Turn On the “Share” Button

The more I have been involved using social media helping to create incredible opportunities for myself and our students, the more I have seen the value. Many comments however regard the amount of time it takes to do this and that it is not possible to fit something into their day.

As an educator, I empathize with the amount educators work to create authentic learning opportunities for their students and definitely do not want to add to their plate. You do not have to blog daily to create some great connections with people and learn from others. Having a Personal Learning Network is a fantastic opportunity for teachers but according to George Siemens, we have to do much more than lurk:

Being connected, without creating and contributing, is a self-focused, self-centered state. I’ve ranted about this before, but there is never a good time to be a lurker. Lurking=taking. The concept of legitimate peripheral participation sounds very nice, but is actually negative. Even when we are newcomers in a network or community, we should be creating and sharing our growing understanding.

To get started sharing and being able to shift your practice, here are some easy ways I suggest sharing your learning with others:

  1. Create a Twitter account. This is a fantastic way to start building your PLN and gives you access to a ton of resources that will save you time in the long run. Instead of recreating the wheel, you will find many great activities for your students that you will simply need to tweak for your kids. What takes longer? Tweaking or creating from scratch? Exactly πŸ™‚ Click here for a list of educators you can follow.
  2. Bit.ly sidebar. Do you read good articles? Of course you do. Download the bit.ly sidebar and connect it with your Twitter account and you can share articles in an instant. (Just so you know, I suggest you only share articles that you think are worth sharing. Don’t share everything!) For a tutorial on how to use this tool, here is a short video on how to do this.
  3. Use Diigo. Diigo is my favourite social bookmarking tool because it is easy to collect and share your information. This is another time saver because it saves your bookmarks wherever you go! No more emailing links back and forth to computers. It is also nice for creating a repository of links on a certain subject that you can share with only one link. For example, here is my list of iPad apps for educators (that I actually asked for instead of searching for on my own. Sound like a time saver?). It also has a “Twitter this” button so you can bookmark and tweet links at the same time.
  4. Use Google Apps. Do you ever write great lessons or units? Instead of using Microsoft Word, why not use Google Docs so it can be shared easily with others. You do not get all of the fancy formatting that you do with Word but people rarely use most Word to its full capacity anyway. As another time saving tip, when I need feedback from staff, I ask them to fill out short surveys using Google Forms instead of them sending email after email of information. There is one form where everything is compiled for me. Another fantastic time saver.

The initial set up for these applications does take a little effort (I estimate that you can easily set all of this up in under an hour), but the amount of time you will save in the long run will be beneficial. Not only are all of these applications easy to use, but they making sharing easier as well. The more we share, the better opportunities we will be able to create for our students.


  1. Dwight Carter said:

    I appreciate the suggestions and links. Time should never be used as an excuse, yet its a reality. Meaning learning and collaboration takes time, but we can no longer afford not to connect, learn, and contribute.

    December 26, 2010
    • Thanks Dwight πŸ™‚ Glad we could connect and learn from each other!

      December 28, 2010
  2. Shannon said:

    Excellent post, George. This will be a super resource to share with folks who tell me that they are too busy or who ask me how I could possibly have time to tweet, etc… It isn’t about having time to do it, it is about the time you save and the richness of the resources you come across. The power and benefits of sharing are too often overlooked, in my opinion. Your starter list is super – completely reasonable and essential tools. I have not used the Bit.ly sidebar before, so I learned something new here too πŸ˜‰ Great stuff!


    December 26, 2010
    • I am glad I was able to teach you something πŸ˜‰

      December 28, 2010
  3. Shane said:

    Great resources, George. I think it behooves all us as leaders to move forward in building our PLNs. I’ve been amazed at the possibilities. Thanks for encouraging us to SHARE.

    December 27, 2010
    • My pleasure Shane πŸ™‚ Glad we could connect!

      December 28, 2010
  4. Phil said:

    Hi George,

    I have been thinking a lot about sharing over the past little while. I put some of my thoughts down in a blog post: http://macoun.edublogs.org/2010/11/27/how-can-we-teach-sharing/#comments

    I think you are right that sharing and not just lurking is really important, but I can’t help thinking about my own experience getting started with social media. When I discovered RSS I became a power lurker who gradually started to realise that if I wanted to go to the next level I had to start participating. I finally got up the courage to leave a comment on @betchaboy’s blog and was amazed when he responded within half an hour. I was a a convert, but lurking was a part of the process.

    I’m not convinced Twitter is the way to start. It takes a real commitment to Twitter to build up a network that really works and most teachers aren’t willing to put in the time to do this. What I mean is that for Twitter to really work you need some people to pay attention to your Tweets and they can get lost in the noise quite easily. Maybe the place to start is by getting a staff all set up on Twitter and following each other. Or maybe 2 schools?

    I have been thinking that social bookmarking is a good place to start. Dean Shareski mentions this in his great K12 Online Keynote http://k12onlineconference.org/?p=610 ‘Sharing is the Moral Imperative’. I was really keen to go back to work after the holidays and start pushing Delicious, but due to it’s precarious status I think I will try Diigo.

    OK this is starting to turn into a rambling brainstorm type of comment so my last thought is that, for me, having someone reply to my comment was amazing. Even better was when I got my first comment on a blog post. I know that there are sites like http://comments4kids.blogspot.com/ to help students find people to comment on and get comments from. I wonder if there is a site out there for teachers just getting into blogging to go to to get themselves a bit more attention?

    December 27, 2010
    • Thanks for your comment Phil πŸ™‚ I think that Twitter is the best place to start for some, but not all. With social bookmarking you can collect resources but it is hard to share them with people if you have not connected with them. It is great that you can work this with your staff, but I find that if I am connecting with my own only, it just seems like more work. I think that there is value in connecting with new people and bringing those new ideas back or developing them with your staff. As an administrator, I guarantee that my staff does not want to connect with me 24 hours a day! I think to start people off they just need to be mentored. It is hard to understand what is going on if you are going by yourself. I was lucky to have been mentored by my brother and Dean Shareski and it definitely made a difference.

      As for your question on blogging, I know if you connect with Shelley Terrell (@shellterrell) and Greta Sandler (@gret) they are starting a site just like the one you are speaking of. They want to mentor new bloggers and help them on their way. Hope that helps.

      December 28, 2010
  5. […] Blog and a post by George Couros, Principal of Forest Green School in Stony Plain, Alberta – Turn on the “Share” Button. In his post, George recommends four tools for sharing your learning that will take less than an […]

    December 31, 2010

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