Creating a win-win situation: Sharing on social media
by Neil Millington
“What’s in it for you?” This question, posed to me by a fellow teacher I had only just met at a conference, was simple enough. I had just finished explaining to him how much work it was to create our website, dreamreader.net, an online bank of free reading materials. I was caught off-guard by such a blunt question and I wasn’t really sure how to answer it.
My initial response was to tell the story of how we got the idea for dreamreader.net and how we wanted to share the lessons we made. (For those of you who don’t know this story, please check out this interview I did earlier in the year with Mike Griffin.) I explained that I got to go to conferences and talk to people about what I was doing, I got to meet other people doing other online projects through social media, and I also hoped to make a little money to cover the cost of what I have invested into the site.
Finding the Passion
However, after the conference had ended, the question played on my mind a little. I started to ponder why I had continued to work so hard over the last 12 months on a project from which I got seemingly little in return. After all, I told myself, I work a full time job, I’m writing my PhD dissertation, and I have family and friends that like to see me occasionally! It took me a while, but I think I have figured out an answer. Here are my thoughts about my answer to that question now I’ve been doing this for over a year.
In the last year or so, making and sharing our own materials has become a passion. I really like sitting down with a coffee and writing new lessons, making quizzes, formatting everything so it looks nice and handing it over to Brad for him to record the audio and work his tech magic and get it out there for people to use. I literally write materials whenever I have free time. I genuinely love it when I see a lesson that I put together go up on the site and see people start to use it. Let me explain why or you might start to think I really don’t have a life!
In the first few months, we used to get a little feedback and the occasional thank you via social media. But, as the number of lessons has increased on the site, so have the number of people using it. The amount of feedback and comments we get has gone up too. This feedback has amazed me, and has encouraged me to continue sharing free materials. Thousands of teachers from all over the world seem to be using and enjoying the site. I’ve heard from teachers in Afghanistan, Algeria, Armenia, and 190 other different countries telling me they are using our materials in their classes. To me, this alone is incredible!
Easing the Burden on Busy Teachers
Although this encouragement has certainly helped my motivation to keep growing and improving dreamreader.net, it is not what has most impressed me the most! Recently, I’m hearing more and more from very busy teachers. They’re not complaining, but they have to work incredibly hard. The number of duties they are expected to carry out seems to be increasing, and the pressures of the job, including severe time pressure, are eating in to the precious little time they have to actually sit down and carefully plan lessons.
The thing that has encouraged me the most to keep making new materials, is that these same dedicated but incredibly busy teachers are saying that what we have been doing is helping them. When we initially designed the site, we wanted it to be easy to use. We wanted to teachers to be able to just go on the site, find a lesson they like, download it, print it, copy it, and use it in class. It seems like many people are doing just that! I’ve had so many kind messages telling me that what we are doing is making teachers’ lives easier! We’re saving teachers prep time and freeing them up to do other duties, and even reclaim some of their personal time.
I recently got this comment from a teacher called Rubi.
“I’ve been using this site for quite some time now for my Korean & Japanese students. It offers a wide variety of interesting topics as well as the style of teaching. For example, I can use the audio for my Listening Class. Not only that but also it has different kinds of choices for ESL LEVELS. It makes my job a bit easier. Thank You!!!”
Needless to say, I was very happy! Thank you, Rubi!
Being Part of a Community
Before I go any further, I am not suggesting we are the only ones doing this. There are so many great websites out there like dreamreader.net that are run by one or two teachers, and here is the crux of this blog post. I’m sure you know a few websites that I have never come across and vice versa. So, this blog is a call for us busy teachers to share posts and websites that we find useful. I have been guilty in the past of coming across a great post, saving the link, liking the post, and moving on. What I am going to endeavor to do is to make sure I share these cool ideas and websites more on social media. As a community of teachers around the world, we can easily help to make each other’s lives easier and help each other save time! My policy will be, if I like it, I’ll share it with my colleagues and online friends! It seems to me a win win situation. My friends and colleagues can find something new, and the creator gets a little more encouragement for sharing! What do you think?
Over the next couple of months, I’m going to be blogging more about cool websites and posts I come across. Please come back and check them out!