A Cup of Coffee with Curtis Baker

curtis-bakerI’m excited to share this Cup of Coffee with Curtis Baker.

Curtis is the admission liaison for PK-5 and social media manager at Lake Mary Prep near Orlando, FL. I was first introduced to Curtis as the co-author of an iBook entitled, “Reaching the Tweeps: Hashing out the role of Social Media in Education.

I really enjoyed the iBook and wanted to bring it to your attention because Curtis and his co-authors are ‘school people’ and offer great real world examples from their shared experiences. I’d like to thank Curtis for taking the time out of a busy admission season and sharing this Cup of Coffee with me.

1.What was the motivation for writing your iBook: “Reaching the Tweeps: Hashing out the role of Social Media in Education.”

Two teachers and I thought it would be a fun idea to present at the Florida Council of Independent Schools (FCIS) Conference on how Social Media is positive in education.  We wanted to remove the taboo and fear of using it in the classroom and beyond.  The truth is that one of our teachers and co-authors, Nikki Morrell, came up with the idea to have a book for the FCIS conference in November.  The three of us are collaborating on helping other teachers and administrators in other private schools in Florida to use Social Media in the classroom.  We want to share with others ideas on what we are doing in hopes that it encourages faculty and administrators alike.  Wanting to give a “take away” to all who participate was a must for us; the book was the way we chose and it shows that anyone can create an iBook.

2. How has the reaction been to your iBook? Positive? Negative?

The reaction has been great!  Our headmaster, Mr. Chapin, has been very supportive as well as our corporate office Meritas (www.meritas.net).  We have seen other educators from the US  mention it and contact us.  I think the true test will be after our presentation where we will promote the book to educators for free.

3. How was the creative process working with collaborators?

Honestly, it was truly awesome!  As an administrator, it was such a great opportunity to work along with two teachers that are passionate, energetic and understand meeting students where they are in their educational journey.  It was also great to share the different perspectives each one has with respect to their role at Lake Mary Preparatory School (LMP).  For myself, I use Social Media as a way to promote the school both internally to our current families as well as externally to those who make want to know more about LMP.  Working together with the teachers, also allows me to speak with our tours and potential families about the ways that we use Social Media in the classroom as a positive and a way of keeping in touch with technology, trends and 21st century education.

4. How has social media grown at LMP?

When I first came to LMP we had a Facebook page that had about 300 likes.  I was tasked with taking our social media to a new level.  I was given the freedom to explore, create and grow as I saw necessary.  Now we have 5 facebook pages, an active Twitter, YouTube page, a new blog and more to come.  I have been collaborating with Meritas communications in many ways as well in getting our school’s success out there in the world.  Social Media is very exciting to me.  Social Media today is the smallest that it will ever be.  It will only continue to grow as we progress in technology and in the 21th century.

5. How was the process creating an iBook?

I will be honest in saying that I was a little nervous of the concept at first, but then quickly realized how simple it really was.  I took the experience as a learning time for me.  If I can do this with no training, then anyone can find their way through creating their own book.  The book can be as simple or as thorough as you want it to be.  The task then became when to stop adding information and call it complete.

6. Why did you choose to create and distribute an iBook as opposed to an eBook?  

Simply, our school has become a Mac school.  All of our teachers and administration have Macbooks & iPads.  It was the easiest format for us starting off in this new venture.  More importantly, it was a trial for the three of us authors so we can encourage our students to also collaborate and create their own.

7. What software did you use to create the iBook?

We used iBook Author to create the book.

8. How long did it take you to create this iBook?

Truly it took about two months to create our book.  The greatest challenge I think we found in creating the book was simply balancing our schedules and finding time to get away and collaborate.  When we did get together, our energy would grow and build as we thought of new ideas.  Where we really were surprised was the turn around time from being submitted for approval by iTunes/Apple.  We had read it could take weeks or sometimes months pending on the amount of information used.  For us, it took less than 24 hours for approval to come.  You can only imagine the excitement this created for the three of us.

9. If you knew then what you know now – what advice can you share for someone who is thinking about creating an iBook?

Outline and collaborate.  This being our first time we created a book, we were going at it as a learning experience.  Think outside the box with anything, but especially something like an iBook.  You are putting your name of your work, so it should truly speak to the creativity, enthusiasm and passion you have regardless of the subject.  Also, do not try to do it on your own.  There are plenty of people out there, blogs to read and people to collaborate with to make it an enjoyable task!

10. What tips can you share for creating iBooks?

Tips…I almost feel unqualified for giving tips as this was only our first, but again it is the perspective you take in the creation process.  Keep it simple.  The audience for any iBook is going to vary by subject, but know your audience.  I guess I would also reiterate, the thinking outside the box.  Do not be afraid to push the envelope on creativity, opinions or subject matter.  You want others to be drawn to your creation and to share it.  Also, get others’ insight before submitting for approval.  Have fresh eyes to take a look over your work.  You as the author know the material and have put countless hours in the work.  It is helpful to have fresh eyes on the finished project and to receive openly their input!

11. Can you share some advice for a person just starting out with Twitter?

Do not jump into it too fast.  Go as you feel comfortable.  Start by simply creating a twitter account.  Follow a few people that you are interested in or companies that have similar interests/goals.  Read and watch what they are saying and just take time to see what Twitter is all about.  Then put your first tweet out there.  Think about what you have observed and how to make it personal for your account.  As you begin to get comfortable with Twitter, make it part of your day.  As an educator, tweet out daily observations in the classroom, on campus, post articles you are reading.  Also, do not be afraid to ask for help.  Grab a student, a young hip teacher or simply reach out in the Twitter-sphere for a little advice.

Engage with your audience and balance your posts.  For me, I am balancing getting information out for a school that is PreK3 – 12th with an international boarding program.  Our athletics are great, our academics are constantly challenging our students/families, and our teachers are the best around.  I love bragging about the great things that went on during the day with those on twitter.  But I also find it important to not just focus on our school, but also putting information out there about trending topics in education, mentioning local events and supports of our school and creating an overall great image of our brand.

Most importantly, always remain professional.  Remember that if you question the content, err on the side of caution.  You never want a tweet to come back and haunt you.

12. What’s the best example you can share of Twitter being used most appropriately in the classroom?

I get excited reading this question. One of the co-authors of the book, Nikki Morrell (@nikmorrell ) teaches our Upper School English courses.  Rather than tackling Shakespeare’s Hamlet as just a piece of English literature, she introduced the students to Hamlet through twitter.  Students created twitter accounts for the project.  Each student created a twitter account as one of the characters from the story.  As they were reading through Hamlet, they would tweet as the characters.  The students loved it and continued tweeting even after the unit on Hamlet was completed.  It was simply a teacher recognizing a medium in which our students were already using, Twitter, and giving them parameters to bring that into the classroom turing Hamlet into a hands on project.  You can read more about the project here http://www.edsocialmedia.com/2012/03/to-tweet-or-not-to-tweet/

13. Can you give us a preview of your next iBook?

Oh the next book…We have thrown out a few ideas but nothing solid.  Some ideas we are discussing are a second edition to our current book.  Social Media is the smallest it will ever be today.  It is constantly changing the way we think, communicate, market, interact and brand.  Another idea would be more focused topics such as Administrators using Social Media to brand your school, Teachers using Social Media to bring the 21st century to the classroom.  I also see a student & teacher guide to Social Media in the room: understanding what is at your fingertips!

Thank you Curtis for taking the time to share your knowledge with us. I encourage you to check out Curtis’ work at LMP and download their iBook: Reaching the Tweeps: Hashing out the role of Social Media in Education.

Lake Mary Preparatory School:


If you have any questions for Curtis please post them in the comments section below.

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