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!

 

 

Connecting the dots

'Dotted Perspective Vector Background' photo (c) 2011, Vectorportal - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

So, I’ve been trying to find the right words to express some thoughts I have about being a connected educator. We’ve got just under a week left in Connected Educator Month and I wanted to make a contribution because becoming a connected educator in various online spaces has had profound impact on my professional and personal life for nearly 4 years now (come October).

While I (and as many others have shared) get tremendous benefit to being connected every single day from Twitter, Google+, Google Reader, etc., there’s a benefit to being connected that allows me to help others. I get to help people connect dots. It’s helping others become more connected. It’s connecting the connected I suppose.

This looks like me seeing someone pose a question like, “Does anyone have any ideas for how I can make communication better between school and home?”. While I don’t have direct experience with this, I might reply to them saying, “Have you talked to @Joe_Mazza?”. I know that Joe has implemented many new and innovative ways he reaches out to parents to bridge the gap between school and home. I make sure that person knows Joe and reaches out to him because I know Joe is always willing to help.

Here are some other topic/subject specific connected educators that are great to learn from and are always willing to help:

Erin Klein – elementary education
Stephanie Madlinger – professional development
Bob Dillon – secondary administrator
Pernille Ripp – elementary education
Tim Gwynn – elementary tech facilitator
Chris Betcher – Google Certified Teacher
Amanda Dykes – secondary science teacher
Dave Guymon – 6th grade teacher
Scott Newcomb – mobile learning devices
Jill Bromenschenkel – ELL
Lisa Dabbs – new teacher mentoring
Jason Markey – high school principal, 1:1 initiatives

This of course is in no way an exhaustive list. There’s no ranking here. This is a handful of people I know and what they specialize in. You know folks like this too. Once we become connected educators, do we have a responsibility to help others connect? I think we do. If you’re connected and see someone needing help (whether they’re a brand new connected educator or not), I urge you to help connect some dots from time to time. Not just during August, but making it part of your commitment to being a connected educator.

If you know me, you know I love helping people and sharing the awesome things happening in districts, schools, and classrooms all over the world. I know many of you share my desire to help, whether directly or indirectly. The more connected we become, the more people we know, the more ideas we get, the more we can become better at what we do to make learning better for students.