03 March 2014

On Social and Professional Networks

For this week's reflection I am going to focus on Twitter as a social media outlet that can be useful for teachers and students. The focus is narrow in an attempt this post from getting too long.

There is no good reason that I can think of for teachers NOT to be using social networking to improve their practice. When new teachers ask me about the best way to learn about their field, I tell them to join Twitter. In the past, I've posted about teachers getting involved on Twitter. I've even gone so far as to say that being on Twitter is akin to a professional responsibility.

Most of the people I follow on Twitter are educators or people/organizations associated with education. With that said, my Twitter use has changed over the past few years. I spend less time on Twitter than I used to. Not because I don't find it valuable, but because there was so MUCH information, I could no longer filter it and spent several hours a day working through my feed. There are so many awesome educators out there sharing what they know and I want to know about ALL of it! Unfortunately, I don't have the time.

Leading Motivated Learners has a post about the potential pitfalls of Twitter for educators. We DO need to find a balance in our online lives.

Students should also use social media to support their learning. Students, also known as Digital Natives, often use social media in different ways from those of us who are Digital Immigrants. This presentation (it's worth viewing even though it's old in internet years) shows some different ways that students interact with media as well as WHY they use social media the way they do. In my experience, students see social media tools such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram as ways to connect with their friends rather than as a tool to support their learning.

Because students don't spend time in a Digital Presence class learning about the use and misuse of social media, I spend time talking about crafting a media presence and carefully selecting their words and images before posting. It still strikes me as odd that even though they personally know of people who have been bullied online, they often don't consider the potential consequences of every post they make because they view their social media use as between friends (as opposed to something that can get out in the wild and develop a life of its own).

So…what about MY social media use? As I said, I'm not on Twitter as much these days and in Facebook land I am a grammar-nerdy cat lady who loves taking pictures of food. Since my students are gravitating toward Instagram, I have been experimenting with it, though, frankly, I still don't get it. Even though I am a visual learner, I often forget to take photos of my daily goings on. This is from last week's adventure in Washington D.C.

On a final note, I did use Instagram for a student assignment earlier this year (and modified it for those students who do not have Instagram). As part of the #greatnature project with National Geographic, my students took photos of their local environment and posted them with the #greatnature tag. I enjoyed looking at the pictures the teams of students collected and posted. I will probably do something like that again, but I want to make it more academically rigorous.