Saturday, May 28, 2011

When an Idea Goes Viral

I have written about the power of Twitter and how it has impacted my teaching before. I was initially blown away by the connections being made and sustained on a daily basis. However, I was amazed yet again with the power of Twitter to actually make a concrete impact on student learning. Yes, we share resources and strategies that filter into classrooms, but there is something bigger out there. There are ideas that show up and then go viral. I was recently a part of such an idea and the results are still amazing me.


Back in March our school held an Innovation Day at school for our sixth grade students. This idea came from a fellow teacher in our building who had done it on a small level with his team of about 100 students. Shortly after I wrote about our Innovative Day, Daniel Pink tweeted about it and the hits on the post skyrocketed. He also wrote about our day on his blog. I was slightly embarrassed by the mention because it certainly was more than me involved in this day. While all that was cool, what happened next was even more impressive.


In the days and weeks that followed my initial post I was contacted by teachers and administrators from literally all over the world. These educators wanted to hold an Innovative Day of their own. While it was no Rebecca Black, the idea has gone viral to some degree. Pernille Ripp recently held her Innovative Day with her 4th grade classroom and Tim Monreal facilitated one at his school. At this time I am in the midst of planning other Innovative Days with schools across the Midwest and two in England.

This experience has raised two questions for me about why this idea has gone “viral”.

Why did this idea gain the traction that it did?

Obviously if an idea is able to be replicated and gain in popularity, there has to be some value in it. As I previously wrote, there is great value unfiltered learning and giving students complete control of their learning. If we know this is true, then why do we still try to put learning in boxes with curriculum and standards? Yes, Pink’s press certainly helped spread the word, but I like to think it was more than that. Teachers saw the value in the idea and it made sense on a very simple level.

How does an idea like this go viral?

For me, this experience is yet another powerful example of the connections social media allows. If I was not a blogger or a tweeter, folks would never have known about our Innovation Day and the idea would not have been shared outside my school. The connections we make are so crucial not only for ourselves but for our students. When ideas such as Innovation Days are shared, it is the kids that come out as winners. They are the ones that ultimately gain from our connections through the shared ideas and experiences on social media. While I will never meet the students in Mrs. Ripp’s or Mr. Monreal’s schools, I feel good knowing they had a good experience based on something I wrote. If you are doing an Innovation Day or something similar, please share it in the comments.

My final thought on ideas going viral is that for that to work we need to share. For those reading this post, you already know this because that is what brings you here. You are reading blogs, tweets and making connections because you already know the value. I challenge us all to bring more teachers here. We need to stop preaching to the choir and bring more people into the chorus.
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