Friday, February 12, 2016

Building Community Through Twitter Chats

Our school district has grown from about 10,000 to nearly19,000 since I first joined the team and despite this rapid growth, I feel a greater sense of community than I have ever felt. I think this is in part, because of the amazing leadership that has in recent years developed a shared vision for excellence. There have been growing pains and people have left but we are upping our game with higher expectations for educational quality. The curriculum and instruction department which previously felt a bit disjointed has really gelled as a cohesive and collaborative team; an amazing feat given that we have grown so much! For the first time, I feel a real sense of unity between content area specialists, Instructional Coaches, CTE. ESL and Special Education departments. This unity is great for our students.

In November, the Digital Learning Department, under the leadership of @jamielocklin, started a Twitter chat with the intention of bringing district educators together to share ideas, solutions, resources, pedagogy and other good news. We knew there were district people on Twitter but everybody was kind of flying solo. There was no mechanism in place to connect us in the vast universe that is Twitter. Our first Twitter chat was pretty well attended but it was mostly those of us in direct contact with each other in the curriculum and instruction department. The next chat was pretty abysmal with only half as many participants. The first chat of the new year was great with twice the number of participants. The word spread and campuses started to get involved. The next 3 chats showed an increasing numbers of people joining with the February 11th chat nearly doubling compared to the November. The Digital Learning Team fanned the fire by creating a giant Twitter sticker badge that was awarded to frequent participants. This has really helped promote the chat and drive more people to the conversation. This past week was another success with the chat being hosted by @AlejandroGongo1 and our bilingual department. In addition to the usually participants we had quite a few new district teachers join us as well as several people from other districts! We hope to build momentum to promote a culture of professional learners and a community that shares a common vision of excellence in education.

Our twitter chats don't solve the problems of the educational world but after a chat I feel so connected to my team. I am energized and proud to be a part of this community and I think everyone else that participates feels that too.

We have a lot of work to do in our district and we have some high expectations. The only way to get where we want to go is as a cohesive team and I feel that tools like Twitter chats are helping us come together as a community of learners.

A special shout out to @jimknight99 who spent 3 days this week with our instructional coaches, content coordinators, directors and principals. He helped us develop our understanding of "coaching done well" and how to communicate effectively to meet the needs of those we serve.