Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Current and Future Educators: Don’t Hokey Pokey with Social Media

By Dr. Will Deyamport, III

Over the past two years, I’ve been blessed to present at conferences, asked to do talks in college classes, and received an invitation to conduct a webinar for a leading Leadership 2.0 organization. I’ve also had countless conversations with educators from all kinds of grade levels and disciplines. The one constant is educators asking me how they can or why they should be using a social technology.
In response, I tell them they first need to know why they want to use a social technology before they create an account. That is to say, educators need a social media strategy to avoid joining networks that won’t fit their personal needs or require a time commitment they don’t have. This post is for current educators and for those considering a career in education who are contemplating making the leap into social media. In addition, this post is for educators who have joined a few social networking sites and have found the experience less than rewarding.
Who are you and what do you want?
Are you in K-12, higher ed, adult ed, or continuing education? Do you want to update your skills or stay abreast of what’s happening in your field? Do you like constant engagement or do you like to be able to pop in at your leisure. What do you want out of the experience? What type of information are you looking for? This is important because not all social networking sites were created equal. Twitter, for example, is a 24/7, smorgasbord of ideas and interaction. It is a social technology that requires a commitment from the individual in order to build, grow, and sustain a thriving community.
When I first got into social media, I joined every site I came across. From Facebook to Brazen Careerist to The Educators PLN to Edutopia, etc., I hit up the social networking scene like I was at Sam’s Club. Before I knew it, I was drowning in email notifications, and didn’t have a clue about what to do with the overflow of information. It took me a while, but I discovered which sites best fit my personal and professional learning needs and interests. Since taking inventory of what I really need, I now only frequent five social networking sites.
Information Versus Community
What is more important to you? Is it information or is it community? Like I said in the previous paragraph, not all social networking sites were created equal. Some social technologies, like Youtube or Vimeo, are great repositories for information. On Youtube, you can find everything from how to teach reading comprehension strategies to tutorials on how to use various social media tools to conferences and presentations. Other social technologies, like Nings, are about community and a coming together of like-minded individuals. Think of it as creating an online meeting place for a specific group. An example I like is Art Education 2.0 ,which is a Ning for art educators. Another group of social technologies are a hybrid of information and community. They differ from Nings in that users develop community by self-selecting whom they follow and build community with. Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ fall under this group.
Recommendations
Don’t know where to get started? These are a few of my persona recommendations for current and future educators:
Classroom 2.0 is a social network for educators who are interested in using Web 2.0 tools and Social technologies in the classroom. There are over 70,000 members from 188 countries.
Edutopia is committed to transforming how students learn by assisting educators in learning about how to empower students to think critically and creatively, synthesize information, work collaboratively, and discover their own voices.
The Educator’s PLN is a personal learning network for educators. A personal learning network is an informal learning network dedicated to the personal and/professional learning needs of the individual.
Twitter is an information network where individuals can pursue connections as well as content based upon their individual interests. Many educators use Twitter to develop a personal learning network.
Google+ is a social network based upon the idea of sharing content to specific groups of people. Unlike Facebook, individuals can choose which postings are seen by which individuals. This is done via Circles, which is a way to group the individuals you follow.
Google+ also has Google Hangouts, which is a group chat feature that allows the user to set up a video chatroom with up to 10 people – educators can have 15 people in a Hangout with an Edu email address. The on air Hangout is a Hangout that is broadcast live, recorded and uploaded to the user’s individual Youtube Channel.  Youtube does not allow Hangouts to be uploaded to a branded site, such as a company, school, or organization. These are great for leading discussions with other schools or having experts or authors speak to your classes.
Edmodo is a social network for students. It functions a lot like Facebook, but is designed for students to do projects and/or communicate with other students. As an educator, you have complete control over what your students can do. My wife, who is a gifted elementary teacher, uses Edmodo and her students love it.
Skype in the Classroom is a network for educators to connect, share ideas, and create learning experiences via Skype. Some of the projects being done include Mystery Skype, where students give out clues about their location, such as longitude and latitude or climate or region, and students guess where they are located. Other projects include book discussions and talks by authors, celebrities, and professionals. My wife had Olivia Holt from Disney’s Kickin It speak to her class via Skype.
Youtube.com is a video-sharing network. As mentioned earlier, Youtube is great for tutorials, lessons, and videos on current and historical events.
Know who you are and what you want out of your social media experience before you start joining a site. No matter what you’re passionate about or have a keen interest in learning about, there is a social network out there for you.
About the author: Dr. Will Deyamport, III, Ed.D. is an eLeader who specializes in digital learning and development. His research is in technology leadership and using web tools and social technologies for professional development, teaching and learning, and social good. 

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