My network

I had one of those conversations yesterday that I won’t forget. But first, let me provide some context to this story. While I was teaching the help desk course last fall at Burlington High School, I had a student ask his Guidance Counselor if he could work on one of the iMac machines that had XCODE installed on it during 5th period every Thursday. I agreed and took on Gilad as an independent study.

Every Thursday Gilad quietly entered the help desk room and opened XCODE. Our interaction was limited, but over his shoulder I could see he was doing work far beyond my knowledge base. Gilad entered the same way every Thursday for four months. Around January, he asked me if we had a developer account with Apple. We did. I set him up with Bob Cunha (BPS Director of Technology) and Bob got him set up, his device registered and explained the process of app submission.

In a matter of a few months Gilad had taken time out of his study hall and developed a voice recording and submission application that will eventually be used by the BHS Guidance Department for setting up appointments with students.

A few months later, Gilad approached me during lunch and asked if I knew of any programming opportunities or internships for the summer. I said I would check back with him and started seeking out my network. I contacted two friends at Google in Cambridge first. Unfortunately they did not have anything at the time. Plus, most of their deadlines had already past. I continued to search until I remembered my brief consulting work I did with MobileAware in early 2012. I contacted my friend, and MobileAware CEO, Armin Gebauer to see if he had any openings for internships. He mentioned that they had just created an iOS development team. I connected Armin with Gilad and they eventually set up an interview. Gilad soon accepted the internship and has been working there for the past few weeks.

Yesterday, I decided to check in with Gilad to see how he was doing. Here is the transcript of our brief conversation:

And this is why yesterday was a good day for me. I was able to establish a connection for a student and help him find a learning environment that not only challenges him, but connects him with professionals who can mentor and inspire him. And that, I feel, is part of being a good teacher and connected educator.

I’m not writing this post to boast. I simply phoned up a connection and made a match. The piece of this that caused me to pause and reflect is how the connection was made. In many circles I hear the first step to being a connected educator is Twitter. It’s imperative that we, as educators, sign up for Twitter and dive head first into an oncoming wave. Respectfully, I have to disagree with this sentiment (which is a generalization for the most part). While Twitter has its merits, it will never match personal connections.

I connected with Armin by accident. I just happened to sit next to him and his wife one night out for dinner. Being two extroverts, Armin and I began discussing our work and it led to me getting hired as a consultant with MobileAware. When my tenure ended at MobileAware, I continued to connect with Armin. I connected with Gilad through his Guidance Counselor. And finally I connected Armin with Gilad.

I’m not trying to argue the merits of Twitter, but simply offer a different path for new teachers looking to test the waters of social media. There are days when I can’t quite grasp the credibility of Twitter voices: the blind re-tweeting, the pseudo celebrity aura, the echo chamber, the hierarchy, the “let’s change the etymology of the word cheating (and every other word in order to show what a progressive, disruptor I am” persona. It’s deafening. And quite frankly, if I were mentoring a new teacher, I’d tell them to hold off on Twitter.

Consider making personal, in person connections in lieu of Twitter. And, when you’re ready, embrace Twitter develop a way to filter your stream and vet your following for credibility. Spend a lot of time listening, processing, and actually reading what’s being shared. And finally, don’t get caught up in the noise. I encourage Twitter use amongst educators, but balk at the idea of it being necessary for all new and current teachers. It’s simply a tool. A tool that I’ve embraced criticized and used to share many of these posts.
Before we rush our new teachers or students into the world of Twitter, let’s take a moment to forge a personal, meaningful connection with them.  Establish credibility and take time to listen and engage. In doing so you may just help find that student or teacher find their passion.