(Cross posted from a guest post on the Avi Chai Foundation blog) And… They’re off! As you may have heard, the Avi Chai Foundation has gathered a diverse cohort of New York and New Jersey Day Schools to learn about social media tools and strategies, and to support them in developing their own “experiments” to develop their networks, engage with parents and alumni, and ramp up development efforts over the next several months. After two full workshops, online exchanges and a bit of homework, the teams (2 from each school) are off and running with their project plans. Or maybe, more accurately we should say that they are playing and experimenting — because this is how we learn. One thing that I enjoy about this cohort is that they ask great questions. While reading about the four children (Wise, Wicked, Simple and One that does not know how to ask) this year at our Pesach seder, I began thinking about how these archetypes apply to (adult) students of social media. When teaching about something as new and different as a communications revolution, I see all of these archetypes (and, honestly, I experience all of them myself too). In the most successful situations, I’ve seen participants progress from one to the next as their openness, comfort, curiosity and enthusiasm grow. Inspired by the four children in the Haggadah, I offer you four (non-judgemental) archetypes of the social media learner: The accidental techie comes eager to learn, ready to experiment, and with some solid social media experience under their belt. They know the tools (largely self-taught), can learn by exploring themselves, and are willing to assume a pioneering role for their organization. Encourage the accidental techie to play a leadership role in the organization, to teach others, and to explain the opportunities and successes taking place that others might miss. Give them the time and encouragement to continue to explore and innovate online, and make sure they have peers and mentors to support them. The implementer is concerned with the “how-to” of social media. This person accepts the responsibility to use the tools in their job, and is developing a skill set to be able to effectively execute this role. Without an instinctual understanding of social media culture, this person may tend to post only about events, or neglect the need to be listening and engaging online as well as speaking. An early stage implementer applies the old paradigm social norms to the new paradigm spaces. An advanced implementer has learned these skills and they are on the verge of becoming instinctual and natural as he or she develops this “fluency” – it’s not unlike learning a language. Continue to point out to this person the idiosyncrasies that take their work from good to great. The deer-in-headlights is the one who doesn’t know how to ask. While they may be overwhelmed and feel like a fish out of water, this person is curious and listening. This person needs to know that there are no stupid questions – that we are all learning all the time, and that the rate of change is in fact ridiculously fast. Make sure this participant realizes that they are not alone (most of the room feels this way too!) and help them to feel confidence and success in at least a few places. Celebrate the small successes, and guide them to focus on a small number of basic tasks in order to develop their own foundation from which they can play and experiment. The nay-sayer resists acknowledging that communications revolution applies to their work. They are often heard saying, “We’ve always done it this way and it’s working just fine,” or “Our community doesn’t use these things.” The nay-sayer is often scared of change (aren’t we all?) and finds it safer and easier to deny the influence of social media tools and culture on their work than to wrestle with the inevitable questions and issues that we all must face. The best way to engage the nay-sayer is to help them see the value of these tools personally (“oh, photos of my grandson on Facebook! This is great!” or “Wow, someone volunteered to bring snack to the soccer game in 3 minutes – that’s incredible!”) before considering how to apply them to their professional work. The participants in the Academy are largely the first two archetypes. They are eager, curious, and are asking deep, meaningful, and profound questions. Some are “implementer” questions (How can we upload a video of students that we can link to for parents without making it publicly available?); some are more strategic (Should we have multiple Facebook Pages for Lower, Middle and High schools, and another for alumni, or should we consolidate into one Page?); and others are philosophical or ethical (How can we model and teach responsible online behavior for our students when we’re not in control of what people post on our wall? Should we condone use of social media when this can lead to gossip or slander?). I know that as they begin the implement their projects, the questions will become more frequent and more fascinating. They are keeping me on my toes, and I love it! On May 5th we’ll conduct our third full day workshop. Their toolboxes will be full, their goals articulated, and coaches holding their hands for the next important phase of this experience – putting it into practice. As each school team embarks on developing their project, we’ll be learning together, reflecting and revising, and sharing with each other and with you as well. Stay tuned. We may have questions for you. In the meantime, take a moment to reflect on which archetype you are. What defines your current experience with and feelings about social media either personally or professionally? What do you need to move from one stage to the next?