social networks


I was honored to sit down with Bob Greenberg while in New York recently to talk about my views on technology’s role in education. If you are not familiar with Bob’s work. He has been traveling around the world filming thought leaders on their views of education. His Brainwaves Channel on YouTube is worth a bookmark and some time browsing watching and thinking about where we are and we’re we need to head in education.

I am so very honored to be video #114 on the Brainwaves Channel.

Is there anything that hasn’t gone social? I spent four days in the Willamette Valley of Oregon visiting some wineries and checking in to all of them on FourSquare...because that’s what you do when you’re a geek.

What I wasn’t expecting was for the wineries to have specials on FourSquare. 10% of a purchase at one and at another they donated $1 to a reading program for every FourSquare check in.

Another winery I checked into started following me on FourSquare, found me on Twitter and then tweeted

Churches have Facebook pages

My hot dog guy that I go to before every Mariners game asked me to friend him on Facebook.

The more I look around and see everything going social the more I am trying to figure out if there is any industry left that hasn’t gone social?


Why? Why would a place that is all about community and relationships (words found in almost every mission statement) fight the very idea of creating them, fostering them and using them?

Why are so many schools scared to go social?

How many schools out there have verified their school on FourSquare and started using it with students?

How many schools out there have a Facebook page and actually use it to foster the relationships connected to it?


Google Plus?



We are quickly getting to a point where if you are not going to connect with people via social networks then you are not getting out information in a very efficient way.

Education needs to stop fighting the social connection revolution and start to find ways to use it to connect their community both within the school and with the larger community.

Chris Lehmann wrote a blog post a couple days ago about why ISTE still matters to him and I just wanted to follow up with a thank you to ISTE and the conference organizers for their continued effort in trying to make this the best conference experience they can. 

I for one have a new found respect for conference organizers as I’m sure Chris does as well after organizing our own conferences. Ever since I helped to start the Learning 2.0 in Asia I complain less about conferences. I know what it took to put together a conference for 400 and can’t image what it takes to put a conference together for 15,000ish people all of who expect to have all 2 or 3 of their devices online and working. Just thinking of the bandwidth, IP addresses, access points, and everything else needed to run the online portion of the conference blows my mind. So thank you ISTE for trying…I for one appreciate the effort. 

ISTE12I had a few ISTE newbies come up to me and ask my to recommend sessions and presenters to see or attend. They all had ‘bad experiences’ with going to sessions that looked good on paper but ended up being sale pitches for a product or just weren’t what they needed or wanted in the session. It is a good thing to remember to “vote with your feet” at a conference. If something isn’t meeting your needs walk out. I know that’s hard to do at ISTE when your #2 or #3 choice is probably full already but don’t waste your time sitting in a session that you’re not getting anything from. Go network, go reflect, go do some browsing.

(I wonder if we told students to vote with their feed how many would get up and walk out of classes that weren’t meeting their needs?)

ISTE is a hard conference for first timers. It’s big and overwhelming and you have to have a plan going in or you’ll get swallowed up in no time at all. 

I for one enjoy ISTE, a couple sessions I went to made me think and the conversations at the Blogger’s Cafe were good…but this year I found my most productive conversations were away from the conference over dinner and drinks reminding me how important and powerful the social setting is to a conference and to learning in general.

If you couldn’t go this year hopefully you’ll be able to make it next year….and hopefully next year I’ll get a chance to present. 🙂


Today at school I answered personal e-mail, updated my Facebook status, Tweeted, looked up flights for winter break, and even read articles that didn’t pertain to school.

Flickr ID: Señor Codo

And they say we’re becoming less productive at work.

What really is happening is the line between our work life and our social life is becoming blurred more and more every day.

It use to be easy to tell the two apart. The paper mill in my home town use to blow the whistle every morning at 6am and every evening at 4pm. We all told the time by the paper mill and for the workers it was a clear line between work life and social life.

For anyone working in the information or knowledge field, and anyone who has a cell phone and/or an Internet connection that whistle is meaning less and less.

And we all have our excuses but the truth of the matter is when we’re constantly connected we can constantly work and play. Sure I use some of my work time to do social things, yet I get home from work after 3pm and answer work e-mails, text faculty members about a computer problem, and work on lessons and things that need to be done. So it’s an even swap. I’ll use some of your time, you can use some of mine.

Of course teachers have always worked after school hours and if any profession deserves to take a little social time on the clock….it’s educators.

But educators are not alone, it’s a change we’re seeing in society. This hyper-connected, always-on, world we now live in is making it so our social life and work life are always intermixing. It’s your bosses ability to call you on the cell at 9pm to talk work, or the idea that you’ll read and answer e-mails via your BlackBerry after you leave the office. The employers are taking advantage of this hyper-connected world as well….why do you think they bought you a company cell phone? They still only pay you to work 8 hours a day.

So here’s the question:

If these two industrial worlds are collapsing to create a new singular world, what are we doing in schools to help students manage their time in this new world of constant access?

Many schools instead of breaking down the walls continue to build them up. You can’t be social while you’re “at work”. We don’t want you on Facebook, get off your phone, and don’t even think about texting in your hoodie!

Schools still believe, for students anyway, that when you’re at school it’s all about business and when you’re out of school then you can play. Yet we know this is not the world we now find ourselves in….and we know because we’re all in it!

I’m wrestling with this right now on just how much we should be blurring the lines for kids. When a student is give “free time” in class to finish an assignment is it OK if they decide to use that time to check Facebook, as long as they understand later that night we’re going to take their time to finish the assignment? After all “free time” implies that it’s my time right?

I find myself sitting here in Kota Kinabaul, Malaysisa reflecting on what has been a 5 country, I don’t know how many presentation, month. From Bahrain to Iowa with Asia and Australia in between, it’s been an amazing month of travel and I find myself thinking and reflecting on all I’ve been talking about and learning along the way.

So here’s my brain dump of themes that keep emerging for me:

The future is mobile

Whether in the heartland of America, or the deserts of the Middle East and Africa, moble phones are the future of connectivity. We’re also seeing this with Apple’s iPad and the ability to connect to a 3G connection. My guess….every mobile device in 3 years will have the built in ability to connect via a celluar network. We’re already doing this, but it will just become part of the hardware of every mobile device. What this will do to/for places like Africa and a large part of the developing word I can only imagine…….but it excites me.

Society expects us to be connected

I’ve been preaching this everywhere this month as it came out of the TED Talk I did back in September. i think we need to stop making excuses for all of us spending to much time connected and just realize this is now the world we live in. Once we own this fact then we can start having some deep discussions around how do we teach in this new society, how do we communicate, and how do we live in a world that is constantly connected? We continue to have conversations about being “balanced” and I agree that we need to find ways to get off the computer and get reconnected with nature. But balance in the term of 50/50 is not going to happen and it hasn’t been that way for a long time. TVs are in our homes, gaming systems have been around now for 30 years, and we all have a cell phone or soon will. We are now in a time where being connected is the norm and being disconnected is not. We need to make this shift in our thinking. We need to consiously think about disconnecting, taking trips with no connective devices, which goes again societies rules right now and that’s what makes it difficult. A goal of every family should be to take 1 trip a year with no connective device. The only screen that should be allowed is a GPS. Everything else stays at home. I’m not talking just about the kids I’m talking the whole family which is where parents start shaking their heads. They think kids should do this but not them…….and that is not setting the example we need. Disconnecting is good, it’s healthy, and we need to model that.

Standards are past their prime

Here comes the tomatos! This recent post by Clarence Fisher just drives home the point for me. Standards can’t keep up in a constantly changing landscape that no one can predict what the content is students will need in the future. When content is free and open we need to focus on skills, concepts and dispositions. Content based outcomes after 2nd grade are useless and continue to change faster than the curriculum review cycles of our schools. I don’t know how many times in the past 5 years I’ve heard “We’ll fix that in our next curriculum review cycle” meanwhile for 3, 4, or 5 years, depending on your review cycle, we’re teaching stuff we don’t believe in or know is not relavent to students in a digital, always on socieity.

Using my school as an example….I beleive the only outcomes we need for any lesson are these factors that my school has agreed upon:

Learning is the primary focus of our school and we recognize learning as a life-long adventure. We value meaningful learning where students construct enduring understanding by developing and applying knowledge, skills, and attitudes. Increased understanding is evidenced by students who:

– Explain its relevance

– Describe how it connects to or conflicts with prior learning

– Communicate it effectively to others

– Generalize and apply it effectively to new situations

– Reflect critically on their own and other’s learning

– Ask questions to extend learning

– Create meaningful solutions

If every lesson, everything we did with kids focused on this, we’d be much better off and we’d return true power of teaching back to teachers.

Socially Connected World

We live in a socailly connected word. Whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, or the next thing that comes along there is no turning back. As social-networks become part of our culture they are affecting the way we do bussiness (foursquare) the way we look for jobs and employees (92% of empolyers now use or plan to use social-networks) and how we communitcate with our friends and relatives. We know that learning is social, we know kids are going to need to understand how to get into college, or get a job being part of a social-network. So let’s start using them rather than continute to make excuses for not. FYI “We MIGHT get sued.” is an excuse.

Conferences Handouts are Changing

I use to use my own wiki for handouts. This year I haven’t had to use it once. Each conference I’ve gone to has had their own wiki, or site to put digital material one….well all except this admin conference I’m at now. But even I’m finding the wiki hard to keep up on, so I’ve moved to just creating a tag or using a tag I already have in Diigo and just giving that as the link to resources. For example, my talk on why we should be teaching students Facebook (read that as social-networking) in schools tomorrow is just using my Diigo tag of Facebook. Easy to update and I can update the list as the presentation is going on. I think this also shows a difference in my presentation style where I’m being much more convesation based and less giving of content. You can view the content when you want/have time. I only have you for 60 minutes and we need to have a discussion on why you aren’t doing these things, or what your fears are.

Social Media Community Manager

In many of the conversations I’ve been having someone also brings up “Who’s job is it to monitor all this stuff? I mean the schools Facebook Page, the Wikipedia entry, the Twitter account, the YouTube account, etc, etc.?

This a great question and my response is, and will be tomorrow to admin here in Asia, that we need a new position in our schools. We need Social Media Community Managers. A quick Google Search brought up some great job discriptions that any school could use to get started. I might write my own for schools when I get a change. This isn’t a new position in the business world, but is a new concept to education. I do think it’s time that we hire people or put someone in charge of managing our online school communities. Someone who has deep knowledge of social-networks and can get the most value out of them for schools.

Well…that’s what has been on my mind this last month…..feel better actually writing it down so I don’t forget. There might be more, but I can feel the jet lag settling in and I’ve gotta talk about Facebook and Twitter tomorrow with administartors……we’re gonna have some fun!

I’m sure you’ve heard by now the Principal in NJ that is asking parents to ban all Social-Networking sites from students. You can find his full e-mail to parents at the link or watch this interview below:

So basically I take two things away from this video:

1. Parents are the problem and need to be told by the school how to raise their children.
2. That because “2% of kids are going to say something” we want you to ban all social-networking sites.

That’s funny because I’m sure that:

2% of kids have bullied on the playground yet we’ve never banned recess.
2% of kids have bullied on the bus….yet we haven’t banned buses.
2% of kids have bullied at the bus stop….yet we haven’t banned bus stops.

Do I need to continue?

Then you have Steve Nelson, the chief IT strategist for the State of Oregon Department of Education, who just connected all 400,000 public school children in the state to Google Apps. Giving every student the power of Gchat, Gdocs, GCal and Gmail creating a state wide social-networking platform for all public school children in the state. Oh…right…and saved $1.5 million a year.

I have looked to find more coverage on this but no video by ABC and very little talk of this at all outside local Oregon sites and technology blogs. Why doesn’t Steve get a turn telling how he’s connecting kids for the betterment of education? Right…I forgot….there’s nothing to be scared of in that story.

And we wonder why parents are confused. This principal wants to ban students from connecting, and this state wants to connect them all together.

I love this new world that we are now living in and all this stuff we’re trying to figure out. I just wish both of these stories would get equal attention.

aaahhhhh……I sit here in the open air lounge of the Magellan Resort, a soft breeze is blowing off the ocean as I over look the pool below and out across the bay to three islands. It’s gonna be a wonderful sunset tonight. I’m telling you overseas conferences are really hard….I mean it. 🙂

I’m continuing to think about the Web and how we use it to connect. Maybe this is all for nothing…but I can’t stop thinking about it.

When it comes to building social networks or online communities I think it’s clear to understand what you are and who you are trying to build the site for and what you want them to do.

For example I helped to build the community site for the EARCOS Teacher’s Conference I am now at. I choose to use a wiki for a couple of reasons.

1. Not everyone here is tech savvy….the tool of least resistance.
2. The conference doesn’t need all of the features of say a Ning or full social network.
3. Less is more.

The wiki is meant to serve only one purpose really; to create an easy way for presenters to upload handouts, documents, and such to participants of their sessions. Before this year presenters would forward their handouts to EARCOS who dedicated a person to upload the documents to the conference website. The issue became of course that people would send multiple updates of their handouts creating work for someone else to manage those documents.

My work around….put presenters in control of their own handouts. Using a wiki was the easier way to do this. Create a page for each presenter, give them accounts that allow them to upload, and get out of the way.

So far the website is growing with over 120 members of 1100 conference goers joining the site before the conference even begins tomorrow. Not bad for something that is brand new to this conference.

Of course the wiki can do much more than just hold documents….it allows people to connect to each other…or is that connect to content?

In this case I believe the wiki serves the purpose to connect people to content. It is a network of users looking for, sharing, and using content created by others. Through this common content they will (hopefully) connect to people who have the same interests as them. Whether it be someone in the same session, or just someone they happen to meet within this community.

My hope: They came for the content and will find people to connect to.

That’s different than how some networks are created. Some networks are about the content and through that shared content you find people. Other social networks start with connecting people and through those connections you find content.

Of course there are no clear cut lines here and it’s all one big ball of grey.

It’s almost:

What came first the person or the content?

When you create a Personal Learning Network it’s about both. You follow content you are passionate about but also people you know or want to connect with.

When people start using Twitter they get stuck in not knowing who to follow…not what. Twitter is about people at its roots, not about the CNNs or the BKK News. You don’t follow “The President” you follow Barack Obama.

RSS Readers are different, they allow you to follow content. A Google News search for a current topic. A specific RSS feed for a sports team, or a blog with relevant information. Through these feeds we get to know people, what they are like, their voice online, and over time we consider them friends as if we know them.

When I started my RSS reader I followed David Warlick, Will Richardson, Clarence Fisher, Dean Shareski, Tim Lauer, and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach not because I knew who they were but because I liked their content and what they had to say….over time they have become friends, people I know and now, I follow them because of who they are.

When we are creating social networks I think it’s worth taking some time to reflect on what you hope to do with it. Classroom 2.0 is about connecting people. The content there is great, but it’s the connecting of people that makes that social network so powerful.

In the end I agree with Christopher….maybe I’m over thinking this and really what it’s about is learning to filter information, whether that is a person or content. The skill of understanding how data flows on the Internet and how you can make it work for you is a powerful tool.

Example: I created the Twitter hash tag #ETC09 for the conference I’m at. I then went into Tweetdeck and started a new search for #ETC09. Now I have the latest tweets just for this conference. I did the same for #gr8t as a way to mind the data of that network as well. Those are two of my columns in my tweetdeck…all the rest are based on people.

How do you connect: People first or Content first?