Becoming a Digital Interactor

"He who would lead must build a bridge." The aphorism applies when working with a variety of community groups. Each group has different expectations of how you should interact with them. To be successful, it is important to embrace various aspects of the digital interactor. Please find some quick tips for communicating with cultural competency with students, parents, colleagues. The goal for all must be centered around student learning. We work together as co-collaborators to improve student learning.

Ready to get started reviewing three tips for communicating with cultural competency?

Tip #1 - Notice. 
Whether working in remote or urban center school district, it became clear that low socio-economic families are similar in their needs. Yet, each enjoyed subtle differences to which attention had to be paid. That's why Tip #1 is focused on noticing the differences and expectations that each group comes to the table with. In fact, some families in low socio-economic settings in East Texas might not be able to come to the table. In my initial efforts at setting meetings, I noticed that invitations went unanswered. What could cause such a disappointing gap?

After a few weeks of setting meetings, I discovered that parents were unable to attend meetings that focused on their children. It wasn't that they avoided spaces that might question their legal right to live, work in a small Texas town. The story was much simpler.

Their children told me that they couldn't make it. Their parents wanted to come to parent-teacher meetings, but could not because of transportation issues. When we finally managed to setup transportation opportunities for parents, often mothers left at home while their husbands drove to work at the local chicken plant, attendance increased. The next barrier encountered was one of language. There could be no bridge between a people who failed to communicate. One way to overcome that was to bring in bilingual speakers, of which I was one, and setup a program that facilitated regular interactions with parents.

When introducing parents, after transporting them and speaking their language, to the technology that students were using at school, they were delighted at their children's creations. For East Texas parents, social media was not the place they connected. But setting up regular face to face meetings, then supporting that with social media tools like Facebook groups could support those connections over time.

Tip #2 - Befriend
"Relate before you connect," suggests anyone who has worked in schools for too long. As Vicki "CoolCat Teacher" Davis points out, relationships are paramount. As she and her guest point out, there are several key points to keep in mind to be an unforgettable teacher. These tips apply to anyone who wants to be a digital interactor, relying on social media to facilitate close, repeated and regular contacts with students, educators, and parents. Three ideas relevant to Tip #2 include the following:
  • Start with a relationship
  • Be the coach in the classroom
  • Exceed expectations (Source)
  One of the ways to establish relationships that engender trust, facilitate pursuit of common goals built on a foundational understanding of each other, and exceed expectations involves creating a culture virus. Jim Stogdill defines "culture virus" as a way to spread community, transparency, and collaboration across the various, traditionally impermeable boundaries - with community participation as the carrier.

The more you activate the community, the greater the spread of the virus. Why would you want to spread such a virus? The benefits to a school district would include culture emergence as "community participants find their perspectives, their worldviews and psychographic profiles spliced in with those community norms--things like transparency, collaboration, and a strong bias toward meaningful participation."

While there are many social media tools available, here are some core ideas that can get you started in creating content that is engaging and will bring readers back. Think of the use of social media tools at all levels of your organization as a culture virus, a way to empower members to meaningfully participate in the work. Instead of three or four central office administrators trying to control what gets reported in your district, you have an army of people working 24 hours a day sharing what works, what doesn't, what's popular, what's not with a world.

No matter what you do, this level of participation will get you noticed and may help bring shipwrecks to the light of day, while providing opportunities for organizational change.

And, the final point to consider when becoming a digital interactor is the following one:

Tip #3 - Leverage
Every conversation you have can be leveraged. I regret the many times I connected with parents, community members, students and colleagues and failed to leverage that interaction. With audio recording tools, it's possible to create a digital scrapbook that is accessible and share-able.

Every speaking engagement, each meeting is an opportunity to share your ideas. Avoid the mistake of creating content solely for online or offline audiences. When you create offline content--a conversation with parents at the morning coffee meet-n-mingle with the principal--take the time to write about it, maybe even debrief a parent in a one on one conversation. "What did you think about our morning coffee meeting? How did it impact you?" Take the time to share what you're doing online.

How are you a digital interactor?

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


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