The key aspect to social media is that little catch phrase: User Generated Content or UGC. This gives us, the users, immense power. But we know what some people will do with power.
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So while social media is an incredible tool for teaching and professional development (PD), there are certain drawbacks and challenges.
I feel the biggest attraction social media has is the agency it affords both students and staff. The ability it gives us to set up learning goals, and then manage our learning route. For so many years both teaching and PD have been ‘one size fits all.’ In addition, the learning has been solely driven by the teacher. PD, much the same, has been driven by school leaders and in recent years, budget constraints.
Not so with the introduction of tools like Twitter, WordPress, YouTube and Facebook. Now, we can follow leaders in their fields, and get information directly from the source. Sir Ken Robinson, John Hattie, Jon Bergmann. They all either have Twitter accounts or blog sites and YouTube channels. So whether you’re interested in Creative Schools, Visible Learning or Flipped Classrooms, you can read about, watch content, or even contact experts directly.
I passionately believe in the blended approach because, as Sir Ken Robinson’s Twitter coverphoto suggests:
So, one method will not work for all. I do like the flipped approach, be it in the classic sense of prep before class, or in-class and rotational flipping. YouTube is ideal for this and I have used my YouTube channel extensively in my teaching practice. I encourage students to hit the pause or fast forward button, whichever suits their needs. The funniest is that in every class, every year, someone always points out:
“Hey miss, this is you! Not some random lady on the internet.” As if it would be a revelation to me.
I also use blogs, in particular WordPress. In developing so-called 21st century skills, being able to co-create a Google Doc or Google Slide is not enough. Even creating slick videos is not enough. When students are able to set up and manage a website, I believe I have set them up with some handy skills. Not only that, our students are very good at posting on Facebook and Instagram. But do we ever have conversations about good digital citizenship before mistakes are made?
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We’re really good at telling teenagers what they should have done. But what about introducing them to active and constructive learning where they actively explore a topic, and then critique each other’s work. Blogging is ideal for this and discussions take place before anything is posted online.
There are of course challenges to both YouTube and WordPress. The most basic being that not everyone has the skills to set up and manage sites in an ordered and controlled way. Or should I say, not yet. Melhuish cited the other problem, which is fleeting engagement without deep learning. This brings Twitter into the picture. I follow a number of global teaching icons and they readily share their ideas. I see this as the most invaluable PD. But it could go one of two ways. You could become swamped by the myriad of ideas and, instead of following one or two pathways, get bogged down by trying to grasp it all. Or, you could lightly touch on a few ideas, and not dive deeply into anything. I think the best method of using Twitter for PD is to choose a few key interests, and follow those until you feel you have a greater level of understanding. Add it to your Teaching as Inquiry model and trial it with your students. In this way you’ll master a few skills, before moving on to the next one.
Social media makes it possible to draw on the expertise and experience of a global audience. It’s reciprocal in that you can post questions, observations and ideas. You will invariably get a response from a like-minded educator. Which spurs you on to the next inquiry. And that’s how you grow professionally.
Office of Ed Tech. (2013). Connected Educators. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=216&v=K4Vd4JP_DB8
Melhuish, K.(2013). Online social networking and its impact on New Zealand educators’professional learning. Master Thesis. The University of Waikato. Retrieved from http://researchcommons.waikato.ac.nz/bitstream/handle/10289/8482/thesis.pdf?sequence=3&isAllowed=y
Tvoparents. (2013). Using Social Media in the Classroom. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=riZStaz8Rno
Education Council.(2012). Establishing safeguards. Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/49216520
Sharples, M., de Roock , R., Ferguson, R., Gaved, M., Herodotou, C., Koh, E., Kukulska-Hulme, A., Looi,C-K, McAndrew, P., Rienties, B., Weller, M., Wong, L. H. (2016). Innovating Pedagogy 2016: Open University Innovation Report 5. Milton Keynes: The Open University. Retrieved from http://proxima.iet.open.ac.uk/public/innovating_pedagogy_2016.pdf
Obar, J.& Wildman, S. (2015). Social media definition and the governance challenge: An introduction to the special issue. Telecommunications Policy, 39 (9), 745–750.