Friday, 24 June 2016

Social Media - Does it have a place in Education?

The world is changing pace rapidly so how do we to prepare our students for 21st Century when we don’t have the skills ourselves? We as teachers are supposed to model being ‘lifelong learners’ then where and when do we learn? How do we measure our effectiveness or get inspiration? Who acts as our mentor or critical friend when there is no money or little time to invest in these tools?

It is social media that inspires me to ‘hack learning’ in my classroom and continue to be that ‘lone nut’ that stands out as doing something a bit different. For me being ‘Connected Learner’ (Office of Ed Tech 2013) it is not the key aspect of being a 21st Century Educator. Being a connected learner is essential for my growth, my excitement and what drives me to continue the journey in becoming a better teacher. It is the air that I breathe as an educator.

This is good because relying on ‘management’ to provide relevant PD to my particular interests or needs is not realistic. Melhuish states It is recommended that educators explore ways to make strategic use of social network sites within a clearly articulated inquiry, focused on student outcomes.” (2013, pg 179)

  1. How do/would you use social media to enhance your professional development? Why?
Being actively involved in my Twitter Community of Practice has has allowed me to make connections with colleagues around the world. I can participate in discussions about current educational trends across continents due to the ability to access this PD at any time or place. This provides a never-ending, free ‘conference’ where we share resources, challenge ideas and discover the next inspirational book to read. Twitter is like a spider’s web of AKO that binds us together in learning from and supporting one another.  Gone is the past where resources were hoarded and classroom doors closed. The sole purpose of being a connected learner is to support those around you and be enriched by sharing their expertise. I am lucky to be connected to colleagues from around the world that challenge and inspire me to be better.
Other social media tools that help support my learning journey are using Google Docs to collaboratively plan, Google + groups and Facebook pages for discussion with like-minded people on issues like ILE or Collaborative Teaching. The VLN Groups network are an excellent resource but the most effect on my practice has come from Twitter.
2.  What are some key features of social media that are beneficial for teaching and learning? Why?
Why would we ask students to ‘power down’ when the come to school when we are charged with preparing them for the 21st Century? Surely our job is to engage students while teaching them how to effectively use these tools to collaborate and create in a safe way. (Education Council 2016). Digital citizenship has to be at the heart of our classrooms along with moving from the act of consuming to actually creating. (Seaman, & Tinti-Kane, 2013) Pearson’s survey in that same document shows there was an increase of 21.3% from 2012 to 2013 in social media use in teaching.
In our classroom, we make use of many social media tools to motivate students, support their learning and share that journey with whanau.
Every student has their own blog which acts like an e-portfolio tracking their progress across time from Year 4 - 8. This is a place to share writing, oral recordings of reading fluency, reflections, slide presentations for inquiry, movies and many other exciting pieces of learning. It gives students an audience and purpose to present their ‘best’ and the thought of ownership and their learning being seen by ‘the world’ is highly motivating.
Through blogging we have an opportunity to teach Cyber Citizenship  - with a purpose. We also have a huge focus on students giving constructive comments and following the next steps suggesting in those from teachers, parents and peers. This reinforces the concept of us all being both the teacher and learner. This could also be seen when my students not only participated in 5 Sentence or 100 Word Challenges but also wrote comments on the writing of other students. To be a Cyber Citizen, we can’t expect to just receive comments but we also need to give back to our community.
Teaching students to use a range of apps and tools allows them to make choices about which would be most effective in achieving their desited goal. This requires them to take their audience into account and evaluate each tool. These are all skills of a much higher level than just ‘consuming’ drill and skill games! They are the skills of a 21st Century Learner.
Apart from blogging, we also use a range of other Social Media tools. We use twitter as a reflection tool where students need to make a summary, have it correct and think about their audience. (@coolkiwikids) This gives us a platform to share learning but also has the opportunity to make connections. In the past we have been involved in #kidsedchatnz, quadblogging and #kidscafeNZ which developed into running a kids ‘educamp’ for blog buddies from another school. Making connections helps develop empathy as students see the similarities between them and students in other countries or circumstances.

Another tool we find valuable is the LEARNZ Network for Virtual Field Trips. This gives students an opportunity to participate in activities that might be impossible to attend in 'real-life' and make connections with experts in the field. This next week we are actually participating in making the 'Bird Survey' video that will be shared with other students.

Being a GAFE school also gives our students great joy as they love collaborating in projects and co-writing stories which they then post on their blogs, from where whanau can comment. Google Docs and the use of Hapara Dashboard to track student learning gives me opportunity to build those relationships Joosten reports are needed for learning (2013). I can even comment on learning that students are working on in the weekend!
Classrooms are no-longer the centre of our learning. They are the base from which we reach out to a rich wealth of connections with other classrooms, students and experts. I am excited that the classroom I have the pleasure of working in looks so different to the one I began my teaching career in 20 years ago.

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