Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Follows and Clicks: Putting a Number on Engagement

My students found my Twitter account. It's not like I was hiding it. I just didn't want to endorse some of the unhealthy behaviors social media can draw from the most innocent users.

"Wow! Check out how many followers he has."



My first thought was, "Yes, and I follow many people, too." Instead, I held back because the students seemed like they were having a productive conversation without my interference.

"Wait! Look at all of the retweets."

This time, I asked what was more important: How many followers? or How much engagement? It got me thinking about YouTube and ad sales and all kinds of decisions we make because of the chance to be accepted by lots of people.

The class discussion went into some current events and digital citizenship best practices, but I kept reminding the students about the importance of quality engagement over quantity of clicks and likes.

Here's what I came up with for reflecting on my social media journey and best practices.

1. Notifications are off on my phone. 

It became too much to resist, even when it was out of sight. At first, a quick peek seemed harmless, but it soon became a burgeoning distraction.

Now, I engage with others on social media and email when I set aside time to give them quality time. Even then, it's hard to connect deeply on every idea, mention, comment, or interesting article.

2. Connecting with people through conversation is more powerful than clicks.

This was the message I hoped my students would take away. I believe that they can be taught social norms embedded in reflections-type discussions like the one on social media described above. Perhaps they make it a goal to talk with a particular few people at a social engagement or about certain topics rather than bouncing around to catch everyone's ear – even for a fleeting moment.

3. Be yourself. 

Isn't that what this post is about? I want my students to be themselves in person and online. 

I've learned that people want to read about my experience using a learning tool – even if they already know how to use it – simply to gain another perspective. I'm the same way. We collect our tricks of the trade pieces at a time from practitioners, which is why so many educators love social media like Twitter.

4. Your Voice Matters!

Todd Nesloney (@techninjatodd) and George Couros (@gcouros), among others, talk about how important it is to tell your stories and to encourage our students to do the same. Maybe our stories are similar to other people's, and that's the beauty of sharing the story. It gives people a chance to relate to one another.

5. Show your work.

People want to see what others do. This could be lesson plans, a video for instruction, photos of student work samples, or a reflection video. Long or short, the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the things classroom walls block from view. The Internet and all of the tools we have can flatten those walls.

6. Be honest.

Why wouldn't we be, right? What I mean here is that it's okay to tell a story about time when things did not go so well. In fact, I read those stories to the end. Why? Because I want that person to win. I want to win. I want my students to win. And the inroad to success is honesty, always!

7. Use hashtags.

Grouping information and labeling it appropriately is one of those skills my students develop during their time with me. It helps organize and focus information for something as academic as a thesis statement or as recreational as an opinion a new movie #NoMoreSequels. 

8. Participate in Twitter Chats.

This is a great place to find people who are like you and others who challenge you. Either way, you are likely to grow from the variety of perspectives.

9. If you like it, share it!

A lot of content is free these days. I think we owe it to the creators and potential consumers to share good content. In fact, the more we share good content, te better the search engines become at giving good content priority.

10. Be friendly. 

You're never too important to respond to someone's comment or follow a fellow educator, musician, engineer, or whatever you are.

Why Twitter?

This post was spurred by a conversation about Twitter. It got me thinking about how Twitter allows users to share bits of information that guide people on their path. 

It being that time of year, I couldn't help but make the correlation to birds flying south for the winter in V formation. Scientists believe the formation shares updraft and therefore conserving energy during the long flight. 

If even in draft form, share with others if only for the chance that our journey may do more with the energy we conserve.