Social Media and the Modern Day Teacher

Within the last year, social media has consumed many parts of my life. I always used it as an outlet to connect with family and friends around the world, mainly for personal purposes. However, this year I have found my use increasing because of professional reasons. Twitter has been an incredible source for growth, knowledge, and professional development. The weekly chats, quick answers and help, and amount of knowledge out in the twitter world has helped me grow more professionally than in my many years prior.

I use twitter for professional purposes only and have found it to be incredibly meaningful, but obviously it can be used for both professional and personal. Should there be a distinction between the two? Is it important to have separate accounts? What would be the reasoning for this? I always remember the phrase that someone said to me once, “If you can’t say it in front of your students, perhaps you shouldn’t be saying it at all.” So what would be the purpose for having separate accounts? Is there something to hide, or is it for privacy reasons? Aren’t educators allowed to have a life outside of work as well? Some good questions to consider and think about.

Tonight’s #edtechchat focused primarily on this: social media for the teacher and in the classroom. It’s interesting to note the various opinions, ideas, and reasons for them. Although there was much more discussed and shared, here’s a quick summary:

Question #1: Do you separate what networks you use based on professional vs personal use? Why/Why not?

Question #2: What are your district policies regarding blogging/social media in the classroom? What’s the impact?

Question #3: Does your district have policies regarding blogging/social media outside the classroom or for personal use? Helpful or not?

Question #4: Should you separate your personal and professional lives on social media/blogging? Why/Why not?

Question #5: Has social media ever caused a problem for you or someone in your district? If so, how?

Question #6: Has tonight’s #edtechchat discussion made you rethink your use of social media (professional or personal)?

After this chat there were a couple things that came to my mind. First, the use of social media, whether as an educator, with your students, or in the classroom will have ups and downs. Unexpected things might happen, but how you deal with them is key. Those are your “teachable” moments and cannot be ignored. Educating students, teachers, and parents about digital citizenship and leaving a footprint behind is crucial and essential. Second, sometimes district policies can be frustrating and challenging. Social media allows for numerous possibilities, but when the media consistently focuses on the negative or “bad” things that happen, it can be challenging for a district to move forward. Just remember that there will always be schools more advanced and embracing social media, as well as schools with strict policies. Change happens slowly, but when it does, you need to be ready for it!

Here are a few resources gathered from the chat:

9 Essential Social Media Tips for Educators
Teachers Owning Their Learning
Personal and Professional vs. Public and Private
6 Most Outrageous Social Media Mistakes by Teachers
3 Mistakes That Parents Make With Technology and Online Safety

Online, Blended, or Face-to-Face Learning: Which is Best?

Recently, I have been taking some google courses online and have been surprised by my reaction with the way I prefer to learn. I have always considered myself a “text” learner. I love reading and feel that I learn best that way, as I can go back and reread, go at my own pace, and have the ability to take notes as I please. This was the way I learned through university, and always just assumed it was the best way for me. However, through taking these online courses, I have found myself gravitating immediately to the video tutorials, and retaining the information much quicker and easier through watching a video, not reading the exact information in text. It brought me to question my traditions views on my learning style and why it has changed. It also led me to think about my students. Each student has a way they prefer to learn and a way that works best for them. Am I able to fulfill their needs throughout the day? Yes I use a variety of technologies, such as videos, iPads, laptops, as well as texts, and face-to-face interactions, but is this sufficient enough? What works best for them?

Tonight I participate in yet another twitter chat (my new addiction!), #edtechchat, and was excited to hear about the discussion on online, blended, and face-to-face learning. I guess I always assumed that online learning works best with adults/teens, but was shocked to hear it happening in kindergarten classes as well. Our discussion was filled with incredible ideas and opinions on learning in this day in age, and what the best options for our students are. Here’s a summary of our discussion:

Question #1 asked whether teachers worked in schools with online, blended, or face-to-face learning, so I’ll skip that question and jump right into the good stuff! For your reference, f2f means face-to-face.

Question #2: What do we see as primary advantages of online learning over f2f courses?

Question #3: What do we see as the primary advantages of teaching f2f over teaching online?

Question #4: How can blended learning take advantage of opportunities in both online and f2f settings?

Question #5: Teacher PD/training for online and blended courses is paramount… what’s your best resource?

Question #6: For those of you who teach, blended or online… what’s your top piece of advice?

As you can see, this discussion was filled with great ideas, recommendations, and beliefs. I think there were two things that stood out for me the most:
1) Blended learning appears to be the best option for learning. It allows that face-to-face contact, the ability to build those strong relationships with your students, chance to reach all learning styles, and still allows for continual learning and reviewing outside of the classroom. Learning becomes accessible to all students, anywhere. I wonder though how much additional work this requires? In a profession where there never seems to be enough time, it is attainable? Or is it one of those learning curves that takes awhile initially, but once you’ve mastered it, it’s just like typing out a lesson?
2) In our modern world, I believe it is a teacher’s duty to expose and teach kids about technology, the different tools, how to use it, and how it can help them learn. We are educating our students for jobs that we don’t even know will exist, so we need to provide them with the tools to be successful in the future. We must!

Below are a number of resources that were also provided through this chat. Thanks again to everyone for sharing their incredible ideas and knowledge.

10 Promising Free & Inexpensive Products for Blended Learning
37 Blended Learning Resources you can use Tomorrow
Blended Learning Universe
Project 24 – Planning for Progress
Quakertown Community School District – Blended Learning Program
Blended Learning Resource Page

#edtechchat

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Tonight, I participated in my first #edtechchat. These twitter chats have always frightened me as they are fast-paced, a continuous stream of messages to read and catch up on, and the whole idea of not knowing what is going on and feeling overwhelmed has consistently turned me away from trying them out. I guess you could say it was all in my head. If I expect my students to experiment with new technologies, shouldn’t I model that for them as well? Sometimes you just have to jump in and enjoy the feeling of being uncomfortable. Much to my surprise, after a few minutes of typing away, the nerves went away and I was able to enjoy the ample information being shared. The chat focused on how technology effects writing, with a focus on blogging and other writing platforms, and student collaboration. Here’s a little sample of some of the discussion that took place.

All of this discussion had me thinking about blogging and the purpose of it. In October, I created a classroom blog for my students. I started it as a way for students to share their learning with each other and their parents, like an online journal really. However, now I am wondering if that is good enough? Instead should it be a platform for collaboration? A way for students to connect with others around the globe? Shouldn’t they have the opportunity to blog in a non-academic forum as well?

As professionals, I believe that we constantly need to evaluate and reflect on our practice, and be challenged on our current beliefs and ways. For me this happened tonight, and now is my chance to reconsider the purpose of student blogging.

(For more information on twitter edchats available, check out this link)