When I signed up to take the course Social Network Learning this summer, my initial thoughts were, “How much can one possibly learn from social networks?” The answer is–more than you can imagine. Social media is a powerful tool that allows us to connect and develop a network with access to resources and people that we may not otherwise be able to associate with.
Using social media has improved my professional development. Before this class, I had a Twitter account set up, but I barely accessed it. Now I have learned how to find hashtags that suit my interests, and I have found a way to organize those hashtags through the use of TweetDeck. This has been a valuable experience for me. I have been able to follow prominent people in professional areas that interest me and I have gained a wealth of knowledge and resources. Through participating in Twitter chats, I have become more comfortable with putting myself out there and sharing my own ideas and knowledge. I like how Twitter has allowed me to customize my professional development and I plan on sharing what I have learned and helping my colleagues set up their own accounts during one of our first faculty meetings of our new school year.
Our work on developing a positive digital footprint and managing our online reputation will be beneficial as I guide my students to use social media. I have always been careful to watch what I post on social media, but these activities have helped me develop ideas on how to convey that knowledge to my students as they begin using social media on their own.
I have never really done much with content curation, but by completing these projects, I learned how to use PearlTrees. Rather than just clicking on and bookmarking sites, curation allows one to pause and think about whether the information is relevant, credible, and useful for the topic to be curated. For this project, I curated content on middle school book recommendations. I have added it to my class website and plan on updating it for my students frequently. I have never worked on curation with my students, but now I plan on teaching it to my middle schoolers. I think it will help them as they work on their research projects. One disappointment I had was that many of the curation tools are free only to a certain extent. I ended up purchasing a subscription to PearlTrees just so that I could use all the features. For schools that are cash-strapped, the idea of purchasing subscriptions is not usually met with enthusiasm.
In our study of social media and social media policies, I have learned that is possible to use social media safely and responsibly even with students in the elementary school. Today’s students have grown up with technology and I think that when they enter a classroom they wish that they would have access to the same level of technology that they encounter in their own world. They no longer seem interested to sit in rows of desks listening and reading from textbooks. They want to participate in their learning. Education is more than just memorization and today’s student demands to be provided with the tools to expand their mind. Using social media is one of these tools. If we teach our students how to use social media properly, it will enhance their learning by expanding their access to resources beyond the classroom walls.
Creating social media policies was an invaluable experience. My school had no prior social media policies besides the few set up by our diocese. I had to research and come up with social media policies to add to our school acceptable use policy. I plan on sharing this document with my principal and I hope that we can work together with our technology committee and pastor to develop a more comprehensive policy for our school.
Finally, creating and evaluating another group’s social networked unit was an important learning experience. It pulled together how a teacher can utilize all forms of social networking tools within a classroom unit, and I enjoyed the opportunity to evaluate my classmate’s unit using a screencast. I have never evaluated my students using a screencast. I think it is kind of a lengthy process, but I would definitely consider evaluating group projects in this manner. It makes the evaluation more personal and the evaluator can give more detailed and constructive feedback.
In finishing up this course, I would rate my blog performance as above average. When composing my posts, I took an extensive amount of time to develop very personal and thoughtful reflections on what I have learned and I have worked to make meaningful connections. If anyone were to read my posts, they would be able to see what I have learned and they might learn something from me as well. In addition, I carefully considered the tags and categories for each blog post so that it will be easier to revisit my work later on. Through my blog, I have developed a voice and really worked to show what I am passionate about and what changes I might make as an educator in my classroom and within my school. With each blog post, I made every effort to put forth my best work to show the knowledge that I have acquired through my participation in this course. An area that I would improve upon would have been to comment more on my classmates blog posts in order to create more of a dialogue. I would award myself with the full 75 points for my posts.
Being a member of this class has been an amazing journey and I look forward to sharing all that I have learned with my students and colleagues.