This post is really hard for me to write. Painfully hard. It’s a post that I’ve been thinking about for weeks now, but after a conversation with my teaching partner, Paula, the other day, I decided that it was time to put it out there. When we moved to Emergency Distance Learning back in March, educators were told that they could choose the platform to use with their families. Our Board supported Microsoft Teams and The Hub (a D2L option), and for those that weren’t already using an online option with families, they were encouraged to choose one of these two options. Paula and I had been using our class blog since before school started in September, so we continued to share asynchronous learning options through there and moved between Google Meet and Microsoft Teams for synchronous learning. Early on though, we were told that everyone would be using Microsoft Teams and/or The Hub come September. Over the summer, I’ve had the opportunity to be a site lead for one of our Board’s Virtual Summer Camps, which has really helped me improve on my Microsoft Teams’ skills. While I now feel more confident using this platform for the upcoming school year, a problem has been in the back of my mind for the past few months: how will this move to Microsoft Teams change our workflow?
For the past couple of years, Paula and I have used a combination of Twitter, Instagram, and our class blog to share daily learning with families and fellow educators, hear feedback from others, and extend learning based on these interactions. I know that many people question why we use three platforms.
- We like to not just share photographs and videos, but provide a context for the learning that takes place in each of our shares. This takes time, which means that the completed blog post is not usually live until later on in the evening. Parents appreciate being able to check out Twitter and Instagram to see the individual posts as they appear. They can then use these posts to discuss the daily learning with their child.
- We like to meet people where they’re at. The blog works for some of our families, but not everyone. A few of our parents tweet regularly. Many are on Instagram. Sharing posts in these ways, allows parents to access them in the spaces that work for them.
- Twitter and Instagram are connected. For years, I only used Twitter, but trying to share a mini-learning story in 120-240 characters is a challenge. Instagram gives us a greater upper word limit. Cross-posting though, allows those families on Twitter to see the tweet of the Instagram story, while others just view the post on Instagram.
- We get more feedback using these social media platforms. When we only blogged, we rarely received comments or questions on our posts. Many parents though will add a short comment on Instagram, or even a “heart” to show that they like the post. This provides another way to connect and communicate with families.
- The blog provides the bigger picture. Through the blog, we are able to provide an overall context for the learning and connect the snippets of play captured in each of the individual posts. Every time I get my Teacher Performance Appraisal done, I’m thankful for a class blog and the connections that my administrators can see between play and expectations.
This year though, when school moved online, our workflow changed, as we were not able to capture and record learning from home in the same way. Privacy became an even bigger concern, as we were now seeing inside personal spaces. While I occasionally tweeted reflections from our synchronous classes, we didn’t take photographs and videos from these live sessions. Pretty soon, my Instagram account became a space to share book recommendations, and my Twitter account became a space for a few professional connections and reflections. I was okay with this, but I was looking forward to going back to normal. That was, until I had lunch with Paula and let that little voice in the back of my head, move to the forefront.
If we’re moving to Microsoft Teams as a Board, are there benefits for families in keeping with a single platform? Looking at the links included in our class blog, we could easily migrate these to channels on a Team. They might not look exactly the same, but they would be close. Teams is also connected with Microsoft Sway, which could be used for a daily class blog post. Although it’s possible to link Instagram posts and embed tweets as part of these Sways, we’re wondering if using this platform might also change how we share documentation.
- Will we be more selective with photographs?
- Will we only include some video clips?
- Will the post become a story of our day and our learning, with only a handful of images and videos shared and described through the Sway text?
This could be a way that we can increase student privacy, with most learning shared through our private Microsoft Team. As our JK families learn to navigate a new platform with MS Teams, parents would then not need to switch back-and-forth between Teams, our class blog, Twitter, and Instagram. We can still use the images and videos shared in our Sways to provoke and extend learning at school. Maybe by being more selective about photographs and videos shared, we can complete and publish these posts earlier: allowing families to explore and discuss them more with their children.
As two people who have been very visible with our thinking, learning, and reflection, this new workflow is a hard change for both of us to make. We’re wondering though if, depending on our Media Release Form and parental responses, we might be able to share a few photographs and video clips on Twitter and Instagram.
- Ones without faces.
- Ones focused on deeper learning and classroom projects.
- Ones that we can use for our professional reflections and evidence of growth.
- Ones that might highlight successes, but also have us wondering about extension possibilities.
Sharing on social media would now be focused more explicitly on professional sharing and feedback. We might not have a class blog, but I will still have a professional one, and maybe I can convince Paula to share a few more guest posts as part of that. 🙂 Change is hard, especially when you have a comfortable routine that works.
- Are we drawn to our Twitter/Instagram/blog workflow because this is what we’ve always done or because this is what’s best? Who is it “best“ for? Us? Our kids? Our families?
- Knowing our Board’s plan for next year, is it time to push ourselves into some uncomfortable changes in order to reduce parental stress around multiple platforms?
- What feedback might you give to us as we continue to contemplate these changes?
We might not be saying, “goodbye,” to Twitter, Instagram, and blogging, but it could be time for a revised “hello.”
Aviva: First, I know whatever you and Paula choose, it will be result in meaningful learning opportunities for your families. So I only offer 3 things to keep in mind as you work your way through this dilemma.
1. Whatever you decide, how will you inform your families? Will it include the pros and cons? Will there be opportunities for feedback & suggestions? Can they be part of the creation of this new endeavour?
2. Can you provide training so they get the most out of it? Maybe a couple short videos to explain (and written instructions)?
3. Is there value in using more than one platform for, at least, part of your sharing? There has been so much confusion and dissatisfaction with remote learning – partially a result of misunderstanding the realities of our families’ lives.
We should always consider the resources, comfort levels and capabilities of our families and how we can work with/improve those things.
I hope you keep a bit on twitter. What would my feed be without your class contributions?! Tho this sounds really exciting.
Thanks for your comment and your questions, Nancy! It’s interesting, as I thought about you as I wrote this post. I wasn’t sure how much to share in here, as I could see this post quickly getting unwieldy, but I also wanted to address some big areas of discussion. Your questions help with a few things that I didn’t mention.
1) As you know, Nancy, working with parents is really important for both Paula and I. We want their feedback, not just at the start of the process, but throughout the process. The same will hold true here. We’ll definitely be sharing our evolving workflow plan with them — through conversations and emails — and looking for feedback. Some parents, especially those that had us last year, might already have insights to share. Others might have more thoughts as we begin the process. Everything is a work in progress. That will hold true here as well. My professional blog is also public, and I always share blog links with families. Many follow along with these posts. I’m hoping that some parents will read this blog post, read the comments and conversation, and add some thoughts of their own: either through a comment or an email. We don’t want our assumptions about what parents want to have us misinterpreting what it is that they actually want.
2) Yes, we will definitely provide training. Based on your feedback to a much earlier blog post during the school closure, we actually recorded videos and provided screenshots and written instructions on how to use MS Teams. We’ll update these, and share them through email, as we did before. In the past, we always met with K families before school began, which we’re hoping is still true for this upcoming year. Our hope was to use some of this meeting time to also show how to use MS Teams, and engage in conversations about our evolving workflow. This might be a good time to get feedback from families.
3) This question is a hard one. I have conflicting thoughts about this one. Our Board has standardized platforms to help with reducing parental stress and allowing for more consistency between classes. MS Teams has to be a part of our workflow now. I’m not sure if we’ll still be able to use Twitter and Instagram as we did before, even if this is something that we might want to do. Hopefully as we see the Media Consent Forms, we’ll know more. Then we can figure out what might work. Our hope is that with parental feedback, we can continue to tweak our approach. Microsoft Sway will also provide a blog option, which might also help with organizing and connecting learning.
I can’t imagine totally giving up Instagram and Twitter, but I wonder if how it’s used (and how much it’s used). Maybe it can be used more for professional reflection. I would still like a part of our class contributions to still be visible. I really can’t imagine not reflecting in this way … at least in some regard!
Interesting thinking, Aviva. Is your district providing assistance and workshops/tutorials about how to do what you’re doing now on a different platform? Will they help you migrate all your content? Is this solving a problem or just creating more? What happens if you don’t switch?
So many questions.
Thanks for the comment, Doug! Our Board has been providing a ton of training on MS Teams and The Hub since March. There is still more to come. While I personally find it easier to click around and explore on my own, I cannot say enough positive things about the training options. The training does provide options for migrating content, and we do have a number of different support people that can help. We’d just need to reach out. Paula and I will probably spend some time setting things up before school starts. We tend to start fresh each year anyway. I believe that the thinking behind standard platforms are to reduce stress for parents and families. When March came, people were using many different platforms, and for families with multiple kids, there was a lot to navigate. Privacy is also a big consideration when it comes to these platforms, and I thought more about privacy when kids were staring at home versus at school. We all need to move over to Teams and/or The Hub in some way, but it sounds as though there will be some flexibility as part of this process. I expect that the Media Consent Form will tell me more. It makes me really sad to move away from Twitter and Instagram, and I hope to find a way to still use these tools, even as part of my professional reflection and sharing. I feel as though things will continue to change with our approach based on our own observations and parent input.
I guess, from a selfish point of view, if you’re required to hide behind a firewall with your content, there will be a lot of people who follow what you’re doing as a model for home/school connection. The actual tool isn’t terribly important; it’s how enabling it is. I’d hate to see all your initiative take a step backward. Good luck with things.
Oh Doug! You ask really good questions. When Paula and I debated the options of keeping the blog in addition to MS Teams, I think that our biggest concern was that the Media Consent Form will not allow us to share photographs and videos in the same way. If we’re limited by what we can share on Twitter and Instagram, we run into a problem with cross-posting to the blog, as then the posts take too long to load because of the amount of content. We ran into this problem when Storify went down, and we posted directly to the blog. Nothing would load. There is a really good extension though through our HWDSB Commons, which provides links to Twitter, and therefore keeps the size of each post manageable to load.
Maybe our thought to switch came from a fear that if we relied on the blog for sharing (in addition to MS Teams), and we can’t use the Twitter/Instagram component, we’ll have to make a last minute change. While Paula and I contemplated what we might still be able to share through Twitter and Instagram (as the visible sharing of our classroom and our learning is good for our professional practice, but also something that many of our parents appreciate), we never really thought about the message that’s inadvertently shared if we put everything behind a wall. This is not a message that we stand behind, and in fact, both believe strongly in the value of visible sharing and learning. Hmmm … now you have me wondering about modification options.
1) Make our blog one for just documentation. If the Media Consent Form continues to allow for sharing through social media, cross-post as we did in the past, and share the link to each post through MS Teams. Then we can still get parents accustomed to the platform that we need to be using, while also allowing for the professional conversations and access to tools (e.g., Twitter and Instagram) that many of our parents have appreciated in the past (as they already use these tools).
2) Make our blog through Microsoft Sway. Maybe be more selective with media to upload there, as we will be posting these photographs and videos right in Sway. Then tweet out the Sway (if the Media Consent Form allows for this). Sway connects with Teams, so we can still share the Sways through MS Teams, but also connect with educators and engage in some professional reflection through Twitter.
I think that Paula and I might have more conversing to do. This could be why I asked question #3 in my post. 🙂 Thanks Doug!
HI Aviva – So many good questions. I have been there. Tools I relied on were taken from us for privacy concerns. I understand. However change is challenging. The more secure the platform the less visible. That seems to be the trade-off. I am interested to see what the Media Consent will extend to. I interpreted the restrictions in my own board more narrowly than I needed to I think & will be seeking clarification going forward. One final note: I invested a fair bit of time into creating a Sway to document the learning from a field trip. When you move to video mode in the Sway it cropped photos/text and transitioned in ways that made me lose parts of images & text. I have found that PPT actually gives me more control. If you keep the text simple, and don’t try to crowd too many images on a slide SWAY might be a great tool. I personally prefer PPT. Just my preference & why. I am interested to follow your journey!
Thanks Nadine for your comment! I’ve always appreciated how clear our Media Consent Form is, and how examples of platforms (such as Twitter) are explicitly stated. I’m eager to see what’s included this year. Hope questions help as you also work through your form.
Thanks for your feedback on Sway. I need to play around more with it and PowerPoint. I don’t want parents to have to download items to view them. I know that PowerPoint is available online, but I’m just not sure about the ease of connection with MS Teams (eg, can it be embedded in Teams or are parents clicking away to somewhere else?). I almost wonder if just a blog of documentation could be used in addition to Teams (linked there), but it’s the size of the media and the workflow for creating each post that Paula and I need to play with more. Doug Peterson had us thinking about this option. So much to contemplate! The feedback from others really helps Paula and I as we think this through.
Hi Aviva, Following along here and as a person who also is very used to learning out loud I’m feeling for you in having to make these changes – so much extra time and energy is involved! I’ve just begun learning Teams and am still a beginner but ppt does integrate nicely in Teams. Chats are nice and visible for parents and might replace your Twitter space? I was also wondering whether Notebooks could be a space to document and expand with explanations in a sort of blog-like fashion. Flipgrid also integrates nicely in Teams and could be an option for some of the video captures you might like to share? I’ve found it’s quick and easy with moderation options and the possibility for conversation is there through some commenting. Just some of my thoughts and recent experiences…good luck with the shift!
Thanks so much for weighing in Brenda! I love some of the ideas that you mentioned here. Paula and I started using FlipGrid when Distance Learning began, and loved it. I do like its ease of use in Teams. I’m struggling a bit, as I do believe there’s value in some visible learning (beyond what’s found behind a wall). Doug Peterson made a really good point in one of his comments about how our actions might be interpreted by others. I think of all of the opportunities that we’ve had and the learning that we’ve done thanks to some visible sharing. There is a lot that I like about Teams, and the more time that I’ve had to play with it this summer, the more that I like it. But it is private. It is all contained. Now to figure out how to share in this space, while also maybe having our voices heard in some public spaces. I think that we have some more playing and thinking to do.
Social Media has been frowned upon in my board for a long time. School pages exist, but personal classroom pages have been discouraged for so long that I don’t think anyone does them. My math blog, mrscorbettsclass.wordpress.com, was created after a workshop I attended many years ago about blogging with the class. About a month after the workshop we were notified that class blogging was not allowed unless we used one specific, very tricky, very secure (so secure I could never figure out how to share with parents!) platform.
I will miss your public sharing, but I totally get that you might be more limited. I look forward to your personal blog posts!
I worry that we (I) use too many things to communicate with parents. I used our LMS and Edsby and email. Going in to next year I’m not sure I will eliminate any of it though.
Thanks for your comment, Lisa! I’m struggling with this one, as I think there’s something to be said for a degree of public sharing. It’s about making our practices more visible, but also welcoming feedback, questions, and suggestions that often improve what we do and spur our own reflections. So many PD opportunities that have come our way have happened because of Twitter and Instagram, and we don’t want to lose these opportunities either. We want to see what our Media Consent Form says, and then we can figure out what might be possible (and best) for us, for our students, and for our parents. Providing fewer options might make accessing content less difficult for our parents, but many of our parents are also on Instagram and Twitter, so they access these platforms anyway. With ease. Sometimes I worry that as educators, we assume what would be easiest/best/most preferred by parents, but maybe what they want is totally different. Somehow we want to hear their voices as part of our choices, so that we can continue to modify these choices to best meet their needs. Would love to know how things go with you, and what you decide.
I keep reminding myself that if I regularly use a certain platform, parents will get used to checking in. I check email 1000 times a day, but not everyone does. When I send video or photos to parents via Edsby or email I know they enjoy seeing their own child at work.
I really have a personal issue with phone calls. I don’t know why they are so hard for me! (Well, I do have some insight!) so I tend to avoid this if I don’t force myself. I try to set goals to call a certain number of parents each week. When we went online I found this was so much easier! I could chat with a child and their parent was close by to jump on. Face to face is so much easier for me! So, if we end up online, I am going to incorporate video calls into my regular home communication. Even if we don’t end up online I am going to figure out how to use this instead of phone calls (when possible and when the parents are also interested!)
Thanks Lisa for your comment! It’s so true that parents do seem to get used to using certain platforms, and they often find ways to make these platforms work for them. I love when they share their preferences or how they prefer to use different platforms, and then we can adjust our practices as well. I’m so with you at checking email a thousand times a day, and many parents quickly find that our about me. I think that’s why so many email us. 🙂
Personally, I don’t love phone calls. I would never talk on the phone if given the choice. But I’ve had some wonderful conversations with parents before through phone calls, and I know that some parents love them. When we went online, many parents joined in on the meetings. I do like connecting with parents in this way. What an interesting idea to try out some video calls with families. MS Teams allows for some different options in this way. Maybe this will be something that we’ll also explore. Thanks for the idea!
Thanks so much for thinking about how to communicate with parents effectively. The best way remains directly, on-on-one. I cannot over-emphasis the benefits of a call home at the start of the year. Many teachers worry they don’t have the time but those who follow this practice unanimously declare it’s time well spent. Those few minutes begin a relationship that will carry everyone thru the year, builds trust and gives the teacher an invaluable ally.
And remember, communication that is not two way is just a monologue. How will you hear parent voice – and what will you do with that info when you get it?
Best wishes for navigating the new realities!
Thanks Nancy for your comment! I love how you mentioned a phone call. Regular phone calls are something I’ve been doing for almost 20 years now. A few parents tell me they prefer emails. This connection though, especially at the beginning of the year, is so valuable. I wonder if it makes parents feel more confident in expressing themselves.
This two-way communication is also something that Paula and I talk about a lot. It takes time to develop this back-and-forth, but I think this is when/how we really hear parent voice. I so appreciate your reminders about this. I’ve learned so much from you and Aaron Puley about parent engagement.
You are amazing. I love the way you dig into questions, and the conversation in the comments on this post has deepened the thinking even more.
I’m so impressed that you’ve had ongoing training on Teams. We need more of that where I am.
I really like Sway for sharing photos, as do my students. But Nadine’s right, things get “optimized” in a way that may not be optimal sometimes.
The only spot where I consistently get parent traction, in the intermediate division, is with Instagram, and even then, it’s spotty. I think we’re looking at Google Sites as a parent landing spot this year, and maybe I’ll see what I can embed there. Kids will use Google Classroom.
Thanks for the comment, Lisa! You’re so sweet. I think that having the back-and-forth conversation time with Paula on this made a big difference. The comments are certainly making us think more.
I hope that you get some more training on Teams. Our Board has offered tons of sessions, and we’ve spent some time playing on our own. I really like/appreciate this play time.
Thanks for also sharing about Sway. We might need to play around with this more. Now I’m wondering if a blog might be a better option in addition to Teams, just for the documentation. Once we see our new Media Consent Form, we might know a little more about what could work.
I love how you’re also thinking about how to engage parents of intermediate students. I’d love to hear about how you use Google Sites and Classroom in this regard. We’re not using Google any more as a Board, but it’s great to hear about how others are using the different platforms available to them.