Thursday, January 26, 2012

Twitter Questions and Tips

I'm prepping for a workshop on Twitter for Professional Learning that I will be facilitating at the TCEA 2012 convention in a couple of weeks. Today, as I was discussing my agenda with a colleague, she offered up a suggestion for something I should include. It was an awesome suggestion, and it made me realize that there are probably a lot more suggestions out there in my PLN! So, here I am, asking you for input on what important info you think I should include.

The workshop is aimed at folks who are brand new to Twitter. With that in mind, here are my questions for you:

  1. If you are new to Twitter, or can remember when you were, what questions do/did you have about how the Twitterverse works? Anything you are/were confused about?
  2. If you've been using Twitter for a while, what are the top one or two pieces of advice you would give to someone who is just starting out? Links to your favorite resources would also be wonderful!
If you'll take a couple of minutes to answer one or both of these questions, I'd really appreciate it. As I have time while prepping for my presentation, I'll also try to answer any questions left here. I hope commenters will feel free to answer each other's questions or expand on each other's ideas as well. Your participation will serve as a great example of how my Twitter PLN benefits my learning and the learning I pass on to others.

Thank you in advance!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Keeping in Touch and Touching Lives

Last Saturday, I received one of those phone calls no one ever wants to receive. On the other end of the connection was the husband of a dear friend of mine, calling to tell me that my friend's parents had just died in a car accident.

The accident happened four hours away from where I live, and due to other circumstances, my friend was already there when the accident took place. I couldn't be with her right away, and although I knew she was surrounded by family, friends, and church members who were taking care of her and her family's immediate needs, I wanted to connect with her. To tell her I loved her and was praying for her and find out what I could do.

Having been through the loss of my own parents (with this dear friend by my side), I was aware she would be inundated with phone calls and messages and would quickly hit a point where she was too exhausted to respond to them all. So even though I didn't expect an immediate response, I texted. I left voice mail. And I left a note on Facebook. I reached out through the digital pathways that have been built in our lives in recent years.

But it wasn't until I finally heard her voice on the phone a couple of days after the accident that I felt like we had really connected. Prior to that I knew she was safe and cared for, but it wasn't until I heard her voice that I really knew. And even the two phone conversations we were able to have during this awful week paled in comparison to the hug we were finally able to share yesterday. In this time of sorrow and loss, nothing could take the place of being with my friend.

Keeping in Touch

As much as I enjoy using social media - Facebook, Twitter, and this blog - both personally and professionally, I have long recognized that there is a level of interpersonal involvement which these pathways can never reach. This current experience with my friend has confirmed this for me once again and inspired me to encourage you to make sure you are investing in face-to-face relationships in your life.

If you're reading this blog, then you are involved in social media on some level. And you probably know there is great value in social media; I know I've grown tremendously as a professional in the last two years through the resources and contacts I've made via Twitter and I keep up on the events happening in my friends' lives through Facebook. But I hope we can all remember that if we become so involved in these avenues for connecting with others that we begin to neglect the flesh-and-blood, face-to-face relationships in our lives, we risk missing opportunities to build intimate relationships with people that can only grow through investments of time and in-person interactions.

When you think of the people whom you would want around you in a life crisis, or the people whose life crisis you would rush into at almost any cost, I am willing to bet that they are much more than a Twitter handle or never-met-in-real-life online friend to you. As you move forward in 2012, I encourage you to spend as much, if not more, time investing in in-person relationships as you do in your online relationships. Often, we are involved with our closest friends and family online as well as off; in these cases we must not make the mistake of thinking our online interactions take the place of or make up for a lack of in-person involvement. Be intentional this year in investing face-to-face time to strengthen existing relationships and build up new ones.

Touching Lives

A piece of encouragement for the educators who read this blog. Never, ever, ever, doubt your impact on the students entrusted to you each year and the colleagues with whom you serve. My dear friend's parents were both life-long educators. Her father a just retired teacher and school librarian of 40 years, and her mother a still-working elementary school teacher of over 30 years. Two friends and I arrived at the funeral thirty minutes early and could not find a seat. The funeral home was filled with family members and current and former students and colleagues who had been impacted by these two people who had invested in them. Their Facebook pages are covered with comments from former students who fondly remember books recommended, conversations had, and lessons learned.

Throughout this week, I have thought numerous times, "I hope they knew. I hope they knew the impact they had on their schools and their community." Sadly, I bet they didn't. I am convinced we should somehow come up with a way to have funerals for the living. It should not take death and grief and loss to make us realize how important others are to us and to share that importance with them.

One of the things I admired most about my friend's mom was her willingness to keep becoming a better educator and do what was best for her students throughout her career. Knowing I was in instructional technology, she could hardly wait to tell me that she had gotten an interactive whiteboard in her classroom a couple of years ago. Rarely did I ever see her when we didn't talk about something she was doing with her kids or how much she loved using and getting them to use that whiteboard. I wish now I had told her how much I admired her and how much she encouraged me. I have often thought of her, and will continue to do so, when I am working with anyone who is resistent to new technology.

Do you take time to tell people what they really mean to you? To let them know when they have done one special thing or when they've done numerous things over time to impact your life? As a second goal in 2012, I encourage you to be intentional in letting others know their value to you.

Now, go hug or call someone you love.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Achieving Goals in the New Year

Happy New Year!

While I was scanning a few "Top 10" lists that are all over the place this time of year, the famous Darth Vader Volkswagen ad from last year's Super Bowl came up on my screen. Even after watching it multiple times, this video still makes me smile!

It struck me as I watched it that it's a good metaphor for the start of a new year. It's important no matter where we are in our lives or careers to keep growing and take steps toward achieving our goals.

So, whether you and I are working toward large goals in the coming year or simply setting small goals and working toward them in short bursts, we can take some pointers from young Darth below:

  • Keep focused on what you want to achieve and consistently work toward it.
  • Acknowledge when you're frustrated, but don't get stuck at frustration - get back at it and  keep trying.
  • Remember when you reach your goal, look around at those who are close to you and/or celebrating with you. They were probably supporting you more than you realize!