3. Collaborative learning
“Our district is using the paid version of Gaggle.net this year with the middle school and high school students and teachers. This online social media [platform] includes a social wall, very similar to Facebook, along with an eMail account, a digital online locker, blogging, … [and] many other available items. One of the main reasons we went with this medium is because of the tight security it offers our students, by using filters for slang words, curse words, hate words, porn, and more. It is a medium to teach the students how to use social media in a professional manner to help prepare them for the marketplace upon employment. The students enjoy having the social aspect of it, and the teachers are appreciative of the means to acceptably and safely contact the students. Also, the teachers can upload assignments into a specific drop box that only their students can see, where the students complete the assignment and submit it back to the teacher, totally without the need for printing anything.
“The teachers are also very appreciative of having access to YouTube through Gaggle, with the filters that are in place—they can show just about any education video without being blocked. Because it is a cloud-based program, anyone can get to their account anywhere there is internet [access], so students can access their social wall at home, as well as their homework assignments. Files can be uploaded to their digital locker and shared and worked on collaboratively, so the need to be in the same room together at all times is eliminated. As teachers create “classes” within the program, it concurrently creates a class social wall for the students enrolled in that class, where they can talk with each other, post pics, message each other, and more. So far, it has been a very positive experience for all our users.” —LeAnn Waldie, instructional technology specialist, Godley Independent School District, Texas
2. Networking with colleagues
“Our college is located in Queensland, Australia, and we are fortunate to have a one-to-one [computing] program for our students from year 4 to year 12 and for all of our staff. The power of the Personal Learning Network that our staff tap into would be impossible without the global interactions and connections our teachers have made through social networking tools. We encourage our staff to be at least active ‘followers’ on Twitter–and have established valuable networks for our teaching teams. In a recent Modern Foreign Language Teachers’ workshop, one of our team sent out a tweet inviting practitioners to share their expertise. We were amazed at the response we received, and without as so much as a blink of the eye–we switched into Skype mode and there was a ‘new’ face in our workshop–sharing their ideas and success stories from the U.K. We have just finished our review of our Strategic Plan, and we have indicated as one of our goals for 2012–the expansion of Personal Learning Networks for all of our staff harnessing the power of social networking.” —Jan MacNamara