Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Social Media for Social Learning

Common Craft's Video on Social Media

Change? Top Down or Ground Level?

 "Leaders," how do you change education?  Merit pay?  Are teachers just salivating dogs waiting for a treat?  It seems like Pavlov is attempting to entice teachers to produce higher test scores.  Let me tell you what this will do for test scores...wait for it...wait for it...nothing.  What will it do for politicians?  Save money?  Gain votes?  Merit pay and disbanding unions is the 'reform a la mode' spreading from state to state, which seems to place blame on teachers more than reward them.

Their ultimate goal is to see test scores rise.  I think pushing tests scores does little to improve teaching and learning.  The top down approach doesn't work for two reasons.
  1. First, teachers don't trust people outside of the teaching. (for good reason)
  2. Second, teachers don't like to be told what to do.
I'm sure there is research out their that supports the ground-level approach to improving school systems (not just their test scores). 

A ground-level approach will work much better when attempting to spread "best practices."  To borrow from TED talks, "ideas worth spreading" are being socially transmitted every minute online.  These teaching ideas-shared from teachers-are going to change education for the better.  This approach, if used effectively, can improve and motivate great teaching.  Meeting with my grade level improves our teaching as we engage in authentic discussion about teaching practices. 

I think teachers should be encouraged to connect with Personal Learning Networks, reflect, collect, and develop worthwhile lessons to facilitate meaningful learning.  Teachers need to meet more often with a goal to discuss and improve their teaching.  Isolation is a teacher's worst enemy.  In order to improve, we need to network with other like-minded professionals.  PLNs, eLearning Coaches, and Mentor Teachers are the way of the future. 

State tests are making schools depressing.  Students and teachers dislike this content-driven curriculum.  In addition, I feel sorry for students that struggle with these standardized tests.
"Schools are supposed to be places of learning, not prisons of content. Content and information live everywhere now and the impetus is upon us to create opportunities to connect that content, not continue to limit it." -Mike Fisher via
With the push for state testing, students begin to hate school.  I enjoyed school especially the social aspects associated within the classrooms.  When I was able to interact with the teacher and my peers, I was learning the most.  I can even remember certain classroom conversations 14 years later.  It was the quiet-class-and-listen classrooms that made me feel like I was in a prison of content.  I think the push for testing started at the end of my high school career, and I remember how unimportant those tests were for me.  I filled a couple tests with ABACADABA (abracadabra).  These tests weren't used to gauge students' ability, but first they have to care about their performance.  

By the ASCD Click here for a PDF version
Promote Creativity and Higher Order Thinking Skills

Check out the following Prezi about Developing Creativity in Your Classroom. In addition, there is an amazing Prezi on incorporating 21st Century Skills.  Promote Tony Wagner's 7 Survival Skills and incorporate Project/Problem-Based Learning.  Have students find their own problems (Ewan McIntosh's Problem Finders) to research and solve.  Nevertheless, while promoting higher-level-thinking skills, provide students with the proper 21st Century web-based tools.  Socialize and collaborate with the work they are passionate about online. 

The use of social media and information/communication tech within the classroom can be an invaluable tool; nevertheless, there is little time to engage students with 21st Century skills and technologies.  Instead, many educators are focused on developing students' ability to regurgitate content.  I say teach students the process of creating a worthwhile product and allow student choice in terms of content. The test makers and states are only concerned with content regurgitation. 

Social media is becoming necessary for engaging students in learning.  Students utilize tech tools, cell phones, and social websites with ease, but these tools and sites are used to interact with a limited world.  With teacher guidance, students can develop skills and learn from these social websites.  At the same time, they will be developing the digital literacy skills most companies want and/or need. 

With social media and information/communication technologies, teachers can put learning into the students hands.  My students want to socialize through their blog posts.  Why force feed students content?  Instead, provide students the tools and skills to locate relevant information.  Then, analyze and assess student work.  From this, teachers can plan needs-based instruction to improve the student performance.  For instance my students love to comment on blog posts, but their posts are limited.  So, I am going to address this issues and other convention related issues in class.

Overall, teachers need time to work together within their district and across the nation (via Twitter or other forms of social media).  Effective ideas need to spread from teacher to teacher.  Beg, borrow, and steal ideas for the classroom.  Then, reconnect and share experiences.  Evaluate the teaching process and reflect on what works (or doesn't work).  We, as teachers, need to change education for the better.  But, let's take the credit for its improvement and discredit politicians' involvement.  After all, who is really doing all the work?

Dean Groom via

List of Social Resources for Students and Teachers
List of resources I have heard of but haven't used
What else should be added to this list?  Are there other social sites that educators and students should use?