Blog Archives

Social Media and the Election

In the wake of the US election results, many of us are left shaking our heads and picking up our jaws off the ground. What just happened? I’m not going to go on a political tirade here. That’s not what this post and site are for. It is a sounding board to promote and share the use of technology and pedagogical approaches to enhance, improve, and transform education. That’s what I will ponder here in context of the US election results.

I was just reading this National Public Radio (NPR) article called, “Did Social Media Ruin Election 2016?” I highly recommend reading it. When you’re done reading it, please don’t take up arms against social media and suggest avoiding it or banning it. Yes, social media has had an influence in dividing nations, creating more partisanship, and breeding hate, but social media in-and-of itself is not ultimately the problem. The problem is in education.

21st Century Learner by Giulia Forsythe on Flickr

21st Century Learner by Giulia Forsythe on Flickr

In our processes of teaching critical thinking and recognizing bias and fallacy through traditional resources and discussion methods, we need to help students apply these same skills in their use and consumption of social media content. It may seem that student social media use and consumption is out of our domain, but it’s not. This election has shown us how our own and others’ use of social media can affect us.

In our curricula and daily lessons we need to have students consider social media as a source of information. For them, it’s probably their biggest source of information. Have students consider who/what they follow/like, and why. Have them reflect upon and evaluate others’ and their own social media posts. Teach them to become fact checkers and meme busters. In general, facilitate discussions about what they see in their social media feeds and connect it to your curriculum.

With social media, we actually have an opportunity to make the world a better place. As this student wrote in this 2014 post about “The Power of Social Media”:

“…the Internet gives youth so much freedom. We now have a relevant voice because of social media. Granted, there are a lot of youth who don’t really know how to use that voice for the right reasons yet. In fact, I’m still figuring it out myself. Instead of discouraging youth in our use of the Internet, I think people should start encouraging us to use it for the right reasons instead of the wrong ones.”

As educators, we need to be at the front line to start teaching and encouraging our students to use social media for the right reasons instead of the wrong ones. Even if you don’t feel adept with the technical ins and outs of social media, that’s ok. You don’t need to be an expert with the technology. You just need to be the thinking expert. Start to use social media in your class. Jump into the fray and teach the students in situ. Let’s students teach you the technology while you teach them how to use it responsibly and effectively.

In my years as an educator, the biggest issue I’ve seen is students’ lack of ability to transfer knowledge and skills from one course or context to another. We can’t assume that they will transfer the critical thinking skills they learned in a recent unit the next time they open their Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, or other online newsfeeds. They need explicit opportunities to apply these in class. Please take opportunities to do this. Our future may depend on it.

Same, Same, but Different- Another Blog about Personal Learning Networks

My Personal Learning Network (PLN) has grown massively over the last few months. Recently, I think I’ve found a sweet spot with it. By sweet spot, I mean I don’t have to do a lot of independent searching for information anymore for my day-to-day learning. Most of what I need manages to make its way to me through the various Web 2.0 applications I use and the RSS feeds I’ve set up. Excited about the PLN I have going, I wanted to blog about it. I soon as I thought about writing this blog, however, I stopped. Through my PLN, I knew there’s been many blogs and articles already written on PLNs. Because of this, I didn’t want to write just another blog about PLNs. So before I started writing this post, I was curious as to how much had been written already. Thus, I did what most people do today when they want to search something- go to Google. In searching “Personal Learning Network” (with quotes) on Google, I got 49,600 results; pln without the quotes, Personal Learning Network got me 3,520,000 results. pln1 Whoa! That’s a lot of results.

In reading a few of them, one showed her PLN in action; another laid out how to start a PLN; another described stages of PLN adoption, and others discussed the importance of developing PLN’s with our students. The result list, angles, and information on PLNs went on. So, with so much written already about PLNs, what would I write about that hadn’t already been written? After a few moments, I thought that the fact that there is so much written about PLNs goes to show why having one is so important. We need them to help us sift through the deluge of information. So, this is what I want to emphasize- PLNs are a must in today’s learning environment.

With so much information being generated out there, it is becoming difficult to keep track of and follow it all. We could sit all day to try to absorb every new bit of information from books, blogs, websites, newspapers,podcasts, tv news, and other sources only to barely scratch the surface and never get any work done. With such great technologies out there and so many dynamic online communities being formed, creating a Personal Learning Network (PLN) is the best way to keep your head above this universe of information. Why go out and try to find everything when you can have someone or something with whom you’re networked help you, saving you time, stress, and frustration.

Here are the main sources in my PLN (in order of importance):
Twitter (This is number one resource in my PLN right now. I am following some fantastic educators around the world and I’m constantly learning new ideas and tools, getting links to blogs and websites, having conversations etc., EVERY DAY! Of course, I contribute to and have conversations with my followers often)

Diigo (Social bookmarking and then some! Be sure and join some Diigo groups. You can set each group up so you get notifications so that you get a daily or weekly update sent to your email with all the links group members shared to the group. My active groups: Classroom 2.0; Apple Distinguished Educators. I’ve been turned on to so many useful sources and tools through these groups)

Delicious (If I do need to search for something, I sometimes I go here before going to Google. You get a lot less results in a search, but they tend to more exactly what I’m looking for since others have already evaluated the source and tagged it. Of course, I bookmark all good links that I find and that come to me so they are available when ever I need them. I double up on this process with Diigo. This is redundant, I know, but all links for my classes are link rolled from Delicious at the moment)

iGoogle (Due to time constraints, I don’t use this everyday. But, I’ve set up RSS feeds from my favorite news and magazine sites and have added other gadgets. It’s one stop shopping here since I see everything I deem important on 1 page. Furthermore, multiple pages can be made. I have a general home page; an education page, and a music page at the moment)

Google Reader (I set up a RSS for the core blogs I like to read. This Reader is also one of the boxes on my iGoogle home page)

Nings (I’m a member of 4 Ning sites. I check these every now and then as they do provide useful information and forums for discussions)

Wikis (I’m a member or organizer of 17 wikis! Some are for classes, others were for PD conferences, while others were used for planning. These do provide a variety information and are good repositories of resources people have contributed from PD conferences. They never go away unless the organizer deletes it. I’ve learned quite a bit from my students through my class wikis)

Facebook (Even though this is mostly used to keep in touch with friends, I do get information through the groups I’ve joined and if I need something, I can quickly ask a friend if they aren’t on Twitter)

Of course, there are other elements to my PLN (immediate colleagues, books, podcast subscriptions, magazines, tv news) which add to this dynamic online portion of it.

With just this online portion of my PLN, there’s a lot to keep track of! As I mentioned above, I don’t refer to all them every day, but they are there whenever I need them.

If you’re just starting your PLN, here’s my 2 RMB of advice:
1. Dive in and get started
2. Learn how RSS Works and set up readers and iGoogle
3. Talk to colleagues with working PLNs for advice and recommendations
4. Join Twitter
5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
6. Continue to evolve the network and try new tools as you come across them

So, in ending this post, I basically reiterated what many other PLN posts have said. Hopefully it was still useful, though. But, I will make it different by saying, why couldn’t that Iraqi journalist aim his throw a little lower?! 😉

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