was able to stop the typical fear and start to embrace free social tools educators are already using to communicate, connect, collaborate, celebrate, and better serve our students and families. It an honor and pleasure to bring our amazing, inspiring, and passionate educators together and watch the magic that happens when educators who, like me, were once an island unto themselves, are now empowered to come together as a community.