What does it take to push a teacher beyond the threshold of the ordinary? What is it that turns an educator into an innovator? Hear that knock on your classroom door? It’s me. “I’m the one who knocks.” Since that first knock, I've been privileged to participate in thousands of full-length classroom observations and coaching sessions with teachers as they transform the learning landscape across the country. I've been able to co-learn with teachers as they work to masterfully integrate things like Google Apps for Education. I nurture teachers as they leverage innovative methodologies and tools so students can solve problems and cultivate new content for international consumption. I witness children who have never owned a computer, work with teachers and peers to create 3D holographic images and 3D printed materials within the confines of their school. Day after day, I marvel at the learning transformation that is underway.
Sadly I also witness an all too common tragedy consuming blended learning initiatives across the country. As quickly as devices arrive in classrooms, some educators abandon them almost immediately in favor of the traditional pedagogies of their past. Often, not for the sake of student achievement, but for the sake of teacher comfort. That being said, teachers shouldn't shoulder the blame for this. Devices are being distributed with little to no pedagogical training. When we roll out devices and expect technology alone to transform teaching and learning, we observe individual success in the midst of systemic failure. That is to say, early adopters and pockets of already masterful teachers will, through grit and determination, find ways to use tech to transform their own classrooms. Systemically however, little will change for the majority of students in the school or district. So what is it then? What is it that separates transformative teachers, schools, and districts from those stuck in the routines of the past? My observations and conversations with the country's best blended teachers have uncovered the following commonalities:
Professional athletes are teaching us valuable lessons about digital footprints. Are you listening? Athlete or not; you should be.
Adults have spent countless hours cautioning young people about the negative impacts a provocative web presence can have on their future. Kids are consistently warned about the perils of Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, and the like. We tell them, “Watch what you post online. It never goes away.” Some listen. Others don’t. Seems simple enough; but it’s not. Our most elite athletes are currently schooling us about the complexities of one’s online presence. That is to say, our digital footprint is not our own. It is not simply our words and the content we cultivate and put online that has the potential to negatively impact our future. Now, it also includes the words of those in our inner circle.
Take Miami Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes. After being released by the team, his wife launched a Twitter tirade targeting the team’s quarterback, a reporter from the Miami Herald, and players around the league. As a result, at least 3 GM’s confirmed they would not sign the free agent due to concerns about his wife’s online behavior. Grimes later signed a new contract, worth undoubtedly less than he would have received had there been more competition for his services. The same day, his wife quit Twitter. I can only assume the timing is less than coincidental.
Then there’s former Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook. Projected as a potential second round pick, the QB began tumbling all the way to the fourth round. His father, Chris Cook, made some comments about the plummet on Twitter. What he should have done was delete his account long before the draft. As fate would have it, the elder Cook had been rather loose lipped on the social media site; making comments many would construe to be racist, homophobic, and misogynistic. Many assume the son’s fall on the draft board can only be attributed to the discomfort his potential bosses had with his father’s comments online. Chris Cook’s Twitter account has also since been deleted.
Even Hall of Famers are not immune to the sting of a family member’s Twitter account. Rockets coach Kevin McHale was fired from his NBA gig in 2015. Immediately after, his wife went into a Twitter frenzy and threw shade at the entire organization, saving her most savory burns for franchise star James Harden. McHale’s wife has since deleted her account. Her husband, at the time of this publication, does not have a coaching job.
Like it or not, your digital footprint is not always your own. Your family members, friends, and that occasional drinking buddy are all capable of influencing your online persona. There is a quote from entrepreneur Jim Rohn that states, “You are the average of the 5 people you surround yourself with most.” Well, in today’s world, your likelihood of success may just be linked to the 5 people you interact on social media with most. Something to think about. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to check my wife’s Instagram account.