Monday, June 13, 2016

Social Media as a Learning Tool


Challenging views
Local and global connections
Real time and real world learning and connections
Removing the classroom walls
Powerful opportunities for feedback
Asynchronous learning - anytime, anywhere learning which helps address some of the issues of 'time' in teachers' professional learning.

The following infographic sums up my thinking around the power of social media as a learning and teaching tool and was also shared in a blog post from 2013 - Exploring Digital Citizenship.

The Use of Social Media in Schools
by obizmedia.
Explore more infographics like this one on the web's largest information design community - Visually.


Assumptions Around 'Digital Natives' and the place of Technology in General in Learning and Teaching

Although our students have grown up in a digital age we can't assume that they have they can apply what they know in a learning context.  These skills need to be taught and half the fun of it is the expectation that teachers learn alongside the students.  If you'd like to read more about this you can go to The Digital Natives Debate: A literature review.

In 2014 I wrote a blog post on technology in education which looked at some of the challenges around relevant use of technology in learning and teaching.

Digital Citizenship
There are arguments around the need for learning about citizenship in general but being a digital citizen requires specific skills and, again, these need to be taught and reinforced.  There are so many resources around this.  The example below has been created in Google Slides and was part of a crowd-sourced planning resource.  It is helpful to share with students and the wider community and has a lot of resources which connect home and school to create strong partnerships.

In 2013 I wrote a post around Digital Citizenship - Exploring Digital Citizenship - it has a really interesting infographic around the uses and benefits of social media in the classroom.

Building Knowledge and Understanding of the Benefits of Online Tools - Parent Concerns
Our learning communities, particularly our parents and caregivers, do not always see the benefits or purpose of using Social Media to improve their child's learning.  It's up to us to share what we are doing and to be very clear about our 'why'. our purpose for using particular tools and platforms. Parent meetings and information evenings go a long way to communicating what we do and why.  It is generally a fear of the unknown and the fact that this form of learning and teaching is so different to our own experiences of school that makes parents and caregivers uneasy.  Quick snippets about the benefits and sharing learning through blogs are other ways of lessening the fear and of breaking down the barriers too.

Parents and caregivers just want to know that their children are safe online - that is often their biggest fear, along with thinking that being online is just wasting time.  We read so many horror stories about what can go wrong but very few on what can go right.  Using the tools and sharing information with parents / caregivers is a way of dealing with this responsibly.  They need to see what is happening in the classroom and beyond in terms of the learning experiences and that they are a valuable and necessary part of that.  


While I use a range of social media platforms for learning, the following are the main ones.  Before engaging with any platform, I always consider what my purpose for using it is - my 'why'.

Twitter helps me keep up to date with current issues and trends in education.  My Professional Learning Network (PLN) acts as a sounding board for ideas and I can ask a question and get answers and opinions from all over the world.  My connections are local and global.  The links below are great starting points for using Twitter for professional learning and also in the classroom.

I now use Facebook mostly for professional learning and am in several groups.  I also have my own page - Justine Hughes - Learner and Teacher which acts as a resource-sharing page and is also where I connect with other educators for a range of purposes including mentoring beginning teachers, two of whom I taught at one stage!  (I am very proud of them for becoming teachers).

Google+ is not a platform I use often although I've been using it since it was in the invited beta trial stage.  Its advantage is having Google Hangouts attached where I can connect quickly and easily with people in my PLN both locally and globally.  It tends to be a little more on the academic side for me with groups from The MindLab and earlier on, groups from university.

In the early days LinkedIn was a powerful way of keeping up with the latest in education.  It was more of a professional forum whereas Facebook was quite casual.  In the last two years or so, however, I've felt that LinkedIn has changed and become more advertising-based and less 'serious'.

Virtual Learning Network (VLN)
The VLN is a powerful source of professional learning and has an excellent blend of discussion, access to academic resources and a range of groups in your areas of interest that you can join.  It's a fantastic platform in which to ask for help on any area of learning and teaching.

POND N4L (Network for Learning)
So far, this seems to be a platform which hasn't gained as much traction as I thought it would and I am just as guilty at not using it.  It's an excellent curation tool where you are able to store and share resources.  Some have said that it's a bit 'clunky' to navigate but, from what I've seen, a lot of these early issues have been resolved.
POND is New Zealand based and resourced and designed to be a community of practitioners sharing knowledge and resources.  Like the VLN, it has discussion groups, resources, and it is up to the individual as to how they want to use it.  I'm looking forward to exploring it more this year and finding out more about what the value is for teachers and learners.  One thing I want to do is to explore the difference between the VLN and POND N4L.


Teaching with Blogs - from Read, Write, Think.

Digital Citizenship - a crowd sourced collection of resources on Google Slides.  Created by New Zealand teachers.

Skype in the Classroom - an excellent resource for connecting learners, teachers and classrooms from all over the world.  Mystery Skype is a fantastic part of Skype in the Classroom and will challenge students questioning and thinking skills.   You can also use it for Virtual Field Trips and connect with a Guest Speaker.  Real world and time connections.

ePals - I've been using this for many years as a way to connect students.  ePals has evolved over time and you and your class have the potential to be able to be involved in a range of global projects.  It's all about connection, communication and collaboration.

Edmodo - A safe environment which is seen as similar to Facebook but for students.  Teachers can control the security of the settings.   An excellent tool for creating a blended learning environment for your students.  Also an excellent tool for creating deeper communication with parents and the community. 

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