Find your digital space

CC image via flickr by Alan Levine
I’ve been sharing ideas on a blog since 2008. Right, I’m cool. But really, sharing information is a powerful thing. Sharing through digital spaces is not only efficient, economical and convenient, but it’s super powerful. It’s hard to comprehend, but I’ve shared something nearly every day since social networks developed and became readily available. What’s more, I’ve shared nearly everything in my teaching career via a blog, Twitter, or Google+. At this juncture, if you’re not sharing what you’re doing digitally, you’re missing out on some great ideas happening in education and within other contexts. And, quite frankly, you’re missing out on a plethora….yeah that’s right….a plethora of resources. As educators, we no longer have to work in isolation.

So here are some ideas and some ways to elevate your digital space.

Find a platform – Blogger vs Google Sites
This is probably the most mind numbing part of the process. You could be in a room of ten people and they would all recommend something different. My two cents, it depends on what you want to share, how frequently you want share, and your audience.

If you want to stick within your google apps for education ecosystem, then these platforms are one way to go. Also, if you plan on posting daily, or weekly, this is the platform for you. A blog is intended  for periodic information and a website is for static information that may change occasionally. Consider blogger to be your newsletter 2.0. GDHS principal, Mike Mastrullo, uses blogger to present updates and share information about what is happening at the school. Parents subscribe via email receive an email alert anytime Mr. Mastrullo posts something to his blog. Plus, parents can bookmark his blog site and have a single reference point rather than searching through emails.

Like blogger, Google Sites will also allow you to remain in the GAFE ecosystem. Plus, sites give you the opportunity to collaborate and share within your grade level teams or with your students. For example, our fourth grade team at Florence Roche elementary school is building one site, but each teacher has their own page that they can construct. Sites can remain private if necessary and teachers can only invite those they wish to the website. This is important to remember depending on your schools’ AUP and publishing rights forms.

Unlike Blogger, Google Sites serves as a collaborative digital space and a way to share and house static information. Blogger or a blog is meant to be updated periodically. For example, Florence Roche elementary principal, Liz Garden updates her blog every Monday morning. It includes a topical post along with information about what she is reading, events happening in her school, informal classroom observations, and resources that she’s found. This blog not only serves as a great resource for the Florence Roche school community, but a professional portfolio for Liz and her great work as principal.

Google sites also serves as a strong option for teacher and student digital portfolios. Here’s just one example of how a Groton-Dunstable Regional High School independent study student created with Sites. It’s also important to note that the final product was not a directive, but the student simply saw that the technology was available, and leveraged it to make her portfolio shine.

Develop your brand
After you select your platform, the next phase is creating is branding yourself and your digital space. Within the context of an educational digital space, it’s best to be consistent about what you share, the tone of your writing and the topics you cover. For example, it’s probably not the best idea to share information on the great things happening at your school one week and then follow up with a diatribe about how common core is destroying the youth of America. It’s best to stay on a steady path with a consistent theme or message.

Again, Liz Garden and Mike Mastrullo do a really good job of this by presenting a consistent tone in their writing, staying on topic with a theme, and organizing their posts and their blogs in a way that is appealing to the school community.

Share it

“If you make something and don’t share it, was it made?” – Mark Hatch, CEO Techshop

Digital spaces and platforms, in conjunction with social media, have allowed us to share our work to a greater audience. Educators, who once lived and worked in an isolated environment; within their district; within their schools; within their departments, now have the ability to not only share resources and information, but consume and integrate what others are sharing.

Like finding a platform for your digital space, finding a consistent place to share is also important. I share consistently to three social networks: Facebook, Google+, and Twitter. However, when you start, it’s best to stick with one and branch out as you progress down this path. I started with Twitter, found common hashtags, and eventually created a network of educators that I connected with via Twitter or, who I had met at a conference or workshop.

At Groton-Dunstable, we created our own hashtag – #gdrsdchat – and use it to connect our students, teachers, and greater school community. I would highly recommend this and encourage staff to start off working within your school’s common hashtag, before swimming out into deeper water. It’s a good, comfortable learning environment and take the idea of personal learning communities to a new level and space. We also posted a #gdrsdchat hashtag widget on the front page of our district’s website. This is another way of sharing information and resources about our school community.

A digital space is extremely important for an educator. It not only provides the user with a limitless place to organize and share his or her thoughts and information, but serves as a living archive. If you have suggestions, examples, or new ideas not mentioned in this post, please share in the comments below.