I love hearing about people discovering the power of social networks and connectedness.
Back in October I ran across this letter from Brent Powell at The Derryfield School in NH. It was part of his update to their community in their weekly email newsletter. I found it to be a perfect example of what I described above.
With his permission, I’m reposting it here.
Over the summer, four moments came together in a way that led me to sign up for a free Twitter account and start “tweeting.” Admittedly, I was a reluctant convert, because, like many of us, I am not looking to spend more time online.
The first two moments were conversations I had with leaders in the field of education – one an independent school head, the other a program director for an educational-technology non-profit based in New York City. Having heard about Twitter for a few years, these were the only extended conversations I had had about its power and usefulness. The third moment was when I noticed – through my own tentative exploration of Twitter through Google – that our librarian Betty Jipson’s adage of, “it’s not about finding information, it’s about finding the best information,” could play out powerfully through Twitter. And the fourth was when Annie Branch, our Director of Communications, suggested to me that instead of posting articles which might be of interest to our Derryfield parents on our website, we tweet them.
For those of you who have not yet had that extended conversation about Twitter, I urge you to seek someone out who currently uses it, and ask them to explain who they follow and why. They might also be able to explain parts of Twitter I have not yet delved into – hash tags and trends, for instance. As with much of the technological world, I am using just a small part of Twitter, following people and institutions of interest and linking people to information I feel is valuable and thought provoking.
Once I understood that I could easily follow columnists, non-profits, writers, blogs, and institutions that produced work and ideas that I care about, I realized how Twitter was “doing the work for me,” in the sense of filtering out information overload. I was now discovering posts, links, and articles that I never knew existed but that are quite relevant and helpful to me as Head of Upper School.
Through Twitter I have discovered and now follow, among others:
- The New York Times Learning Network
- A blog by Grant Litchman, who is on a six-month tour of innovative independent schools
- Common Sense Media
- The Earth Institute out of Columbia University
- Multiple feeds on the use of technology in education and teaching excellence
To follow the above, I have created my own Twitter account @DSThink, through which I also post articles and links on education, parenting, technology, and the environment. These posts, I hope, are useful and interesting to our Derryfield parents and faculty. This is the “social” part of it – building a network of information that cuts through the clutter and shares what is relevant with others. Some of my tweets so far have been links to articles about:
- Parental thinking about a new school year
- Educational excellence and innovation
- Digital citizenship
- Online learning in independent schools
- Ecological literacy
- Our powerful need for nature
One aspect of Twitter I like and need is that as a user I am under no obligation to keep up with, or reply to, those I follow. This was one of the many important things I learned in those summer conversations. I can read, link, and follow – or not – with no sense of guilt. Unlike emails that expect a reply, or the unread books and magazines some of us might have, following on Twitter is free, both in obligation and financially. To me, this is part of its uniqueness and power. Within my own teaching, I plan to set up a Twitter feed in which I post for my students recommended articles and links to supplement the topics we cover in my environmental studies class. For the most motivated students, these articles will provide excellent background and enrichment to what we are studying.
So, I urge you to give it a try. You can link to my tweets though our website, check them out, and if intrigued, sign up to follow. Stepping into a new technology like this can be a bit daunting, but Twitter, I have found, is amazingly simple to use and yet incredibly powerful; perhaps this is why it has hundreds of millions of users worldwide.
Head of Upper School