The Summer of Social Media

This post is a guest post for McGraw-Hill and is also posted here

Summer is a great time for many things: family vacation, 4th of July, BBQs, swimming at the pool, and generally recharging. It’s also a time that educators can give adequate time to new learning opportunities. It might mean attending a conference or workshop, working towards a graduate degree, or getting a special certification. Regardless of the reason why we know the time is valuable and can be used to become better for our students.

kids jumping into a lake

One thing that I think summer is great for in terms of professional learning is investing the time to better understand how you can use social media as an educator. Social media can be used as a great communication tool for a district, school, or a classroom. It can also become a great go-to resource for getting just in time information or following along with a conference you can’t attend in person. There are lots of options to try and summer is a great time to figure out which one(s) is best for you. Here are some options to think about:

Twitter. I’ve been on Twitter for nearly 9 years and it continues to be my most valuable resource. You’ll find me sharing blog posts, resources, and tech tips there. What’s even better are the brilliant people it can keep you connected to; someone you have seen present at a conference, an author, or a fellow teacher you share a common content area with. Don’t forget about the hashtags! Hashtags are keywords you can search around to find great people to connect with and get resources from. Even if you don’t have a Twitter account you can always go to search.twitter.com and type in any hashtag to see what’s being discussed and shared.  If you want to follow along with one of the biggest edtech conferences in the world, be sure to follow the #ISTE17 hashtag over the next month. This is just one example of so many.

You’ll find lots of great chats happening on Twitter as well. These are regularly scheduled discussions that happen on the same day and at the same time usually on a weekly basis. Our district is even having our own chats during the summer using our district PD hashtag – #GVEaglePD.

Twitter is definitely one of those things that follow the rule of “you get out of it what you put into it”. If you create an account, be sure to add a profile image, fill out your bio (we want to know about you!) and spend some time with it and give it a good chance!

Google+ Communities. Maybe you want some online PD that doesn’t limit you to 140 characters and gives you more of the social media experience maybe you’re used to (think Facebook)? I would look at joining some Google+ communities.  There are loads of education related topics that have communities. Find the one you like, click Join, and you’re off and running. In each community, you’ll see posts labeled with various categories, and there will be comments on various posts along with links, videos, and images. If you want a Google+ community on Google in Education, you’ve got one. If you want to learn more about project based learning, you’ll find it there. A tip: when you set up your profile on Google+ make sure you list your school district, what you teach, etc. because you’ll see more education related communities recommended to you when you click the Communities tab on the left side of the page. You can always, of course, just use the search box at the top of the page too.

Blogs and blogging. Sometimes, the best professional learning is just getting to do some reading and reflecting on your own. Many teachers enjoy following various educational news sites; many of which have regular writers that are currently practicing teachers and administrators. These can be organizations like (but certainly not limited to) Edutopia, EdSurge, ASCD, Education Week. and THE Journal or individual bloggers like (again not limited to) Katie Martin, Matt Miller, Shelly Terrell, and Doug Johnson.

As you start finding more and more online blogs and other sources you like to read regularly, I always get the question of how to manage all of them. I love to use Feedly (free version), which lets me aggregate all of my blogs and news sites into one place in an organized, clean interface. You can access it on the web and they have a mobile app as well that comes in handy for me to catch up on reading during my kids’ sports practices. 🙂

YouTube. Ah, the power of video. I always enjoy finding examples of and sharing the power that video can have in education. We are hard pressed to not find an instructional video on a particular topic. Now I know all of those videos are not instructional in a positive way, however, our students need us to be good models of effective use of YouTube. There’s too much great stuff there not to! There are great channels like (but of course not limited to) FriedTechnology, Tara Martin, Veritasium, Minute Earth, and Crash Course.

We can then of course jump into teachers using summer time to get comfortable with creating their own video content for their students too!

Are there more options than the 4 mentioned here? Yep definitely. Please share other suggestions in the comments and add more hashtags, communities, blogs, and channels there too. We’re better together, right? Enjoy your summer!

 

 

Start Somewhere

I am attending FETC in Orlando this week. If you have never been I’d encourage you to give it a go if your school/district can send you. Bring a team if you can. Get your district leadership to attend. There’s lots of great learning and many great people to connect with. However, this post isn’t just about why you should attend a conference.

From now all the way through summer is when the in-person conference opportunities really ramp up. We’re hearing more and more about personalizing learning, creating innovative learning opportunities, devices, coding, 3d printing, makerspaces, and the list can certainly go on and on. Many of you will be at these events. My question is, however, “Are the right people attending?”.

When anyone attends an event like FETC, ISTE, etc., there’s going to be an over-abundance of information coming at you. What’s important to do though, even before sitting through one session, is to identify one particular area that you want to begin with to change teaching and learning in your classroom or school. If you intake all this information (don’t get me wrong these events give you lots of great information) without a plan of what you’re going to do after the event is over, you’re not only doing yourself a disservice, but you’re doing kids a disservice too. Create your plan of where to start before the learning even begins.

bob marley quote image

Inundation Does Not Create Innovation

My job is to support teachers with technology integration. Sometimes it’s technology that they’ve learned from me, and sometimes it’s technology they have sought out on their own via a conference, Twitter, a colleague, or some other avenue. I really enjoy sharing new tech tools with teachers. It’s important for teachers to be equipped with a reasonable amount of options for how they can infuse more technology into teaching and learning. The end goal is to positively impact student achievement. That should be the #1 driver of anything we do with technology. I want to help build teachers’ capacity so that they leverage technology to bring innovative learning experiences to students.

I’ve discovered through my experiences being the provider of support and a facilitator of learning opportunities, that teachers don’t like to feel overwhelmed any more than students do. That is certainly the last thing I want a teacher to feel. A barrage of too many edtech tools will leave teachers feeling confused as to which one is best and without a clear plan of action going forward. It can feel like you’re trying to take a drink from a fire hose. In my role I follow a simple rule: If I’m sharing it with you, that means I’ve vetted it and it’s worth your time.

firehose
https://www.flickr.com/people/cne-cna-c6f/

If a teacher is initially overwhelmed with this firehose style delivery, it can cause real damage to that teacher’s willingness to try out new tech. ~Kerry Gallagher

Why do so many conferences and other professional learning events offer so much of the “firehose” style experience?  You can easily see it with a quick glance over any conference program. We see so many sessions like “842 edtech tools in 60 minutes” (I admit this is exaggerated) or “72 ways to use Google Forms in your classroom”. I sincerely appreciate the willingness to share, but is that what’s best for teachers that want to become comfortable with new ideas?

If you’re leading professional development you have to be cognizant of your audience’s needs and make sure to have adequate sandbox time sprinkled throughout.

If you were having students create a multimedia presentation we wouldn’t throw an unnecessary amount of tool options their way. We’d give them a few and if they find others and want to give one a go that’s great too. I’m all for options and not being locked into just one way to show mastery, but I think an overabundance of options doesn’t make for a good learning experience for teachers either.

Less is more, right?