Using Twitter and Other Social Media for Professional Development

A week ago, I attended the Central East Alberta Teachers’ Convention. As usual, I enjoyed the networking and the convention sessions. It is nice to connect and share with colleagues.

 

CEATCA LogoCEATCA Logo © 2009 CEATCA | more info (via: ATA)
Reproduced without permission

 

This year, however, was additionally satisfying as I discovered I had learned a skill that I could share with other teachers. I noticed a push, or a pulse, toward online social networking at the Convention. Teachers were talking about it. And sessions were providing resources for it.

During the Convention, I had a great conversation with a vice principal of one of the schools where I substitute about social networking and how a few months ago I ventured into the land of tweets and blogs. I offered her a summary of resources that I used to learn how to digitally network. And she was interested. This was great; I was thrilled to be useful. But it got better. Since the Convention, another teacher asked me for more information; we had agreed to exchange session information beforehand, but this information was bonus. I combined the two requests and shared the resources with these two teachers.

I realized that others might also be interested, so I decided to post publicly about how I started social networking. This then is my first response to the 2011 Central East Alberta Teachers’ Convention. It is also a summary of much of my professional development this school year.

If you are just delving into social networking and want to know how to do so, the following information might help you. Even if you are a veteran, you might find these resources a strong way to enhance your portfolio.

Why social network?

 

 

Social technology is about mutual, and public, sharing. There are two general reasons it is used in education. In both cases, it is a tool only; it should never be an end onto itself.

  1. Broadly, technology is used to share, to network, to create Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) and to develop professionally. Social media activities, such as tweeting, blogging, commenting, social bookmarking and RSS feed reading, serve this purpose. Several secondary activities, such as video creation, slide sharing, imaging and audio creation, enhance these activities.
  2. Specifically, technology is used to create learning opportunities using specialized relevant tools. Any of thousands (and growing) of Web 2.0 and 3.0 tools serve this purpose. The tool should enrich and enhance learning, not distract from it. Best practices should be in effect.

To learn how to use Twitter and other social media

 

 

Study the webinar series, Using Social Media for Transformative Teaching & Learning, presented by George and Alec Couros. Each webinar is 1.5 hours long, plus there are several activities that you are asked to do on your own time. But it is worth it! (I have encountered many baffled teachers who just jumped into social media without any immersion.)

To learn how to blog and set up a blog

 

 

Participate in the Teacher Challenge Kick Start Your Blogging (KSYB). This Challenge consists of eight activities and is designed to take 30 heavy days to complete. There are several Challenges running throughout this year, but the “old” ones are still active. A new wave of teachers is just starting KSYB.

In addition, the Twitter hashtag #ksyb is used to network with others in the Challenge and to advertise your Challenge posts. Several of us who already took the KSYB Challenge still use that hashtag to keep in touch and advertise current posts we publish. In essence, we created a KSYB PLN. Anyone is welcome to join.

To learn how to create a professional education portfolio

 

 

A professional education portfolio is an extension of a blog. It is found in the pages part of the blog and illustrates throughout a student’s, teacher’s or administrator’s career how she or he meets the outcomes or quality standards for his or her position. In essence, it is a specialized illustrative resume that goes beyond standard or outcome descriptions, grades and bullet statements.

Participate in the short North Central Teachers’ Convention tutorial, Creating A WordPress Portfolio, again by George Couros. Pay particular attention to his answer to “What does the portfolio portion of our blog look like?” under Other Links. In his answer, he shows examples of student, teacher and administrator portfolios and explains how the portfolio can follow the individual rather than the institution. This portfolio can be used on an individual, class or school-wide basis.

A selection of (ever-growing) resources to jump start your social networking

 

 

Twitter: How to Navigate – Hash Tags, Chats, People and Lists

PLN

Tweeting

Blogging

Tech in the Classroom

Twitter: @stefras, Blog: Digital Substitute, Web: Teaching Resources, Node: I Am Here

I further discuss Twitter and the building of a PLN in a previous post.

What happens when whiteboards are removed?

Adding technology to the classroom

When applied and implemented thoughtfully; in the best interest of learning; and with student growth in knowledge, comprehension, skill and curiosity in mind, technology can liven just about any learning experience.

Technology provides boundlessness or openness in learning by removing the walls of classroom-restricted resources, such as textbooks and teachers. It removes the box … the confines of the text, the pen of the classroom, the limits of the options of approach and the hem of the single-referent teacher.

It should be used judiciously to maximize impact, exploration and retention, and to minimize dilution, dramatization and flaunting. Simply put, it should be used to learn from and with. Learning about it should be secondary.

I attended a webinar offered by John Scammell about the new high school Mathematics curriculum being implemented in Western Canada, particularly Alberta. His emphasis that over the years we learned FOR problem solving, then ABOUT problem solving and now THROUGH problem solving parallels this notion that technology is a tool to learn with rather than the reason or goal to learn about or to show off.

Technology provides one facet of great learning. It has the best potential, in my opinion, to make learning and doing boundless for those whose willingness and imagination drives them, both broadly and deeply, to explore more to learn more.

Removing technology to make room

Yet, technology has drawbacks. As a substitute teacher, I experience a few that on the surface are not obvious. For instance, this year, I noticed more Smartboards in the classroom. This is great. What I could teach if I had a class and a Smartboard.

However, Smartboards take space. They can also be used as small whiteboards at a pinch. So Smartboards naturally replace whiteboards. This not only doesn’t remove functionality from the classroom (it increases it infinitely), it encourages teachers to use and practice using the Smartboards daily.

Then the problem: the substitute teacher. In my school district, the substitute, not being part of the staff or student body, has no access (userid and password) to computers in the school, so locking him or her out of those Smartboards.

The following result has happened to me on more than one occasion.

This comic has been cross-posted in Educational Comics.

Drop censorship of Internet access

There are many reasons that school boards should adopt open Internet access. Overarching these though is the fact that teaching and learning are hampered and put back into the nineteenth and twentieth Century box by this censorship. As a substitute teacher, I find myself even more censored than my contract colleagues. When my students have more access to technology than I do, there is something wrong. We should at least be equal!

What restrictions do you face where you teach? Are your students or you “falling behind” because of these restrictions, or does it matter? What would (do) your students gain if (because) they had (have) free rein on how they can learn and what they can learn from or with?