As a Technology Integration Specialist, I end up sending the staff that I work with lots of emails. I work really hard to only send what’s important and to keep it brief. Occasionally, the things I send out are necessary and/or require some sort of response or action step. As you can probably guess, if my response rate was a test score, there’d be a red F written next to it.
And I understand, educators are uber-busy people. But I still need those action steps taken. So? I use some silly tactics. There are 2 in particular and here’s the first . . .
Memes & GIFs in emails
If I can get someone to open the email just because a colleague told them there was a ridiculous meme or GIF in there, well, that’s half the battle, isn’t it?
Here are a few that I’ve used recently. Got any others you’d like to suggest? Put them in the comments or send them to me @JakeMillerTech.
A word of advice if you decide to adopt this tactic: only use it sparingly and when you really need to draw in your recipients… a fun and novel approach ceases to be fun and novel when it becomes overused and annoying.
One of the most difficult things to do as a creator of content – lessons, activities, blog posts, videos, art . . . anything that has an audience – is to be honest with yourself when you’ve created something not worthy of your audience’s time or attention.
Tonight I spent 10 minutes recording a video and 45 minutes editing it before I realized . . . my intended audience doesn’t want this. It was longer than necessary and “clunkier” than I should accept.
So, what did I do?
I clicked delete. I was honest with myself.
Have high standards. Self-assess. Give yourself real feedback. Evaluate things honestly. Judge them based on quality and value, not the amount of time you put into them. I could’ve said “it’s not my best work, but deleting it would mean that I just wasted an hour.” First off – if we see it as an opportunity for growth, that time wasn’t wasted. And second – if it’s not your best, go back to the drawing board. Make it your best. Be honest with yourself.
Presenter: What brought you to this professional development session? Attendee #1: I needed contact hours for my IPDP. Attendee #2: This is something that I wanted to learn more about. Attendee #3: My administrator said I had to come here. Attendee #4: I want to be a better educator. Attendee #5: I needed the credit hours. Attendee #6: There were no other sessions that I was interested in and I had to choose something.
I was thinking about PD for educators recently and realized . . . we’re just like our students. We have varying levels of interest and, therefore, varying levels of motivation. It reminded me of Schlechty’s 5 Levels of Student Engagement. And then it hit me . . . these are also the 5 Levels of PROFESSIONAL Learner Engagement.
Authentic Engagement—the educator is engaged and sees the PD as valuable, applicable, and exciting. They want to learn this. They can’t wait to apply it in their classroom.
Strategic Compliance—the educator needs credits or contact hours in order to receive a benefit, likely in the form of a step up on the pay scale or recognition from their peers or administrators for taking the initiative to participate.
Ritual Compliance—the educator needs credits or contact hours in order to keep their license and/or job.
Retreatism—the educator attends the meeting but does not pay attention or engage in the content.
Rebellion—the educator checks their email (or performs another task without hiding it), refuses to participate and/or complains.
Now, it may seem like I’m bad-mouthing the educators, but I’m not. I’ve probably been at each of those levels at least once myself. We all probably have. So, what does that mean? It means that I’m bad-mouthing the PD. Who can blame them for not being “authentically engaged” in professional development? Authentic engagement is not a choice. Either the activity engages them authentically or it does not.
So . . . what do we do?
We give these professionals a say in what they learn. We give them time to explore the possibilities. We give them an opportunity to investigate what may be useful for them. We give them Dan Pink’s 3 factors of motivation: autonomy, mastery & purpose.
Because it’s what’s best for the kids. And that’s all that matters.
Learn more about the work of the late Phil Schlecthy at schlechtycenter.org.
Learn more about Daniel Pink’s phenomenal book Drive and his other work at danpink.com.
Original Post from February 2016. GIF updated in April 2020 to include my logo in the corner.