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Social media exemplar using Pinterest

Social media exemplar using Pinterest

My curated topics on English-Language Arts Social Media Projects: http://www.scoop.it/t/ela-social-media-projects

“To SM, or not to SM: that is the question–“

Those who SM (use social media) are jumpers: these teachers jump right in and go for it. (FYI: That doesn’t mean they don’t have a lesson, or an end product in mind.) The true difference is that teachers like these are willing to take risks. They experiment with technology in their classrooms: sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. This fact doesn’t deter them. Unfortunately, it seems like there are very few technology jumpers out there. It was very difficult to find real SM exemplars (that included true interaction) where students are demonstrating their learning at the high school level.  Being a jumper myself (and being fortunate enough to work with other jumpers in the English department), I found this frustrating; I thought our tribe would be “bigger”?!

Another factor that might contribute to this feeling of frustration is that there could be others out there who “jump” but do not publicly “share” their in-class experiments. Some teachers don’t always publish what they are doing in the classroom for the students’ well-being or safety. Perhaps they have to follow FOIP guidelines (or something like it) which also makes it harder to share examples of student work?!

With that said, here are some my observations on the social media classroom (perhaps these observations will encourage more jumpers?!):

Curriculum: Using social media networking in a ELA classroom is (or can be) supported by the provincial or state curriculum and its curricular outcomes. Here are some of the applied uses I found when curating my topic and grade level: character analyses or profiles, role-play or persona activities (voice and tone), visual representations, determining theme(s), personal responses to text, self-reflections (on learning), compositions (academic and personal), e-portfolios, critical and creative thinking, and collaboration. Social media networking also supports information and communication outcomes (ICT) as well. Jump.

Treasure Troves: Most projects or lessons that are shared are real treasures. I wish I had thought of the student passion blog or the character analysis using Pinterest! Remember: you wouldn’t have to incorporate all of these exemplars either. Try one of these projects or lesson per class / per semester.  Student engagement is important; that is why the effort is worth it! The creative end of the pool is deliciously deep! Jump.

Collaboration vs Interaction: Many of the projects I found definitely encouraged group participation or collaboration. Students are not expected to work in isolation. The student might be creating his or her own blog for example but these blogs are easily accessed via a main page (class blog or teacher’s blog) or an RSS feed. Students are always encouraged to comment on each other’s work. Some projects are specifically designed so that students work together to develop and create an end product (Twitter, Pinterest, Vine). One thing that many educators commented on is this: student shyness. Quite a few high school students (and college students) worry about what other think so they are leery about posting or sharing their work. Pseudonyms are used, and this helps–somewhat. I also noted that many student published their work but it wasn’t always “commented” on by their peers even when encouraged (or expected). This is definitely something that has to be nurtured. Jump anyway.

Teaching vs Learning: I tried to find examples where the students were using social media applications themselves. That might be why it was hard to find real life examples to curate. I found many examples of teachers using social media to help their students learn though. One of my favourite examples is Timothy Nance, who uses Vine to create 6 second videos that summarize plays and novels–or teach mini lessons on grammar. He is very creative and seems quite at home when it comes to incorporating social media into his classroom. Luckily for us, he shares his videos via his Twitter account!  Perhaps it is easier for the teacher to use social media than it is for students?! Unfortunately, another complication is that there are school districts or divisions who block student use of social media. I do remember when YouTube was banned in my school division. Teachers couldn’t even access it. Shudder. Fear makes it hard for some of us to jump ahead!

Lead by Example: I thought I should include some of my own social media experiments, so I shared a previous project (Poetry4Now) and an upcoming project (Live Twitter Chat) on my curated list. I am not going to lie and say implementing social media in the classroom is easy peasy. Sometimes it is; most of the time it isn’t. However, it is worth it. If you don’t want to try implementing social media projects on your own–partner up with someone. This takes some of the stress off you because you can share the successes (and the failures) with another colleague. Track down someone in  your department! Find a technology integrationist or a librarian (like me) to help you take that big–JUMP!

“To jump, or not to jump: that is the question–”

The answer to this question my friends is: to JUMP!

P.S. I did include one curated topic on my list even though it hadn’t been tested in a high school classroom–yet. Snap Scene (using Instagram) is a great idea that cannot be forgotten; I know someone who is willing to try it out ASAP!