Digging for Treasure Using Social Media and Educational Online Communities

Annie TeichIn the old days, if we wanted educator input into our product development or marketing processes, we had to meet them at shows and conferences or bring them to our offices for focus groups. Either of these avenues was expensive. Today we have a cost-effective 24/7 opportunity to monitor education issues and product evaluations by educators still in the classroom.

Unlike many educators who morph from the classroom to business, most of these teachers are still teaching and navigating the challenges of public education. Many of them are active on social media such as Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn and are considered “connected educators.” They read and write on each other’s blogs engaging in substantive conversations about pedagogy and technology and are in demand as presenters at industry conferences.

They also participate in online professional development opportunities such as edWeb.net1 where organization-sponsored field experts present webinars on issues and topics of interest to today’s educators across a range of topics and areas of study such as transitioning to the Common Core, game-based learning, or new brain research.

For a good place to begin exploring who these connected educators are and the research opportunities they provide education companies, I recommend reading, “On Being a Connected Entrepreneur” by Lisa Schmucki, edWeb.net founder and CEO. She highlights the collaboration opportunities between education companies and educators that are enabled by connected educators’ conversations on the web.

Tom Whitby, one of the original connected educators states:
The culture of connected educators was not designed. It developed and evolved with the advance of technology, and the evolution of social media. Digital literacy has been a requirement of the connected culture, but digital literacy has now also become a requirement for all educators.

Connected educators are everywhere online building their own professional learning networks. Although they know and use a lot of technology, these are not just technology geeks; they use technology to achieve instructional outcomes. These connected educators are at the forefront of change in their schools and districts tackling current issues with new ideas and methods and paving the way for other educators to become digitally literate.

So, how do you access this great brain trust of experience and leadership? First, you must participate in social media yourself. These are ongoing conversations that are driven by the most relevant issues. Our businesses support the needs of our audience – educators, schools, and districts. One way to begin is to just jump in by joining the social networks and exploring. All of them have search functions so that you can begin to identify the connected educators by following hash tags such as #edchat, #edreform, #edtech, #edcamp, #assessments, or #principals.

Here are a few more suggestions to get you started. The K-12 edition of EdTech magazine recently posted an honor roll of the top 50 edtech bloggers. Also you can find leading edtech bloggers on the websites of every education association and magazine publisher. Many of these educators are interesting in collaborating or partnering with education entrepreneurs. It is through these kinds of connections that the best education products will be developed – partnerships between educators and the education business community.

October is “Connected Educator Month.” It’s a great time to begin to engage with these educational leaders online. There are a host of special conversations, un-conferences, and events occurring this month that you can read about online.

The treasure is not that deeply buried. The “connection” map requires that you sign on, follow, engage, and invite connected educators into a conversation through social media and online professional communities. Your ability to keep your company on course in providing products that help achieve student success will be greatly enhanced by using social media to connect with educators.

1Full disclosure: edWeb is a strategic partner of MCH.