Last weekend, a dedicated group of educational administrators and teachers explored the topic of social media use in schools and the different ways it connects, inspires, and leads to improved learning outcomes for students.
George Couros opened by sharing this post by Scott McLeod to emphasize that schools are using social media effectively (be sure to check out the comments for ideas how they’re doing so), and that this is an exciting time for education because we have access to so many tools that can help us build learning communities in ways we couldn’t before.
Akevy Greenblatt shared his personal journey into developing a professional learning network through his use of Twitter, which led to his participation in blogging and reflective practice and connecting with other educators and schools through Skype. Akevy emphasized the importance of administrators serving as models for teachers and students, demonstrating the need for professional growth and using social media to continuously learn.
“My teachers probably think I have Twitter on the brain all of the time!” How many of us have shared Janet Avery‘s sentiments on the power of the connections we’ve made through social media? Janet explored that the ways educators should approach the use of Web 2.0 and social media tools. Ask, “What is the desired learning outcome? What is the purpose of using the tool? How will the tool be used to reach out to parents/community?” Examples discussed were students blogging for an authentic audience, using Voicethread for students to showcase and comment on their artwork, and Skyping in faculty meetings to encourage widespread discussions on key topics.
Patrick Larkin shared the meaningful ways he has engaged his school community through the use of social media. Which Patrick’s school blog may have begun as a way to celebrate athletic and extracurricular accomplishments, it has transformed into so much more. Sharing educational philosophies, posts from teachers and students, notifying parents of upcoming learning opportunities… this school’s blog truly models for the community how social media can positively impact a learning environment. Patrick also described the ways he provides opportunities for parents to develop their own learning and comfort in using social media. He appreciates having this venue to make connections with parents and also enjoys that “aha” moment when parents realize how relevant these tools are to their own lives.
It was wonderful hearing the perspectives of David Truss, a principal currently serving students in a school in China, who described his use of social media to provide support to staff and students. Referencing Dean Shareski, David emphasized the need for educators to be reflective learners. His use of Delicious bookmarks and tags allows his fellow administrators, teachers, and students to share resources and learn from one another. David’s suggestions for establishing global connections for learning include developing a class blog/wiki to share learning, contact other classes through Skype and pen-pal opportunities, and SHARE!
As an example of the power of connections, George shared the success of Identity Day and how by sharing the idea of this day via Twitter and his blog, schools all over the world sought to emulate this type of event in their own schools. Thanks also to John Carver and Rich Cantrell for contributing to the night’s discussion and sharing their experiences.
Social media has provided us with the opportunities to make connections with others, to work with and share our ideas and bring people together for the benefit of our students. The focus should not be on the technology, but rather on the learning. We cannot remain isolated in our practice or allow our experiences to go unshared. Everyone has something to contribute! We look forward to continued learning with you!