Tide Pools and Oceans – September’s Social Media Takeover with Angela Gunder
As I carved out time to prepare for our very first #SquadGoalsNetwork Social Media Takeover, I kept on hearing “be careful what you wish for, ‘cuz you just might get it” playing in my head. It’s reminiscent of another aphorism that I use freely – “make a plan – it makes god laugh.” Independent of your or my views on a divine power or the Pussycat Dolls, the common thread is that there are times where our work brings us to the place of the unexpected. And when we find ourselves within this realm, we can and should be intentional about accepting the good that comes from diving into the unknown. Easier said than done, for sure. But a meaningful part of working within ambiguity is spending some time on reflecting and wayfinding. So as I write to you in this “Oh sh*t, this is happening” moment, know that I am buoyed by taking a moment to share with you how the hell we got here in the first place.
From the Shallows…
Back in May, on the heels of the OLC Innovate 2018 in Nashville, members of the steering committee for the conference looked for a way to keep the ebullient energy alive that was born of the connections forged in the space. This was not the first time that this particular group had left the conference with a similar agenda. After several iterations of the Technology Test Kitchen at OLC Accelerate, a group formed to write a book chapter together in a series of synchronous, online meetups that consisted of a recipe of 2 parts co-writing, 1 part sharing practices from our home institutions, and a liberal dose of tomfoolery. A similar spin off occurred after the first Innovation Lab when the originators of the space decided to continue the conversations that began in the lab as a weekly podcast called The Innovation Labcast. Both examples stemmed from the simple act of carrying the benefits of the conference back to our respective institutions, but the networks formed brought us to a place of the unknown. The groups were never prescriptive of their goals for their networked collaborations, and the formation of this site was indeed the same. As Nashville ended, the question arose of “How might we not only continue to collaborate, but also make sense of this important practice of bringing the good of conferences home? And is this something that we can scale to increase impact?” The #SquadGoalsNetwork was born of those questions, and was established as an open hub for folks to both connect with other educators and research the importance of these connections.
…Into the Depths
In terms of the space itself, the authors wanted to design something that would serve as welcoming and inclusive, bucking the notion that by grouping or collecting, that you create boundaries. We also wanted to demystify the notion that connectors have to be extroverts – comically, the majority of the authors are self-identified introverts who are passionate about working as ambiverts in support of the greater good of connecting educators. Lastly, we wanted to model distributed leadership within networks as an effective practice – that groups unified around a shared goal and actionable project have the propensity to go further with their work. Beyond the website, Twitter serves as a hub of communication for so many of us within higher education and digital learning. As such, we thought it would be interesting to capitalize on our shared responsibility of curating these online conversations by creating the monthly task of hosting what we’re calling a Social Media Takeover. Authors agree to take a month to tweet from our @SqdGlsNtwrk account on Twitter, and publish content that is syndicated through our website. Our hope is to hinge conversations around themes that are important to us that arise from our connections to those in our networks, both old and new. And I have the dubious honor of jumping into the deep end first and curating a theme for September.
Exploring the Tide Pools
Despite the fact that I’m the daughter of two world-renowned storytellers and educators, I’d long considered myself a rubbish storyteller and a reluctant teacher. My stories rambled on (*cough* like right now) and I couldn’t ever see myself wanting to be a teacher. That phrase “I’ll never be…” is a dangerous one as it presupposes that we know all of the chapters of our story at any given time. I thought that I’d learned my lesson years before when I fell madly in love with teaching after sussing out that what you teach and who you teach has a lot to do with your passion for the role. The same was the case with storytelling – your topic and audience were often key to imbuing your story with the requisite passion to make it compelling. With these two lessons under my belt, I should’ve known better than to proclaim my Twitter skills garbage in perpetuity, despite my constant quest to incorporate any effective practice that proves beneficial to my work supporting students. And yet, I had it coded in my brain that Me + Twitter = Dumpster Fire. Still, I kept on wading into the pond, attempting to glean as much as I could from Twitter mavens (with gratitude to @jlknott @kate_sonka @amichaelberman @hypervisible @ryanstraight and many more who taught me SO much). I spent time swimming out further and further, and ultimately turned to see, to my great surprise, how far I’d come. At OLC Innovate 2018, I spent the majority of the conference live tweeting sessions, and when one of my favorite humans of all time, @keeganslw, did a data visualization of the top tweeters for the conference, I was sixth out of the 1000+ attendees. SIXTH! There wasn’t a medal, but shoot, I wanted one.
This month’s Social Media Takeover is about swimming through what we can do and what we can share, but doing it in a way that will sustain us and won’t overwhelm us. As I curate conversations on Twitter, I want to help folks realize that there are bounties of treasure at their fingertips. We spend much time in our positions struggling with shortages of time, resources and bandwidth. It can feel fruitless and overwhelming, like attempting to catalog all of the things paddling around the ocean as you are swimming in it. But rather than focusing on the vastness of the sea, what if we focused our attention on exploring the tide pools around us? These small microcosms of life and symbiosis hold connections to the larger ocean, but are easily explorable.
In that same vein, I hope that this September Social Media Takeover will be a month replete with new voices tangential to our current networks, promising collaborations in both physical and online spaces, and pathways to hone and share our stories. At the close of the month, I’ll invite this community to reflect on what we’ve learned about the people, places and stories that we’ve chosen to amplify. And I’ll keep asking you to share with me what you want to see and who you want to see elevated. If you’re up for exploring the ocean with me, tweet with me at the @SqdGlsNtwrk site or using our hashtag #SquadGoalsNetwork. Regardless of my strengths using the technology (or lack thereof), I promise to spend this month championing all the good work you’re doing within your own little tide pool, and map the importance of your connection to the larger ocean.