Thursday, April 27, 2017

FAQs For Educational Bloggers

I’ve had this blog since 2009. For nearly 9 years I’ve written about technology, improving school leadership and have shared my personal insights on being a connected educator. For me, blogging has become a part of my learning process and a platform through which I share information.

Whenever I keynote, lead a workshop, or write an article about blogging I always get the same handful of questions about getting started. I believe many educators want to start blogging but they just don’t know where to start or what to do. Blogging can be a highly reflective practice that more educators should do. Not only to share the resources they find and use in and out of the classroom but to look back on our personal practices of both learning and growing as professional educators.

FAQs for Educational Bloggers

I want start a blog. What’s the first thing I should do? Congratulations! You are about to embark on a journey that will bring you great fulfillment but can also be fraught with frustration as well. Don’t let that deter you. Blogging is a practice that can open doors and help you process who you are as a learner. In order to become a blogger you must be a reader of blogs. When you read other blogs you get a sense of what you want your blog to look like, sound like, and to just have a general understanding of what works (and doesn’t).

The best, first step is to spend time each day reading blogs. Try to find blogs that align with your interests. Are you an elementary teacher? Read elementary blogs. Are you interested in Edtech? Read those types of blogs. Who are your favorite people to follow on Twitter or other social media channels? Look at their profiles. Many have blogs that they write. Read those. And don’t just read the new stuff. Go back in their archives. Many times the gems any blogger has written isn’t their last post. It’s buried deep, so go after it. Check out the Teach 100 for a great list of blogs to read. Also this list is a good one to check out.

Ok, but what do I write about? This is probably the most common question I get. Everyone wants to know the magic formula for what to write about. The fact is, there isn’t one. The best advice I have is to write about what interests you. If you have a project that you are working on in your class write several posts about how you got started, what planning went into it, what works and what doesn’t. Much of what educators do can be turned into a blog post or three.

The key is to just write. I carry around several notebooks with me where I can jot down ideas, paragraphs or just free form write whenever the mood strikes. I also use the Notes app on my phone or a blank Google Doc. To find what you are passionate about you have to first write. Maybe what you initially write isn’t for public consumption. Maybe it’s just to get a feel for your voice and your form. The best thing all bloggers do is just write.

Where should I put my blog? Do I need my own domain name? Doesn’t matter and doesn’t matter. I use Blogger. Some bloggers want more control over design and widgets and prefer to use Wordpress. Others use Medium or other services. Some don’t host a professional blog at all and regularly post their thoughts on an open forum such as ISTE Communities or ASCD Edge. The platform doesn’t matter; each has their advantages and disadvantages and they are all about equal.

As for your own domain name, it doesn’t much matter either. If you want a more personalized feel for your blog, a unique domain name can help. It can also be good to have that domain name as part of your larger brand if that is something that interests you. However, in the end, having your own domain or not doesn’t make your posts any more readable.

How often should I write? This is the second most popular question I get. And it’s another that has no definitive answer. The more you write, the more opportunities folks have to read your work and share. But if you write too much it doesn’t give your posts time to have longevity and for others to digest and respond to them. I try to post once per week. But as we all know, real life gets in the way and sometimes I can’t stick to that schedule. Do what works for you. Don’t go so long that people forget you blog. Try to come up with a schedule that works for you and stick to it.

How long should my posts be? Here is another question I get often. If you do a search you will get a wide array of responses from shorter is better to longer is better and everything in between. Think about your own personal preferences. Do you want to sit down and read a novel in one sitting? Probably not. And think about who’s going to be reading your posts. Busy educators. The more detail you can pack into one post and keeping it brief the better. Don’t be afraid to split posts into series or parts. This also gives readers a reason to come back and read more.

How do I get more readers? This is a tricky question. On the one hand we should be writing because in the process of writing and reflecting we are growing. On the other hand you want to have audience. If you look at many of the most popular and widely read educational blogs they will all tell you that when they started they struggled for readers. Growing your audience takes time and patience and it definitely won’t happen overnight. Use your social media channels like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to let everyone know you have a new post. This will help extend your audience. (And remember, having that regular schedule definitely helps.)

How do I deal with negative comments or comments in general? One of the best parts of blogging are the conversations that they can start. Sometimes you will write a post and people will read and share but won’t leave a comment. Other times your comments section will blow up and you won’t be able to keep up. You have to prepare yourself for those that disagree with you too. A little bit of push back is a good thing. We all have different perspectives on things and sharing with each other is how we learn and grow. But there is a difference between comments that push back and those that are just inflammatory. You don’t have to respond to the inflammatory ones. Using a comment service like Disqus can not only help moderate comments but cut down on spammy ones too.

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Sunday, April 2, 2017

4 Ways To Grow Your Personal Learning Network This Week

“Alone we are smart, but together we are brilliant. We can use the collective wisdom to do great things when we are connected.”

I said that way back on September 17, 2013 and yet I think it is even more true today than even back then.

When I was in the classroom, I felt isolated as a teacher. Teaching middle school math and science my first few years out of college I had ideas as to what I wanted to do but I really needed help. I would reach out to my colleagues but many were apprehensive to give away their secrets. They wanted their kids to be the best using the methods they had developed over the years. All I wanted to do was improve and I felt stuck.

We live in an age where we have near real time access to just about anything you want to know and to the people who know it best. Social media allows us to connect, to learn, to grow and to reflect not only within ourselves but with each other. As just as my quote says we are brilliant together.

Recently, on a webinar with my friend Erin Olson, she talked about an activity she does with teachers. She has them write 3 things they need to improve their learning and 3 things they can give to improve the learning of others. As you could guess it’s easy for them to write the 3 things they need. However, when asked about the 3 things to give many struggle to come up with one. Many educators still believe they have little to offer to improve the learning of their colleagues.

All of us have something to offer. An incredible lesson or teaching method that just worked. Or maybe it was an idea that was born out of a struggle to get kids to better understand their content. All of us have had those wins that could help others win too. Being a connected educator is more than just taking ideas from a Twitter chat or even this blog post. It’s about always being in pursuit of that selfish goal of improving our learning so we can improve learning for kids.

Our personal learning networks are all different. Mine looks different from yours and yours from mine. But that is where the beauty lies. Each of us has something different to learn and different to offer. They are going to naturally look different. And they are a constant work in progress. We don’t just decide to have a personal learning network and we find some folks to follow and we are done. Connected educators constantly have to be chasing down the learning they need and the educators who know it best.

4 Ways To Grow Your Personal Learning Network This Week

Edweb-Most know Edweb for their awesome webinars (like this one this week on school culture.) But what many don’t know are the extensive communities that come with those webinars. In those communities there are blogs, messages boards and tons of people to follow and learn from. And you don’t have to feel like you have to visit all the time. At the end of the day you can get a simple email that tells you all that was discussed and upcoming events. You can participate at your pace. The Leadership 3.0, Early Childhood Learning Solutions, Game-Based Learning and Amazing Resources For Educators. Come for the webinars, stay for the conversations!

ASCD Edge-The ASCD Edge community is full of some of the brightest minds in education sharing blogs, having discussions and posting resources. You don’t have to be a member of ASCD (although you should be) to join. Create a free account and browse the hundreds of groups, and insightful blogs. The groups cover topics like Being A New Teacher, Mobile Learning, Problem Based Learning and more. And if you don’t find a group that suits your learning needs you can request a new one created for you.

Google Communities-Often overlooked, Google Communities can be a great place to connect with others on loads of topics. Of course they have many Google related like the Google Classroom community. But there are several other active ones like Connected Classroom, PBL, and Digital Leadership.

Voxer-This one will surprise many, because I am not a Voxer fan. I have used it sparingly and honestly don’t know if I even have the app on my phone any more. For me Voxer doesn’t work. For others it may be the best thing ever. Voxer is a 2-way, walkie-talkie type app. Think of it like leaving a voicemail for someone without calling. You can create small groups and leave longer voice messages or text. The app is free and many educators use them for book talks, reflection, or to, believe it or not deliver professional development. This is a very comprehensive list of ongoing Voxer conversations that you can jump into.

If you are looking for more ways to grow your PLN, Shaelynn Farnsworth and I recently wrote a blog post about why it’s important to be connected, and you can check our our resources we shared recently at ASCD.

It’s important to point out here that the tool is just the means we use to connect. It’s what we do with those connections that really matters. The art of being connected is in the conversations, the discussions, the debates, the learning, sharing and growing that all take place when we connect to each other.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

4 Pieces Of The Connected Educator Puzzle

Steven Anderson and Shaelynn Farnsworth lay out what Connected Educators do and how it’s a always a work in progress.

Educators today can no longer just walk into the classroom, shut their door and teach. In every facet of our practice there are other educators doing amazing things that we can all learn from. Through the creation of our Personal Learning Network we find smart folks we can learn, share and grow with. The whole purpose of creating a PLN and becoming a Connected Educator is learning to network but also networking to learn. We are all smarter when we connect to each other.

The 4 Pieces Of The Connected Educator Puzzle

Connect-The first step in becoming a Connected Educator is to, well connect! There are so many great educators doing great things and they are sharing them on a near constant basis. In order to take advantage of all that learning we have to go to where they are. Traditionally, Twitter has been the entry point for many looking to grow their PLN. And rightly so. Twitter is easy to use, tweets are short in length, and by utilizing hashtags, has something for everyone. No matter your content area, grade you teach or topic you are interested in there are educators on Twitter to connect with and learn from.

Twitter works for many but may not work for all. Being a connected educator doesn’t mean limiting yourself to one place or another. We have to seek out diverse voices in multiple places.

  • The Classroom 2.0 Community is one place to start. It is one of the oldest social networks for educators. 
  • Another place would be the various Google Communities that are full of educators sharing and growing. 
  • Edweb has many communities on a variety of topics like leadership, technology, literacy and more. 
  • Facebook, too, is full of educator groups and pages to connect with others. 

It really doesn’t matter what place you go to to find smart folks to connect with. The point is to go to those places and find the voices that matter to you and your learning.

Consume- Once you are connected, then you can begin to see the large volume of resources, ideas, blog posts and more that are shared and exchanged nearly every hour of every day. There is power is lurking and consuming the stuff others are sharing. If we are lurking we are learning. And it’s a powerful second step to becoming a connected educator.

The places to consume wonderful educational content are vast and endless.

  • Twitter again is where many start. Hashtags contain so many wonderful links and ideas you can spend hours there. #Edchat, #edtech, #makered, and #pbl are just a very small part of the much larger educational hashtag community. But remember, we need diversity in places to learn. 
  • Blogs can be a simple and easy way to consume. And the Teach100 list has many to choose from. 
  • Also, all the communities we looked at above have resources and great content shared all the time. 
  • Need to learn on the go? The list of educational podcasts is growing day by day. 

Just like it doesn’t really matter where you go to connect, there is no singular best place to consume for learning. Both of us mix it up daily. Steven will read tweets and then listen to a podcast. Shaelynn will check out what’s happening in Google Communities and then read some blogs. Every day is different for us both. Learning and sharing happens everywhere and we have to go to where it is, everyday.

Converse- Consuming information is just part of the overall evolution of a Connected Educator. The next piece of the Connected Educator puzzle is to join the conversations. In Steven’s book The Relevant Educator he explains that Connected Educators discuss, debate and exchange ideas. There are many ideas in education that deserve more conversation, further inquiry and collegial debate. And it’s in those conversations, especially with those that have different views from our own, where we can push our thinking and extend our learning.

All of the places we’ve looked at to connect and consume have places for conversations. On many blogs the comments section provide a place to push back or extend the thinking. All of the communities have ongoing conversations that you can join or start your own to get others talking. Twitter chats are a quick and easy way to jump into conversations on all sorts of topics. Many of the hashtags that are great for consuming content also have synchronous chats that take place at scheduled times. There are non-traditional places too like Voxer where you can connect, consume and converse.

Contribute- The last piece of the puzzle for becoming a Connected Educator is contributing. All of us is an expert in something. Even if we don’t think we have anything to add we will find something in our learning that others can benefit from. Sharing is how we all learn from each other, finetune our craft and invite others into our classroom. Start a blog. Send some tweets. Start your own hashtag chat. Visit an Edcamp. Record your own podcast. Whatever you do, share your learning and your brilliance with the world.

Being a connected educator isn’t a specific recipe you can follow. You don’t master one step and move to the next. Both of us will tell you that, while we’ve been Connected Educator for many years we both still consider ourselves a work in progress. You never really “arrive” as a Connected Educator. It’s an ongoing process that you change and perfect over time.

Connect With Us!

Steven W. Anderson
Twitter: @web20classroom

Shaelynn Farnsworth
Website and Blog:
Twitter: @shfarnsworth

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Doing More With The Classroom Makerspace

When I was 6 or 7 years old I was at home on a boring rainy weekend. Being an inquisitive kid and generally looking for mischief I found some tools in a closet and decided something in my house needed taking a apart. I'd always wondered how a toaster actually made toast so it became the subject of my experiment. I spent a while taking it a part looking at all the pieces and, of course not knowing how any of it worked. When my mother found what I had done, not only did we not have toast for a while but I had to work extra hard to earn the money to buy a new one.

Making and tinkering have been around a long as there have been people asking questions about how the world works. Galileo. Newton. Edison. Those names that we associate with fundamentally changing human history were in some way makers and tinkerers. They looked for problems in their world and how they could solve them. Some created new mindsets of thinking while others invented new devices that impact us still to this day.

The idea of students looking away from ridged content focus all throughout the school day and giving them back some time to explore and make is gaining a foothold in many classrooms. Educators are turning towards ideas like the Maker Movement and tinkering to foster creativity and innovation in their classrooms and to get their kids thinking and doing more.

I've had the chance to visit several makerspaces in schools all over. It seems more and more schools are creating these spaces to give kids a creative outlet. In it's simplest form Makerspaces are places where kids can explore and, well, make stuff. The idea is that we provide the tools, resources and time to see what can be created. Many maker spaces are simple with just random supplies donated by parents. While other spaces are decked out with 3D Printers, electronics, the works. And there are spaces in between. The point isn't really what is in the space. The point is what comes out of it and giving kids the freedom to explore making stuff that could turn out to be pretty innovative.

Just like technology and how it is used in the classroom, makerspaces need to be less about the stuff that's in them and more about the questions that are asked and the problems that are solved. Sometimes when I am at a conference or read an article on the topic it seems there is more emphasis on the stuff rather than what to do with the stuff. And that sort of flies in the face of the idea of making and tinkering. Sometimes in that exploration purpose is found and questions we weren't even asking are answered.

The point is don't just have a makerspace and buy lots of expensive equipment and have kids make cellphone cases and door stops. Guide them and their exploration. What problems in their world do they see? How can making help? What are they curious about? How can one thing they take apart here, effect how something else works here? Makerspaces should be filled with more questions, problems and failures than answers, solutions and successes.

6 Resources For Makerspaces

If you need a great primer of Makerspaces there are several great books out there. My go-to is my friend Nick Provenzano's Your Starter Guide To Makerspaces. Nick's approach to helping create Makerspaces in any classroom is truly innovative. He is a high school English teacher and has successfully used makerspaces in his classroom for a number of years now. It goes to show that this type of learning doesn't have to be confined to the media center or a club outside of school. It can happen anywhere!

Maker Education Resources-This page from Edutopia has just about everything you will need to get started with creating and utilizing Maker Spaces in your classroom or school. Be sure to check out the post on the Maker Tools and how Problem-Based Learning can be enhanced through a Maker Lens.

Maker Faire Education-Maker Faires have been around for a very long time. On the site they have a whole section dedicated to making in schools. They also have other resources like kits you can buy and leads on Maker Faires in your area.

A Librarian's Guide To Makerspaces-Media Centers and Libraries are popular places for creating maker spaces and for good reason. This post is full of great content, whether you are a librarian or not.

Sample Hardware- Makerbot makes an awesome 3D printer at a super reasonable cost for schools. Little Bits are easy to use circuit boards that snap together that allow you to control all sorts of objects. And I am a huge fan of Sphero, programmable robots that are pretty awesome and easy to use.

Coding and Coding Resources-Some of my favorite makerspaces are those where what kids make is output on a screen rather than something physical they make. Coding should be a part of any maker space and bringing coding in is actually very easy. Here are tons of coding resources including sites to get started and ideas for creating your own coding makerspace.

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Saturday, March 11, 2017

3 Ways To Combat Recipe Learning

When I was a middle school science teacher I regularly assigned projects. At the time I thought that the projects would be a great way for me to understand what my students understood about particular concepts and topics. I had them make visual representations of atoms of the periodic table, reports outlining the effects of global warming on our community, and several others. We would regularly complete labs in class and then I would have them report their findings to present, just as scientists do.

The way I learned how to assign these projects what was from my teacher preparation program. Through trial and error I learned how to give these projects and grade them effectively for understanding. Rubrics were all the rage so I thought that by giving all the same project and using the rubric I was differentiating for my students because they got to decide where they fit on the rubric. What I didn’t know at the time was I was expecting all the same level of work.

I hadn’t designed an effective summative assessment.

I had assigned a recipe.

I enjoy to cook and spend a lot of time doing it when I’m not traveling. Recipes help me complete complex tasks that, I hope, in the end help my dishes look as great as the pictures on the recipe card. If you’ve ever watched a competition cooking show they give the contestants recipes to follow and then judge them how well they match up against their expectations.

Isn’t that what I was doing in my classroom?

Sure. I was giving them a project, telling them all my expectations for what to produce, and of course every kid needed to produce the same thing because that made it easier for me to grade. And, I thought it would easily show me what they had learned. In the end I got 30 of the same element, 30 of the same reports and 30 of the same presentations. What I thought was good for my students actually wasn’t. I had given them a recipe and they had followed but were they really able to tell me what they’d learned? Was I letting them be creative in the process, thereby giving them a reason to invest in their learning?

Certainly not.

We’ve all been guilty of the recipe approach. Either as an unwilling participant or a willing assigner of these types of assignments and projects. The push back I get is, yeah but kids want recipes. They want to be told the expectations. They want to have the guidelines. That may be only slightly true. If I were to sit down with a group of students and give them 2 options, one to produce a highly scripted, outlined project, or one where the expectations are set out but they get to decide what they want to produce, I’d be willing to bet they’d pick the freedom to create whatever they want every time. All they know in school is the scripted approach. So they’ve come to rely on it. We have to help break free of that mantra and allow creativity and innovation into the work students do.

3 Ways To Combat Recipes Learning

Choice In Content, Process and/or Product- Allowing students to discover their own paths to content and process and products helps invest them in their learning. While content may be set by standards or expected outcomes, students can get creative in how they learn that content, the methods by which they connect that content to already known knowledge and especially in how they demonstrate their understanding.

Choice can also come from the types of technologies student use. There are all sorts of ways from students using tablets to create videos and audio podcasts, to building or replicating historical events in Minecraft, to using drawing and spreadsheet tools to create infographics. Any of these can be choices that students make to discover content in a new way, tools that they use to make a better understanding of their learning or how they can produce a result to demonstrate their learning.

There are all sorts of ways for students to show off their creativity by fostering choice with content, process and product.

Move To Problem Based Learning- You are a member of a team tasked with investigating the impact of the removal of a local park in favor of building a new high school football stadium. The high school has never had a stadium and really wants one. But the neighborhood uses the park daily and it would be a great loss to the community. There is also a stream that runs through the park that would be impacted. The task is to present a recommendation to the Mayor as to what should be done.

To move past the boring recipe type projects and expected outcomes, look to Problem Based Learning. PBL gives real-world problems for students to solve. The example above is one from a school in my district that was an actual problem faced by the students and the surrounding community. For the entire school year the school worked on the problem in all the classes, tied to curriculum and standards. At the end of the year many student teams presented their findings to the Mayor. The solutions they came up with were vast, but none the same. Each team was able to show off their creativity and innovative ideas to solve the problem.

As we know many problems have multiple solutions. So the scripted approach to what students will produce won’t really work here. Students, utilizing choice, can investigate, research, hypothesize, test and report on how they would solve the problem. The Buck Institute for Education is the go-to for anything PBL. Check out their resource section for example problems, assessment ideas and project guides.

Embrace Formative Assessment- Formative assessments are short and quick assessments that are given at the moment of learning. They can be a simple temperature check, having students explain their learning in their own words, or something more detailed, such as having them answer a few math problems or complete a task related to learning. The key is they are done at the moment of learning. They don’t wait for all the learning to be complete and then are given. Summative assessments, like the test at the end of the chapter or the recipe final project given at the end of the year, do serve their purpose if used effectively but formative assessments can help drive teaching and learning.

If the end goal of the recipe project is to see what students have learned and for them to demonstrate that learning, why wait until the end of the learning? By asking pointed and simple questions throughout the learning process teachers and students have a greater understanding of both how effective the teaching is and how the learning is progressing. Then there is little need for that scripted, recipe project and more time can be taken for deeper understanding and differentiation. Formative assessments come in all forms. Check out this post I wrote recently about them and how they can be used and different ways technology can help.

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Monday, February 27, 2017

3 Untapped Social Media Resources For Students

Last week I laid out 3 Untapped Social Media Resources for Teachers. This week we take a look at how to leverage social networks for students. 

My sister is a senior in high school. Whenever we spend time together I ask her about “what the kids are into these days?” She is right in the heart of the age range for kids who use social media the most (13-18 yrs old). Our conversations give me a sense of how kids are using social media and her thoughts on using it for learning, or even if there is a place for it.

She tells me all the time that she’s “addicted” to her phone, just like most adults. Most of her time is spent on Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram. She and her friends are sending photos, snaps and videos back and forth all day long. That is their world. They are continually capturing what is happening around them and sharing it with each other.

And we have the data to back her up. 

According to the Pew Internet Research Study, in 2015 it found that 92% of teens go online to be social daily, with 24% saying they are there nearly constantly. All use at least one social networking site, with over 71% saying they use more than one.

The most popular sites?
Facebook-71% Daily Use
Instagram-52% Daily Use
Snapchat-41% Daily Use
Twitter-33% Daily Use

I don’t think anyone would argue that the vast majority of kids (ages 13-17) use social networking. The data clearly backs that up. But once they reach the schoolhouse door, that use stops, at least for formal learning. We know in the hallways and hidden under desks those students are still posting, snapping and sharing.

What if we brought those phones and tablets out of the shadows and added elements of the way that students use these social networks to formal learning? What it we were able to snap and gram and share our way to better learning? And what if we could tie in elements of digital citizenship along the way. 

1) Facebook-Over 3/4s of the kids surveyed say they use Facebook every single day. There are arguments that can be made that say these kids are moving away from Facebook in favor of other services so they can be away from their parents or other family members. Asking any teenager will tell you that is mostly true. But they will also tell you they still go there and interact with the content that is there. In this age of fake news, divisive political talk and the sharing of inappropriate content now is an excellent time to use Facebook in the classroom to help teach. 

There are many examples of fake news or misleading headlines that could be pulled and shown to have a discussion on how these items sway public opinion. A quick Google search will also show content that might be better left off Facebook entirely. A discussion on privacy settings and an understanding of the rights we give up when we post photos and videos there could go a long way to helping students understand their digital presence. All this can be done on a private page that you create to facilitate these conversations. 

2) Instagram- I use Instagram on a daily basis to share images, motivational quotes and pictures of my daughters of course. Kids, as we can see, are using it as well to do exactly what adults do. Document their lives and share it with others. Photos can be a powerful tool to demonstrate understanding, feelings toward certain events or quickly share ideas. Instagram has become even more powerful adding in Stories and albums which allow you to share several photos and videos at once. 

Instagram can be a great edition to any classroom. In addition to using it to share what is happening in the classroom, students can shoot short videos to show a concept or summarize their learning. During this time of year giving students control of that account each day to show what it’s like to be a student in that classroom or school can be a great marketing tool. Or what about using it to show reflection and the process of learning? Students can share images that show their entire thought processes. 

3) Snapchat- I’ve been using Snapchat for over a year now, both personally and professionally. When I talk to educators about bringing it into the classroom I get the same reaction every time. There is no place for that tool in the classroom, period. I beg to differ. At a conference recently about the future of messaging and interactions with technology I heard someone talk about our obsession with pictures and videos. Traditional services save those in an archive that we can go back for years and years to see. Even most of us on our phones can find years worth of photos. The problem with digital hoarding is that we can’t find the best stuff because we have to wade through the junk. Not everything we take a picture of, not every story has to last forever.

Enter Snapchat. 

Snapchat has gotten a bad reputation because the images and texts do disappear. And that made it easy for anyone to share anything inappropriate. But we can’t blame the technology. We have to change the conversation and find better ways to use that technology. Starting to use Snapchat in the classroom can help do that and show students there are better ways to use it. 

 In the same ways students can use Instagram to document learning, they can use Snapchat as well. Except now they can mark up their image with stickers, text and more. They can also share those images and videos to a story that allows anyone to follow to see how they progress through their learning. I enjoy to see students who interview classmates about issues in their school or sharing the whole “day in the life” story. In the end we are showing students that it's their use of the technology that determines appropriate use. And just because something posted there disappears, doesn’t mean it can’t be saved. 

Is there overlap between these services? Sure. But that doesn’t mean we have to be limited to using one over the other. It can be a mix of them all and others. We have to think differently about how we use these, what I still call “non-traditional” tools and how they can be used for learning. 

Monday, February 20, 2017

3 Untapped Social Media Resources Worth A Second Look

In a world where we are constantly bombarded with information as adults and as educators, there are still many untapped resources to learn from and share with and grow, especially through social media. Being a connected educator doesn’t mean sticking to one favorite platform and having that singular lens to learn from. We want students to have multiple perspectives so we should expect the same from ourselves.

If there is any doubt that very nearly everyone uses social media, let’s examine some stats from the Pew Internet Research Study. This is an ongoing look at the way all of us use digital resources, consume information and our feelings and attitudes towards it all. They just updated their social media data for 2016.

Of All U.S Adults:

  • 79% use Facebook. Nearly 3/4 of these visit at least once per day!
  • 32% use Instagram
  • 31% use Pinterest
  • 29% use LinkedIn
  • 24% use Twitter
Whats even more surprising is that demographics don’t seem to matter. Rich or poor, educated or uneducated, no matter the ethnicity or gender or where someone lives, adults are using these platforms and many of them choosing to use more than one. 

We can safely assume that Social Media is a part of most people’s lives. So it makes sense that as educators we look to what social media can offer in terms of consumption and sharing so that we can learn and grow ourselves. 

And many have done that.

I have been an advocate for the use of Twitter for as long as I have had an account there. Many educators have sat in my sessions or watched my webinars or read my books where I talk all about the benefits of Twitter and being connected. There are loads of others who have put their own spin on that type of learning as well.

But I think I (and maybe others) have missed the point.

Sure. Twitter is a wonderful resource. There are countless hashtags, links and images shared every day. But if we want to be as data-driven outside the classroom as we are inside of it we are missing a large segment of the population to share with and grow from. There are many untapped resources that even I am guilty of ignoring or dismissing that we just can’t any longer.

1) Facebook-As we can see Facebook is still the most popular social network among Internet-using adults in the US. So it makes sense to start here as a potential untapped resource. I use Facebook everyday. But I use it in a more personal way, sharing photos and videos with friends and family. However, I’ve learned there are educational pages where folks are sharing and learning that far outpace anything Twitter is able to do. Take for example We Are Teachers. This is an incredible resource that I’ve followed on Twitter for a long time. Jump over to Facebook and they have almost a million followers there. And the resources are some you can’t find anywhere else. Or Edutopia, over 1 million followers on Facebook. Even my good friend Richard Byrne, author of the wildly popular FreeTech4Teachers Blog has nearly half a million followers on Facebook. And these are just a handful of pages worth checking out. A quick Google Search reveals many lists and suggestions for educational Facebook pages to follow.

All these pages are great for consuming information but can be great for sharing as well. You can share posts and resources that you create or find. (Different pages have different rules on that so make sure you check that out first.) Imaging something you are really excited to share now goes out to a network with over 1,000,000 people following it. You can also start you own page very easily as well and use it as an extension of your social and digital voice.

2) LinkedIn- Another social network at least having on your radar is LinkedIn. For a long time LinkedIn was seen as the place to have a presence just incase someone wanted to offer you a job or a place to have a profile it you were in the market for one. But as the Pew Internet Data shows us, almost 1/3 of all internet users are there. So take advantage of it! Set up notifications or visit your LinkedIn feed at least once a week. See what others are sharing there. I was flabbergasted to discover blog posts, articles and more that I hadn’t seen anywhere else. I spent over an hour reading and discovering new voices I might not have found anywhere else.

LinkedIn can also be a great place to share information that you might not be thinking about. Remember, LinkedIn is the first professional social network. It doesn’t have to be about looking for a job. It can be about simply sharing the awesome work you do. Set your blog up to auto-post there or join one of the great educational groups to share with. The International Society for Technology In Education (ISTE) has a large group there along with other subject or role specific groups.

3) Pinterest- I joke often about how I’ve eaten a lot of good things from Pinterest and found lots of projects to do with my daughters there as well. But as an educational resource its huge. Now, I know that but it’s one I haven’t used much and I’ve been missing out. As many of you will probably tell me it is huge in the education space. I’ve written about how to evaluate the resources found there but I need to take my own advice and use it more. Just the Education Category there shows tons and tons of resources to consume and explore. Kasey Bell has one of the best lists I’ve seen of some the most popular educational centric Pinterest boards to follow.

On the flip side leverage Pinterest to share as well. Creating boards is easy and there are a number of browser extensions and add-ons to make it easy to share there. Pinterest is very visual so any type of image you can use to grab someone’s attention works well. Create and organize boards for individual topics or ideas.

I admit, on many of these I am late to the party. I’ve spent a number of years evangelizing the benefits of Twitter. I still believe Twitter is the fastest and one of the best places to learn, grow and share. But we need to have multiple learning lenses and there is more than one place to learn. These are some of the most widely used social networks used across all internet using adults in the US. So let’s leverage the power of social and consume better and share better.

In my next post I’ll look at the same data for those under the age of 18 and provide some ideas for kids and students to leverage the social networks they are using the most to share, learn and grow. 

Download the graphic.