Taking Over Georgia Department of Education Instagram: A Lesson in Trust

A few months ago I was alerted to an opportunity by one of my favorite collaborative partners, Gretchen Thomas. The Georgia State Department of Education was inviting educators to apply to takeover their Instagram account for one week. I filled out the quick application, and within a few weeks, I was notified that I was selected for the week of January 18-22, 2016.

When I applied, I really didn’t give a lot of thought to what the state DOE was actually doing, but as the week neared, I was really struck by this opportunity. Social media accounts have a lot of power. They allow organizations or individuals to really show the day to day realities of what we all face. Those accounts have influence and help create the brand of an organization. Handing over an account to someone who is for the most part a complete stranger is a big exercise in trust. How many organizations will just hand over their account and allow people to freely post?

This honor, of course, came with rules to follow.

  • Always use the hashtag #gadoeteachertakeover
  • Reply to comments, but indicate who is replying
  • Post photos that are representative of the profession
  • Anything deemed inappropriate could be deleted by the DOE
  • Post 2-5 photos per day
  • Follow any local policies on posting to social media

I took the responsibility very seriously, and I’m sure that every educator who was chosen is doing the same. In fact, if you scroll through the #gadoeteachertakover tag you’ll see the amazing opportunities our students in GA are receiving every day. Since I was allowed 5 photos per day, I thought very carefully about what to post because I wanted to show a variety of opportunities our students have in our library program.  It isn’t just about technology or just about books. I hope that the photos I chose show that it’s about giving students a voice and giving them opportunities to explore a variety of topics, interests, and passions and share those with the world.

Now that I am at the close of the week, I can back up and collectively look at my week in 25 pictures. It’s very easy for me to get lost in the day to day bustling library and focus on all of the things in my head that I’m not able to get to. When I take time to look back at blog posts, tweets, or pictures, I’m reminded of what is actually happening. This was honestly my first time doing this with Instagram, and I loved seeing a visual of images that showcased one week. In  my head I know what’s missing, what problems we faced, what moments of frustrations I had, but the images remind me that there were miraculous things happening all around us.

I would like to thank the Georgia State Department of Education for this opportunity. Thank you for trusting the educators of Georgia to show their work. Thank you for empowering the voices of educators and students to define what education looks like in our state. I hope that other professional organizations will consider how this type of campaign empowers the voices of its members and amplifies the work that is happening on the front lines of the organization.


GPEE Bus Tour Across Georgia


Winning t-shirt design from Smiley Face Graphics

Remember this post about 4th graders traveling to the state department of education to model 21st century learning?  A part of this lesson was students designing a new t-shirt for our school.  This year, the designs were voted on and every student and teacher in the school received their very own shirt.  Today, we all wore them for a special event, the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education Bus Tour Across Georgia.  This trip brings together influential people from around the state and tours them through multiple Georgia schools across Georgia.  This year the theme was “Georgia’s Public Schools: Using Technology, Creating Pathways for Student Success.”  Our school was selected as a stop on the tour based on the innovative work that occurs in our library and classrooms.

Over 100 guests arrived at our school and were split into 14 groups.  These groups were escorted by student tour guides to 5 different stops in our school.  Bus riders saw incredible instruction and technology use in multiple classrooms.  They also stopped by our library where select students from K-5 were showcasing projects that had already been completed.

For example:

  • Kindergarten students showed their digital alphabet books and photo stories
  • 1st graders showed how to use PebbleGo.
  • 2nd graders showed their Regions of Georgia commercials on Youtube.
  • 3rd graders showed digital inquiry projects about rocks as well as a rock pathfinder
  • 4th graders showed how we used a gadget in a Google form to collect data about locations of various Native American locations
  • 5th graders showed digital inquiry projects using Animoto, Glogster, Prezi, Simplebooklet, and Power Point.

It was truly amazing to step back and watch students from every grade talk about what they had learned from their technology projects.  They taught many of our guests about tools that they had never heard of, and many of the educators within the group plan to go back to their school to begin using some of the Web 2.0 tools featured today.

I was once again reminded of the expertise that hides within our buildings and how we need to give students the space to play, explore, create, and share their knowledge both about content and technology.

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