Sunday, February 8, 2015

Getting Started As A Connected Classroom

There are three main reasons I believe in the power of becoming a connected classroom:

1. To connect my students (who live at our school and away from their families) with their families back home. It is so important for me to give the parents and sponsors a window into their child's learning, experiences, growth and exciting moments! My goal is for my students' families to feel that my twitter and Instagram accounts give them access to our classroom community and to their child. At any given moment of the school day, a parent can check in, catch up, and be reassured by the updates we have posted. I have had parents tell me that this accessibility has helped them to keep their student enrolled in our school, and so for me, this is reason enough to keep tweeting & posting from our classroom!

2. To make experts, and other learners accessible to my students. The beauty of social media is the way it breaks down walls and brings us all together. Through social media we have engaged with artists, authors, politicians, organizations, celebrities, athletes, and other students and teachers around the globe! These are opportunities for connectivity that none of us would have otherwise had and they provide unique insights, answers, and learning experiences for my second graders!

3. To share what we are doing with the educational community. As someone who believes that inspiration is cyclical, I have been motivated, encouraged, and inspired by the glimpses that social media has given me into other classrooms. It's only right that I should share in turn, and hope to motivate, encourage or inspire others!

So how to get started? I started my Connected Classroom Journey on twitter. At the onset, I was just a consumer, reading and following and taking it all in. Once I realized the power that connection could provide to my teaching and classroom, I made a goal to "tweet" something we were doing once a week. Soon the goal became once a day, and now on most days we tweet semi-consistently, providing a pretty clear picture of what's happening in room 36! Here are my top tips for you if you're just getting started:

1. Open a twitter account. If you don't know how, this will help.

2. Limit your consumerism to prevent overload! The number one reason I've heard from people who don't like twitter is that it is overwhelming! I get this. I have actually taken to limiting how often I allow myself to scan my Home Feed. I suggest doing the same, and limiting who you follow at first, to tweeters whose content you find really interesting and inspiring. Once you've watched some other educators doing the twitter thing, you'll feel more ready to jump in yourself! Remember that "comparison is the thief of joy" and try not to compare your social media presence or your classroom to anyone else's. You're only getting and giving a glimpse, try to keep that in perspective! :)

3. Set a goal. Will you tweet once a week? Once a day? Every other? Set a goal and make it happen. Make it fun!

4. Interact with some other people. Reply to articles, tweets or pictures that interest you or your students. Give kudos, tweet to authors when you're reading their books, celebrities when your students mention them in class, policy makers when there is a cause you believe in. Many times you won't hear back, but when you do, it's very exciting for you AND your students!

5. My number one tip is to get your students involved in the process! Every student in my class knows how to take a photo, video, hyperlapse, and form a tweet. They earn "photog of the moment" status through good behavior and hard work throughout the day, and if they have the device in their possession, they are free to play photo journalists to their hearts content. This provides me with plenty of material to use in our posts, and takes the pressure off me to teach AND capture the moments! My students don't post without me over their shoulder, but they have become experts at capturing moments in our classroom for us to share via social media (or just laugh about at home later). Warning: Enabling student photographers will result in endless supply of unflattering, mouth-open pictures of the teacher, but that's what the delete button is for! ;)

Which platform?

I utilize Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for different reasons. I've found that Twitter is best for connecting, and providing a window into our classroom. Facebook has its place for massive picture uploads, closed groups and secure sharing, but Instagram is quickly becoming my favorite spot for finding visual inspiration, creative ideas, and a newsfeed that can't be hijacked by people who I don't follow tagging themselves in things with people who I do follow. (A blog on how I use Instagram instructionally to come!)

A final thought:
In my humble opinion, it seems for some educators, this whole "Connected Educator" movement is getting out of hand. I recently received a PM from a teacher in another state that said "Thank you for following me on Twitter and Instagram even though you have a combined following of almost 1,000 people and my combined following is 24."
She was intending to be funny, but the sentiment beneath the statement is one I've heard before and find a bit disheartening and even silly. If you're a "teacher rockstar" I hope your biggest fans are the students you serve, their parents, and the professionals you teach alongside every day. If the rest of the world doesn't discover you and embrace your "rockstar" status via social media, it's probably because you spent more of your time being an amazing teacher than on promoting yourself, and that makes you a real rockstar in my book. I absolutely believe in connecting with other educators, sharing my learning and learning from others around the country and the globe. I have learned a ton from my Professional Learning Network on Twitter & Instagram especially, but I am mindful to invest the most of my "networking" energy to connect with the educators who I can get the real picture of, and the most consistent inspiration from, the ones in my own school building who pour into me and allow me to pour back. Connection matters, and there are no shortage of inspiring presences on all social media platforms. However, I'd offer this thought: If you're only connecting with "teacher rockstars" with huge followings from other schools, and neglecting the ones busting their butts down the hall, you're missing out! Do both if you can, but when you have to choose, I urge you to choose real live teachers who are pouring into the same population of students that you are. Those relationships are real and tangible and vulnerable and valuable too! *end of social media rant.

No comments :

Post a Comment