5 Tips for Grassroots Organizing in a Social Media Age

The ease of social media makes "Do-it-yourself," grassroot organizing a reality. How many of us, rather than turn to an "official" organization--like TCEA TEC-SIG and/or Texas CTO Council in Texas--setup would prefer to do things ourselves? After all, the tools are all available online and free! It just takes time, a little money for a domain name (if that), and you're set to go!
Special thanks to Amy @friedtechnology Mayer
for this image!

I recently had the opportunity to attend a meeting of the K12 Instructional Technology Consortium, which sports a fancy name for a group of people who face common challenges and are in search of answers.

Participating in the meeting at TCEA 2015 State Conference made me want to give them some advice, tips to facilitate their grassroots organizing.

What additional advice would you give them?

Here are my tips:

Tip #1 - Create a web presence, including a logo.
When the Texas CTO Council started organizing years ago, nothing was so irritating as not having a consistent place to go to find out when/where meetings were happening. And, after the meetings, where agendas, slide-decks, handouts and such were being shared. It's not difficult to start a Google Site these days and setup an easy to maintain web site. In fact, I have done this many a time just for 1-time workshops, keynotes, etc.

Example: SAACTE.org - This is a Google Site I setup entirely to help two educators, Gretchen Bernabei and Amy Stengel, to further the goals of the San Antonio Area Council of Teachers of English (SAACTE). The site was a cinch and was helpful in promoting ideas and content. Using the Announcement gadget or whatchamacallit in Google Sites, you can approximate a blog with its own RSS feed that people can subscribe to. That's important because according to recent research, approximately 75% of what people learn about education comes through blogs!

Tip #2 - Create a Twitter account and connect your RSS feed.
The complaint I hear most often from people is, "I don't have time!" Sure, we all start the day out with the same amount of time. Rather, they should say, "I don't have the will!" As I've gotten older, I appreciate those oldsters who would complain and whine, "Oh, my energy is tapped out!" after a long day of work. I KNOW what you mean. That's why there shouldn't be any wasted motions.

When I post content online, it is immediately disseminated to all my social media networks. This means that when you post something in the Announcements blog on your Google Site, it should be setup to immediately post to your Twitter account, which in turn posts to your LinkedIn.com and Facebook accounts. While I often recommend using an "organizational" account--such as @saacte or @texas4tee--you are often better off just auto-posting to your personal account. And, you can ask other people to do the same thing. The reason why is that 1) It's hard to build a relationship with an organizational account; and 2) You won't be able to keep posting to multiple Twitter accounts over time so you might as well just post to your own. Of course, if you want to give it a try, use Hootsuite.com, which enables you to manage several social media accounts:
Notice I have 3 accounts I manage...two twitters, and one facebook using Hootsuite.

To set that up, just grab the RSS feed off an Announcements blog in Google Sites and drop it into an IFTTT.com recipe:

Tip #3 - Empower Passionate Sharing!
Where would Texas4TEE Google+ Community be without people like +Rusty Meyners , +Amy Mayer , +Lisa Johnson as moderators, among others? I encourage you to create a social community that enables others to share the load of participating, as well as kicking off learning conversations!

In the screenshot above, you can feel the excitement Rusty brings to the Community in his every post! He's a passionate sharing machine! If your grassroots organization can't handle this kind of passionate sharing, then it probably isn't going to last long. But if it can, and does everything in its power to support this, then it may have a chance at becoming a phenomenon that will endure!

Tip #4 - Podcast, Vidcast, Hangout, Connect!
Although I'm partial to the written word, what a thrill it is to see people connect via F2F conversations that are recorded and shared as podcasts/vidcasts, or Google Hangouts or Skype sessions! One of my long-time dreams was realized when colleague Diana Benner (@diben) and I facilitated a series of podcasts with Moodle course management system wizards, featuring education experts as part of the Moodle Mayhem community. We enjoyed awesome people like Jen Hegna,  +Mary Cooch (@moodlefairy), among others! How exciting it was to connect with authors and fun people.

Then, we also planned and organized a weekly webinar series, or digital get-togethers that supported the idea of digital writing.

Welcome to the Weekly Webinar Series onDigitizing the Writing Workshop. The co-hosts for Weekly Webinar Series onDigitizing the Writing Workshop include Diana Benner and Miguel Guhlin. Find out more--such as the schedule for webinars, recordings and future guests--about the series online at http://tinyurl.com/etchweb  or Twitter Hashtag: #etchweb
Note: You can earn credit for participating--along with a certificate--for this series if you are a Del Valle ISD or East Central ISD teacher. Watch the vidcast linked below for more information.
That's right, participants could actually earn credit for participating and get a certificate! Cool beans or what? What fun it was to listen to fellow practitioners, as well as people walking the walk, share their adventures in the classroom or facilitating professional learning. We also made every effort to celebrate them, turning them into digital heroes:

When the San Antonio Area Technology Directors--a group formed by Steve Young (Judson ISD)--meet every other month, they aren't afraid to record their content and share it others. While conversations are generally focused on tough topics, everyone knows that there is real value in the power of sharing that conversation--including multi-lingual connections with folks in other countries,
like Monica Martinez of TCEA fame has done--with other participants.

Make every effort to connect with others rather than lock up learning conversations...that includes hijacking (when appropriate) or creating your own hashtags to reach broader audiences of folks you can learn from (and vice versa)!

Consider this approach that Amber Teamann (@8amber8) has taken with SAVMP--School Administrator Virtual Mentor Program! In planning for the long run, the SAVMP organizers are creating a movement that is built one activity at a time!

Tip #5 - Get Your Own Social Media Thing Going!
You can't wave a stick without swatting a Twitterchat out of the chatosphere, but you may still be able to coin a unique chat term that will capture people's attention. Some folks, like Joe Mazza, are actually turning to different social media tools than Twitter:
I recently started “voxing” with 9 other educators around the country. If you’re unfamiliar, voxing is when you use the free mobile app “Voxer” to participate in a “walkie-talkie-like” conversation with your friends and colleagues, only it’s more like a group text on your phone. The conversation is chronological, archived inside the app, allows you not only to use your voice, but to send pics and text where you choose... 
...just in the last month, our Voxer group of edus have discussed 1:1, blended learning, school assemblies, homework, science fairs, cursive, discipline issues, graduation requirements, common core, teacher/leader burnout, social media to engage families and the community and probably 50 other areas of our daily work with students, staff & families. The truth is, voxing with those in your PLN is like creating, in real-time, your own personal podcast that you can decide who is involved, when you listen/respond and what topics you cover.
Whether you are voxing, tweeting, plusing, facebookin', I encourage to jump in with both feet!

Tip #6 - Setup a Group Digital Commons
I always loved the idea of a digital commons. What? You're unhappy I'm giving a 6th tip? Tough! A digital commons is a space where the group can gather to share resources. You need one of those! Why not setup a Google Drive folder where folks can drop content and share it? Some people also...

  • choose to setup an email group to facilitate information sharing! Google Groups is ideal for this approach. 
  • You could also enable your Google Sites to have a few trusted wiki-maintainers to manage content on different pages, then approve postings/sharing of content. 
  • Or, setup a GoogleForm with links to content that group members share then embed the Google Responses on a GoogleSites page.

Bonus Tips that Didn't Make the Cut:
Some more, quick tips to avoid the mistakes I made:

  • Don't go it alone! One of the mistakes I've made time and again is having a big idea for something then finding myself in over my head. I now start initiatives with other people. And, isn't that what collaboration is about? Jumping into trouble together?
  • Don't lock up conversations! If you can't say it in a crowded room, then you're better not saying it all. My favorite remark came from a state education agency tech director who realized, there's no such thing as a secret when you're speaking to a room of people, each equipped with the same tools journalists carry around--a mobile phone with audio recorders, hi-def camera, and video recording capabilities, not to mention social media for instant sharing!
  • Don't plan week to week, but year to year! One of my biggest mistakes was not planning for the long-term. When you plan for the long-term, you are in the groove and lining up guests and conversations, rather than trying to fit this in amidst your work.
Thanks for reading! I hope you'll share what your efforts at grassroots organizing are as an educator!

Image Source: http://goo.gl/4o9NBh

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure


sikojp said…
Great post. Do you have a citation/source for your comment on the percentage of teachers who get their info from blogs?
@Jason, actually, I do! You can find it in MyNotes blog entry at http://goo.gl/4i0Ido

I meant to include it but then forgot. :-(

Here are the actual numbers...enjoy!

Question: Which resources do you [teachers] use to educate yourself on current issues in education?

Social media (81.6%)

Internet search (78.26%)

Blogs (74.88%)

Academic/education Conferences (71.98%)

News articles (71.50%)

#edchat (58.45%)

Academic journals (54.59%)

Moderated #edchat or other twitter chat (54.11%)

Word of mouth (50.24%)
And, I added the citation to the blog entry.

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