Educators, Social Media and Networking: A Serendipitous Relationship

“We need, first, to take charge of our own learning, and next, help others take charge of their own learning. We need to move beyond the idea that an education is something that is provided for us, and toward the idea that an education is something that we create for ourselves. It is time, in other words, that we change our attitude toward learning and the educational system in general” (Downes, 2010, para 16).

The concept of socialisation in learning has long been acknowledged as essential to knowledge building and attainment in the field of education (Belbase, 2011, p.3; Cobb, 2005, p.41; Dewey, 1910; Perkins, 2009, p.7). In the Digital Age, as educators and students alike begin to favour models of connected learning over the static environment of the traditional classroom, socialisation in learning has begun to establish itself through the use of social media and networking applications, “a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content” (Kaplan and Haenlein, 2010, pp. 61). These innovations and technological developments that allow for online collaboration and socialisation, enable us to expand our knowledge-building ecosystems and move away from the concept of the classroom teacher as the owner of all knowledge and information (Pink as citied in Bingham & Conner, 2010, loc. 177).

Moving away from traditional model of learning where the teacher acts as holder of all knowledge to a social, networked approach to learning where all participants are part of the learning process (Grout, 2013).

Moving away from traditional model of learning where the teacher acts as holder of all knowledge to a social, networked approach to learning where all participants are part of the learning process (Grout, 2013).

Thus as educators, whether we like it or not, we must embrace social media and networking within our own learning ecologies so that we can extend these learning opportunities to our students of the Digital Age. Just as businesses of the twenty-first century have been forced to up-skill and transform their business models to avoid losing currency, educators cannot ignore the pull of social media and networking to meet the natural drive of socialisation as these emerging technologies, “allow us to embrace the needs of changing workplace demographics and enable people of all ages to learn in ways that are comfortable and convenient for them” (Bingham & Conner, 2010, loc. 184). In echoing the sentiment of Downes when he suggests we must first take charge of our learning before assisting others with their learning, the time has come for educators to embrace social media and networking in their own learning so that they can benefit from, participate in and model this learning for both their peers and their students (2010, para. 16). Whereas traditional education has taught us that learning only happens in the classroom, the rise of social media and networking has proven that learning happens in a variety of ways and places beyond the classroom, opening doors for citizens in the digital age to be, “more effective, more knowledgeable, more energised, and more efficient as professional educators,” and ultimately, as learners (Whitaker, Zoul & Casas, 2015, loc. 205).

Opening the door to learning beyond the classroom (Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest, 2015).

Opening the door to learning beyond the classroom (Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest, 2015).

As Perkins suggests in Futurewise: Educating Our Children For A Changing World, We must consider what constitutes our learning ecology and ‘go beyond’ the world of traditional education to ensure our students are prepared for learning that is ‘lifeworthy’ – “likely to matter in the lives learners are likely to live” (2014, loc 395), and ‘lifeready’ -“ready to pop up on appropriate occasions and help make sense of the world” (2014, loc 694). This learning will only be possible when we consider learning collectives in networked environments, rather than learning in our traditional hierarchal classrooms (Schravemade, 2015, para. 4).

What is different about teaching and learning using social media and networking is that we are working in environments that we cannot control. The traditional learning relationships we had with our peers and students took place in physical environments, however in the digital age, they are happening in front of an audience we cannot monitor, mandate or select. The notion of connected learning is not one we can learn from a textbook, it involves educators stepping out of their comfort zone and, not only reading or viewing the work of students, but adopting a mindset that places them in the position of learner as they participate in the processes involved with, not only their individual learning, but also that of their peers and students (Whitaker et al., 2015, loc. 248). If, “social learning happens using social media tools and through extended access and conversations with all our connections – in our workplaces, our communities, and online. It happens when we keep the conversation going on a blog rich with comments, through coaching and mentoring, or even during a workout at the gym,” as Bingham and Conner suggest in The New Social Learning: A Guide to Transforming Organizations Through Social Media, then we as educators must ourselves be comfortable with and understand how to participate in such environments (2010, loc. 340).

This is where teaching and learning using social media and networking constitutes a serendipitous relationship with educators. Piaget asserted that, “cognitive conflict created by social interaction is the locus at which the power driving intellectual development is generated” (Perret-Clermont, 1980, p. 12). In this sense, cognition is a collaborative process, and the mind of the learner creates meaning, knowledge and understanding through dialogue, interaction and conversation with others (Ernest, 1995). Research such as that by Bell, Grossen and Perret-Clermont (1985) affirms this social practice, as they assert that students who are actively engaged in working with their peers display greater cognitive growth than those working alone. This promotes the idea that, “personal experiences of individuals become social and collective experiences when they are shared, interacted, and retained as knowledge” (Belbase, 2011, p.3). It is essential then, that as educators we examine how our pedagogy encourages students to participate and be guided by others in their learning. In the twenty-first century, we must embrace trends in technological development such as social media and networking to provide learning experiences reflective of the Digital Age. It becomes innate for educators to continue their serendipitous relationship with socialisation in learning through the participatory culture that is social media and networking.

In the video below, Helen Haste articulates the collaborative nature of information gathering and knowledge development in the twenty-first century (2009).

Social media and networking present the perfect platforms to encourage collaborative an co-operative perspectives through technology use. It is our role as educators to embrace these in our learning so that we can model, participate in and extend this opportunity to our students. The first step in this process as educators is to become digital citizens and connected learners ourselves, so that we can effectively and successfully extend this opportunity to our students. The interactive infographic ‘Getting Started With Digital Citizenship: Social Media and Networking’ shared in a previous post  provides a bank of resources for educators to use as a guide when they begin their journey as connected learners, exploring digital citizenship through social media and networking.

Reference List

Belbase, S. (2011). Radical versus social constructivism: dilemma, dialogue, and defense [Online Submission]. Retrieved from ERIC database. (ED525159).

Bell, N. Grossen, M. Perret-Clermont, A.N. (1985). Sociocognitive conflict and intellectual growth. In M.W. Berkowitz (Ed.), Peer conflict and psychological growth. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Bingham, T., & Conner, M. (2010). The new social learning: A guide to transforming organizations through social media [Kindle edition]. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com/The-New-Social-Learning-Organizations/dp/1605097020

Cobb, P. (2005). Where is the mind? A coordination of sociocultural and cognitive constructivist perspectives. In C. Twomey Fosnot (Ed.), Constructivism: theory, perspectives and practice (2nd Ed.). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Dewey, J. (1910). How we think. Boston: DC Heath.

Downes, S. (2010). A world to change. Huffpost Education. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stephen-downes/a-world-to-change_b_762738.html

Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. (2015). Open white door floating plaster wall [Photography]. Retrieved from Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest http://quest.eb.com/search/165_3338382/1/165_3338382/cite

Ernest, P. (1995). The one and the many. In L. P Steffe & J. Gale (Eds.), Constructivism in education (pp. 459-486). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Grout, M. (2013). Teaching strategies [Image]. Retrieved from https://prezi.com/y28yncf_uu4b/teaching-strategies/

Haste, H. (2009, June 25). Technology and youth: rethinking the landscape of education (part 4 of 4) [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xZt9rEnAvew

Kaplan, A. M., & Haenlein, M. (2010). Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of social media. Business Horizons, 53(1), 59–68. doi:10.1016/j.bushor.2009.09.003

Perkins, D. N. (2009). Making learning whole: How seven principles of teaching can transform education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Perkins, D. (2014). Future wise: Educating our children for a changing world [Kindle edition]. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com/Future-Wise-Educating-Children-Changing/dp/1118844084

Perret-Clermont, A. N. (1980). Social interaction and cognitive development in children. Academic Press.

Schravemade, K. (2015, March 29). ‘Lifeready’ and ‘Lifeworthy’ learning: go beyond the traditional [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://theprivateteacher.wordpress.com/2015/03/29/lifeready-and-lifeworthy-learning-going-beyond-the-traditional/

Whitaker, T., Zoul, J., & Casa, J. (2015). What connected educators do differently [Kindle edition]. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com/What-Connected-Educators-Do-Differently-ebook/dp/B00ULQN564/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1428829250

Creating a Tribe of Twitterians – Part 2

It has been over a term now that my year eight class have been using Twitter to assist their learning and the experience has been incredibly rewarding.  I am continually amazed at how the use of Twitter has demolished the walls of my classroom and assisted in extending the learning of my students beyond their physical confines.  In particular, the experiences I have had with my class on Twitter are a great example of why modelling is the best policy when it comes to Social Media.

Relationships

I believe that building strong relationships with my students is essential if we are going to work together effectively.  Often, this happens in class, however I was pleasantly surprised to find that Twitter nourished these relationships between classes.  Simple things like recommending great reads, congratulating or enquiring about a student’s absence became much easier over Twitter, particularly during holiday times.  Using Twitter made it much easier to send well-wishes to sick students, congratulate them on their achievements or share something that I knew would be of particular interest to them (eg, a movie launch or book recommendation).  It quickly became second nature for my students to let me know what they had worked on in class if I was out at a conference or meeting and recommend things to me they knew I would like.  The image below is a quick snapshot of the Tweets I received after my most recent time away from the class. Not only did this let me know what they achieved in the lesson, it also helped me to know what I needed to cover the next time I saw them.

Used with permission

A snapshot of Tweets

Not only did using Twitter build on the relationships I had with my class, it also allowed greater communication and relationship building between my students and other members of staff.  The students also used Twitter as a means of communication with their peers between classes.

Used with Permission

Relationships between staff and students

Used with Permission

Conversations with Staff

Used with permission

Conversation between Students

Seeking Clarification

Having your students Tweet in class is a great tool to allow for real-time feedback and clarification.  Although we like to think all of the students in our class will ask questions the moment they don’t understand something, this doesn’t always happen.  What I have noticed is that when students are able to Tweet their questions they are a lot more open about what they don’t understand.  This allows you to give real-time feedback and allows your students to seek clarification and move on quickly, instead of waiting until you check their work or assessment for understanding.  I noticed the particular benefits of this when I had a student-teacher taking a lesson in my class.  The students who were too shy to ask questions or didn’t want to interrupt started Tweeting their questions/observations and this allowed their peers or myself to help them out so they would be able to understand the content of the lesson.  Below is a brilliant example of the students coming to the assistance of their peers.

Used with Permission

Seeking Clarification from Peers

I was then able to follow through and check for understanding at a later date to ensure that the student  had really understood the concepts being studied. You can see that her peers also offered her positive encouragement and recognised her efforts to understand something that she had found confusing.

Checking for Understanding

Sharing of ideas with class and wider community

Students love to have their voice heard and Twitter provides an excellent forum for this.  Sharing notes, resources and ideas on Twitter came very easily to my students, and often our class hashtag became the best place for people (including myself) who had missed a class to catch up.  Sharing happened with the class, with other classes and staff and also authors and people in the wider community.  Some examples of how this happened in my class are below.

Sharing ideas and notes

Sharing ideas and notes

Sharing Resources

Sharing Resources

Sharing of Activities

Sharing of Activities

What's for Homework

What’s for Homework?

Modelling IS the best policy 

As you can (probably) tell, I have absolutely loved the opportunities for collaboration and relationship building that Twitter has created for my class.  However, what I do need to stress is – I was lucky that things went seamlessly for me.  I think this has a lot to do with modelling.  Taking five minutes out of the occasional lesson to discuss Tweets we had seen and what we thought about their professionalism and effectiveness really helped the students understand exactly what they should be doing when using Twitter.  I can’t stress enough that if you start your students on Twitter and don’t know how to use it yourself you won’t get any results, and students will probably only use it  to follow celebrities and TV shows.  In order to use Twitter effectively in your classroom you must be willing to follow your students and have them follow you. You need to be comfortable enough to have a conversation with them when they aren’t Tweeting appropriately (eg, using a ‘selfie’ or ‘Emojis’).   If you take the time to model for you students and make them aware of the appropriate usage you will find that they use it professionally and are well on the way to creating their positive digital footprint.

If you are feeling overwhelmed at the thought of your students being able to contact you 24/7 just remember.. you decide where and when you Tweet 🙂