“We are longing for a community,” said a session participant at one of my Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) workshops. “Most of us have adopted Office 365 tools, but we don’t see ourselves in the numerous edcamps and workshops offered. Each of us is struggling to connect.” As instructional coach and author of The Art of Coaching, Elena Aguilar says, “With a powerful community I can do so much more. I am happier. I learn and expand and, possibly, I can transform.” The strategies below seek to answer the challenge of community building.
Five Strategies for Community Building
A few strategies that have worked include the following:
#1 – Connect
“Involve and connect with stakeholders,” I shared in a recent Skype call with USA MIE trainers. As I look at pictures from TCEA Area 1 and Area 8 participants attending the one-day MIE Teacher Academy, the connections with campus principals, regional service center staff, and library coordinators jump out at me. Some specific ways to connect include the following:
a) Amplify Their Voices
Each person has a story to tell. Here are three conversations that capture the heart of MIE events. I recorded them using the free Voxer app on my smartphone:
- Voxercast: Listen to Crystal Just, Instructional Technology Specialist in Navarro ISD, share her insights in a spur-of-the-moment conversation about helping principals embrace technology.
- Voxercast: Listen to Mireya Galvan, Coordinator of Library Services in Harlingen ISD, on using OneNote Class Notebook for Professional Development
- Voxercast: Listen to Cris Chonka, Campus Technology Specialist in San Marcos Consolidated ISD, sharing her insights. Both Cris and Joanne Priest, an Austin ISD high school teacher, had just attended TCEA’s Creative Coding through Games and Apps (CCGA) workshop in December, 2016.
In addition to amplifying the voices of session participants, crafting solutions to common challenges remains important. For example, the TCEA TechNotes blog entry, Top 10 OneNote FAQs responds to specific questions that participants have asked.
b) Create an Online Sharing Space
“I appreciate the info you post,” said a technology director on the TCEA MIE Facebook Group. Creating an online space with shared learning opportunities stimulates dialogue. This dialogue also provides just-in-time support. When a critical service stopped working, TCEA MIE Community members shared their insights and knowledge to resolve the problem. In another situation, after sharing Amplifying Creativity: Minecraft Fairytales, Javier Aguilar wrote, “Awesome!!”
#2 – Engage
“Excellence is possible without perfection,” I read one day. The quote captures the essence of my rough-hewn videos about Microsoft Classroom and OneNote Class Notebook. Videos can engage others in a wide variety of ways, making complex topics approachable. Another way to engage others is to curate content relevant to your community. For example, I rely on ReadItLater’s Pocket to capture content relevant to my community and then share it using IFTTT.com to Twitter and Facebook. Re-tweeting old content that is still helpful helps latecomers to the community or those who missed it the first go-around.
#3 – Model
“We have to be able to share resources with everyone, as well as only with those who are TCEA members.” Some people get access to workshop resources; others do not. Microsoft’s OneNote 2016 makes it easy to create notebooks with unlocked and locked sections. Locked sections require a password to open. Then the notebook can be published online with non-passworded and passworded sections.
To encourage the use of OneNote for these purposes, I proposed sharing TCEA’s session resources with Academy participants. These actions helped expand internal understanding of OneNote’s functionality, as well as garnered positive praise from participants. We have to “dream the possible” so others can see and experience it.
Some examples include TCEA Connect!, Campus Technology Specialist Academy, and TCEA Area 20’s Tech-a-palooza Conference. Now that OneNote Online has shown itself as usable in this way, new initiatives such as the Technology Leadership Summit: Security are relying on OneNote’s passworded section feature.
#4 – Partner
“When can we have a Minecraft: Education Edition workshop in our area?” asked TCEA board member David Luna. “We definitely want to have one!” As a Microsoft Training partner, TCEA worked to seek out professional learning opportunities to better be able to facilitate training for Minecraft: Education Edition and Creative Coding through Games and Apps (CCGA). Then, TCEA’s Microsoft Certified Trainers/Experts reached out to collaborate with regional education service centers and TCEA area directors. This outreach program enables both TCEA members and non-members to take advantage of these two new initiatives from Microsoft.
#5 – Learn
Set time aside to tap into the stream of ideas, insights, and information available via social media. TCEA has built online social communities via the TCEA.org website, but also reached out to non-members via Facebook, Voxer (a mobile technology that makes audio-based chats possible, rather than text-based a la Twitter), and others. National and global communities of MIE Trainers and Experts employ Group.me, Twitter chats like #OneNoteQ, #msftedu, and Facebook to problem solve and get fresh information. These connections have a positive effect on learning and professional development worldwide.
Consider examining the TCEA MIE Facebook Group (open to all Texas educators using Microsoft tools; now with 200+ members) and the TCEA Campus Technology Specialist Voxer group as two examples.
“He who learns from one who is learning, drinks from a flowing river.” Never before have we had such easy access to “people in our lives,” as Matthew Kelly points out, “who raise our standards, remind us of our essential purpose, and challenge us to become the best version of ourselves.” Join us at TCEA in helping you find your essential purpose and allow us to provide you with the assistance you need to become the best version of who you can be!