“Educators have taken [the social media] platform and they’ve changed things around,” said Whitby. “Through technology and Twitter, it’s enabled us to take that collaborative learning and knock down all of the boundaries. We can collaborate with anybody at any time.”
“What I think the benefit here is, is that we have a whole new group of teachers who are using social media for their own professional learning,” Anderson said.
1. Don’t be afraid to jump in
“Not everybody is going to feel comfortable about learning this technology, and learning what they need to know, but that’s part of being a lifelong learner,” Whitby said. “We need to change the priorities of professional development. We don’t know, as educators, what it is that we don’t know. They won’t travel to those uncomfortable places if they’re not made to.”
2. Be committed
“In order to maintain relevance in education you have to keep up with what’s going on, and to do that you really have to be connected,” Whitby said. “You can’t do that if you’re sitting back and if you’re not engaging and learning. The whole idea of being connected makes us what we want our students to be. We can all afford 20 minutes a day to stay connected and be relevant–it’s amazing who you come in contact with.”
3. Get past the stereotypes
“It’s an opportunity for people to meet and socialize,” Anderson said.
In fact, if more schools embraced social media, safety issues such as cyberbullying would not be nearly as prevalent as they are today.
“If schools has just said, ‘You know, we need to start teaching kids responsible ways to behave online,’ we wouldn’t have the issues we have today, because it would be a part of our culture. We’ve got to get away from these policies that handcuff teachers’ ability to do their work.”
4. Train teachers for today’s classrooms
“We have to educate our educators better if we want our kids to be educated,” Whitby said. “Digital literacy has to be understood by educators. Teachers are not being trained for social media. We’re not training people, through professional development, for what it is they need to know to be an educator today.”
And it’s not just teachers who need to learn more about social media.
“It’s also administrators who have to learn this,” Whitby added. “Administrators are theoretically the education leaders of their buildings or districts, but some of them are as digitally illiterate as the teachers they’re supposed to be leading.”
5. Don’t start students at a disadvantage
“You do kids a disservice if you shut out the world,” Anderson said.
“The whole idea of disabling the ability that kids have to learn about the tools they’ll have to be using in a computer-driven society is just crazy,” Whitby said. “They’re not going to have a choice about whether to use technology – those are tools their employers will expect them to be knowledgeable about when they get out into the world.”
6. Give up control
“Policy isn’t needed,” Anderson said. “You don’t need to have a physical social media policy. Policies are only meant to control, and you don’t really want to control something like this. You want to let things happen organically.”
“Control is the thing that we have to give up most when it comes to social media, and allow kids to make decisions about what it is they want to learn,” Whitby said. “If they take control of their learning, they’re going to learn at a faster rate and a more effective rate.”
7. Model the behavior
“Administrators who want to encourage teachers to use social media should use social media themselves,” Anderson said. “They have to be involved in those social media spaces to understand what teachers are doing in those spaces.”
“Superintendents are much more hesitant to do that–principals seems much more willing,” Whitby said. “If we can get people over the hump of being exposed and open, I think they would engage in the process of social media more.”
8. Find value in educators who turn to social media
“When a teacher says they found a resource on Facebook, or Twitter, or on a blog, it tells me they’ve taken their professional learning in their own hands,” Anderson said. “There’s a great benefit to being in that space and being involved in that learning.”
9. Lurk, learn, and then interact
“Lurking is powerful,” Anderson said. “I encourage people to use hash tags, look at lists, and find one they can follow. There’s power in the lurker. The mere fact that you take that chance is a huge first step.”
Once users lurk on their preferred social media network, they’ll become familiar with the content and discussions and will feel more comfortable participating in conversations.
“Retweet,” Whitby suggested. “Then, once you begin to engage with original ideas, you reflect more on what you’re saying and you begin to reflect more on education.”
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