Social Media: Inspiration, Collaboration & Contribution

I was talking with a friend the other day who doesn’t use any type of social media. She doesn’t blog, tweet, Facebook or use Pinterest. I asked her why and her comment was, “all of those things are just a way for people to say “look at me, look how great I am” and it’s all just way too narcissistic.” Wow. I had never thought about it this way. This conversation really got me thinking about why I blog, tweet, post status updates and pictures on Facebook and fill up my boards on Pinterest. It comes down to 3 reasons: Inspiration, Collaboration and Contribution.

I am so inspired from reading about other people’s experiences. Tweeting at @iseetrails, I am connected to my trail running community. Reading their tweets about personal bests, challenges, and seeing the workouts they post motivates me. Waking up at 4:45 and reading tweets about people heading out for their morning run helps me put on the running shoes instead of going back to bed. I don’t consider that they are bragging about running 10 miles before 5am, but rather they are sharing a piece of them with me – helping me see what’s possible in myself. Tweeting at @bluskyz, I am connected to my teaching community. Reading these tweets every morning always gives me something to think about, a new idea to try or a great resource to check out. I don’t see a picture of an amazing class creating ramps and pulleys as their teacher saying, “look how great I am”, but rather as inspiration to find out where to get those pulleys so my kids can have an awesome experience, too. I recently was interviewed for a running blog and loved sharing my thoughts on running. I hope to contribute to the running community and perhaps inspire others – just like many of my running friends inspire me. The education blogs I read weekly inspire me with thoughts about my math teaching, reviews and thoughts on books and stories from the classroom. I blog here to share my thoughts, to reflect on my teaching and perhaps inspire others as well.

Teaching is social, just like learning is. At least for me. I need to talk about what I’m doing, get ideas from others and have a place to go when I am staring at a blank planning sheet wondering what I’m going to do next week. Collaboration is a critical piece in a profession that can be somewhat isolated. In my 20 years of teaching, I’ve had times where I’ve just felt lost. Whether it’s thinking about how to reach that reader who is struggling, or how to create a meaningful learning experience around squirrels, or how to push our talk in small group math instruction or what good book to read next – I’ve needed others to help me make sure my teaching is the best it can be.  In addition to the wonderful colleagues I work with and talk with, Blogs, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest do that for me. I feel like I have a global network of educators who push my thinking, challenge me, share wonderful ideas and help me when I am stuck. And I want to help others as well. I don’t want to always be the one taking ideas and suggestions – I want to give that back. I know how grateful I’ve been when I’ve read that “just-right” blog post that helps me have an “a-ha” moment over a struggling mathematician, or how excited I get when I see an idea on Pinterest that I can use or adapt and change to make it perfect for my students.

I don’t blog, tweet or pin for people to say “wow, look at her”. That’s the LAST thing I want people to say. It’s really all about contribution. I want to contribute to teachers, parents, students – and to the world. I want to make a difference and help someone get “unstuck”, just like so many others have helped me. I want to push people’s thinking, just like so many others push my thinking. I want to give back to the community of educators, just like so many have given to me. It’s through all of these contributions that I am the teacher I am today. My class has a kindergarten cheer we do (taken from a mix of ideas I’ve seen other teachers do – our movement comes from an adaptation of a handshake our dance teacher used to do – and our saying from a comment I read on a classroom wall years ago). We say “together, we can do ANYTHING!” It inspires us, encourages collaboration and helps us see that we all have something to contribute. Teachers need each other more now than perhaps any other time. How lucky we are to have so many places to pull from when we need something – and to contribute, when we have something to share. And together – we CAN do anything.

How do you use social media to inspire, collaborate or contribute to your teaching life?

What social media do you find helps you most in your teaching and learning?

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11 thoughts on “Social Media: Inspiration, Collaboration & Contribution

  1. Thank you for this post. I agree with what you say here. I learn so much from reading others’ blog posts, tweets, etc and I too want to participate to give back to others what I’ve learned from them by being involved in various social media sites. I always think about a blog post from Seth Godin where he encourages his readers to not just consume social media but to produce it as well. That is why I blog, tweet, and comment on various social media sites. It is about communicating, creating, and being inspired/inspiring.

    • Thanks Elisa, I love your connection with being consumers and producers. That’s the approach I take with how I use social media as a teaching tool, and it’s how I use it as a teacher too. Would love the link to that post.

  2. Katie,

    I love this post. I, too, want to share and learn with other teachers. I will admit that I often feel worried about how I word my tweets, blog posts, etc. because I don’t want them to “be all about me”. I know that some of this is due my introverted personality which can make it difficult for me to put myself out there. I understand that this is my “issue” but I think many others share it. For example, yesterday I was very excited about my students sharing their mathematical thinking using the ShowMe app on the iPad. I ended up tweeting out links to their work twice. Later, I began to worry that two tweets was too many and that I had crossed the line from sharing to boasting or something. I think that in general I tend to “under share” because I want to avoid sounding narcissistic. I think posts like this one that point out this type of thinking help. We all need to feel comfortable sharing and learning from one another with feeling competitive or narcissistic. Learning is social and we need to share more not less. I will continue to work on this. Thanks for the thought provoking post.

  3. in a way, i agree with your friend. i don’t facebook, barely tweet, and won’t pinterest. but i am a die-hard blog reader because i find those conversations to be extremely valuable. blogs are full of ideas and reflection, the two things my teacher-self is constantly hungry for.

  4. Thank you for this! I totally agree. I feel more connected to my classroom, my students, other teachers, my family, my high school friends, my knitting, my cooking. Everything I hold dear because I can learn more and connect more through this medium.

  5. I see both sides. I agree strongly that blogging is so critically important to developing and nurturing a professional community of teachers and learners. Having said that, there are those who do utilize social media for their own personal advantage (yup, I’m guilty as charged). I’ve read stuff about the “facebook” side of life which appears perfect and wonderful in every way. For various reasons, I don’t write about my own kids on facebook, but many others are constantly writing about the Nobel prize their kids won, or the Olympic medal, or any number of accolades. But, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t participate at all, but try to participate online in the best way that we can, growing and learning and helping others to do so, as well.

  6. I completely agree with you Katie! It’s funny because when I try to share with my colleagues about this awesome world of blogging, tweeting and pinning, I feel excited, yet uncomfortable because they know little-to-nothing about it! I feel no shame in sharing online and I love learning new ideas from others! You summed it up perfectly: It’s about inspiration, collaboration, and contribution.

    Thank you for your inspiration and contribution today!

  7. Fantastic! Without Social Media, I would never have met the fantastic @bluzkyz in person, along with other amazing #kinderchat family. You are spot-on. “Inspiration, collaboration, contribution”.

  8. This is a great post Katie and I thank you for writing it. You’ve hit the nail on so many important points about why we as educators share our learning with others. It is because of the learning that i’ve done with others that I’m a much better teacher today. I can’t even imagine going back to doing it all on my own when I know there is this incredible resource of like minded individuals out in the cyber world wanting and willing to share with me. I do my share to give back, and to help solidify in my head why I do what I do.

  9. Thanks for this thoughtful post. I wholeheartedly agree that inspiration, collaboration & contribution are the main motivators for my involvement in social media. Through Twitter communities like #kinderchat and PLN discussion on LinkedIn, I have been inspired to explore new tech tools, examine ideas from new perspectives, and to start my own blog. By engaging in ongoing discussions through social media, I have had the exciting opportunity to network and collaborate with educators and colleagues from across the globe in various professional fields and then I have had the chance to contribute my own resources and ideas to those discussions. This unique, dynamic, ongoing exchange of knowledge and resources, of teaching and learning, is why I use social media and why whenever I check my Twitter feeds, I end up with 5-10 new tabs full of posts to read, tools to learn, and ideas to explore! Thanks for contributing your own thoughts through social media and reminding us that stereotypes about social media use (e.g., it’s all about simple self-promotion or self-centered, personal updates) are still prominent and important to reflect on/disrupt.

  10. Absolutely! I would also add the components of reflection and connection. For me, especially blogging, is a chance for me to reflect. Facebook posts may to share some information or as a way for us to be connected to those who live on the other side of the planet. I am very new to Twitter and thus far my tweets have all been a contribution to my PLN. We’ll see if that evolves as I continue. Thanks for furthering the conversation.

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