June 2, 2016
This post first appeared on Daily Genius.The power of a story should not come as a surprise to anyone. Throughout human history, the joy of telling and sharing stories has remained constant. Sharing the stories of what we do in education is not something new either. We often hear, “If you do not tell your story then someone else will.” As a result, we’ve seen lots of workshops, articles, and conversations about the importance of telling our story and the importance of tweeting, blogging, and branding. What we often fail to talk about, though, is to whom are we telling our story and whether it is reaching them. In the book, “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook,” Gary Vaynerchuk explains that a great story is one that sells and markets a brand. It creates an emotional tie to a product and makes consumers do what you ask them to do. In education, we need to be cognizant that we are also marketers and need to be in the business of selling. Our product - creating future problem solvers. I know just how powerful these stories can be. I got the position of Director of Innovative Learning for the Primary Care Physician Assistant Program at the Keck School of Medicine of USC as a direct result of powerful storytelling. I shared this story during the Apple Distinguished Educators Institute in Miami last year, and you can view it here. I often ask these questions of myself when I think about sharing a story:
- Am I telling my story to the people in my Twitterverse? People who already know and believe in my message?
- Am I telling my story to the parents in my classroom?
- Am I telling the story to the community within which I live?
- Am I telling my story in the hopes that the mainstream media will come along and pick up my idea and share it?
A Day in the Class of...One of the most effective, yet logistically challenging forms of professional development, is to be able to visit the classroom of another teacher. Hearing about a lesson is one thing, but seeing it in action and being a part of it is another. Snapchat allows teachers to share the story of their day. One of my favorite teachers that I get to visit every day is Ann Kozma. Ann is a TOSA (Teacher on Special Assignment) in Fullerton, CA, and watching Ann’s snap story has provided me with more insight about what learning looks like at her school than any Tweet, Instagram, or Facebook post ever could have. Take a look at this Snapchat story that Ann shared, and you’ll see what I mean for yourself. As a result, you can imagine how many people get ideas for what is possible.
Beyond the School WallsWhile visiting the classroom of Mike Saracini, a teacher at Freedom Middle School in Berwyn, IL, I learned that he doesn’t use Snapchat to have students share stories with him, but he encourages them to tell the story of their learning and share it with their peers. He wants other students to see the learning experiences his students are having and be inspired. While there, his students were creating newscasts on the pros and cons of the dropping of the atomic bomb. About an hour after this conversation, here is a message he sent me,
“I wanted to fill you in as a follow-up to our discussion today about Snapchat while you were at Freedom Middle School (I met you during lunch). So, I told you that I want students to share their learning (activities related to our learning wherever it maybe). Well, it happened! A student snapped out from home the work she was doing to prepare for our assessment on, "If America was correct dropping the atomic bomb on Japan?" She had a pro and con list, and a subtitle that said: 'Still debating this atomic bomb issue.' Others snapped her back discussing it. What more could I possibly ask for?”While using Snapchat in lessons may engage students, the above example empowers students to use the platforms they have to create dialogue and share what’s happening in their schools with their peers. When students are able to join you as storytellers and share what they are able to do with those who may not have the same opportunities, they act as advocates and empower others to seek out those opportunities as well. As educators, we don’t have to use all the tools that come out in our lessons, but we can definitely use them to empower ourselves and our students to share the stories of ourselves and our learning to help others understand us and what we do and why we do it a little bit better.