Final Reflection for EdTech 543

Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lumaxart/2137737248
Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lumaxart/2137737248

I can understand why  people, especially educators, might shy away from social networks. There is a perception that social media is a place for celebrity gossip,  teenage banter, and making connections with old friends from high school. The potential for social networks to serve as a learning tool doesn’t reconcile with that view of social media. However, after spending a summer in a course designed to help me learn how to use social media to develop myself as and educator, I am not only convinced of the power of social networking, but I am also ready to spread the word about the power it holds for all of us.

As I reflect upon the coursework I completed and the connections I’ve made, I want to share my five biggest take-aways from the course with the hope that other educators will be more open to exploring these social networking tools.

You’re Never Alone- I work at a school where I am the only history teacher. Across my district, there are only six of us who teach history in the middle grades. And although I think they are some of the best educators I know, when we collaborate we are limited to the resources and knowledge of only 6 people. Social networks have allowed me to connect with hundreds and thousands of educators who share my interests and passions. By following a few hashtags on Twitter that connect me with other social studies teachers, I’ve been able to gather resources, learn more, and gain insights that I never would have learned about had I allowed myself to be limited to my team of six.

Emphasize the Personal Aspect of a PLN– Throughout the course, I’ve grown my Personal Learning Network. I am pleasantly surprised at how truly personal my learning has been. I joined communities of other educators who teach the same subject and/or age group as  I do. I follow hashtags of educational topics that interest me. As a result of social networking, I can target the communities I join to fit my personal learning needs. In another context, the word personalized carries a different meaning. Within these self-selected social networks, I have also made real connections with individuals. While social networks do allow me to connect with hundreds of educators from whom I can gather resources, there is an opportunity to develop deeper relationships as well. Personal Learning Networks are indeed personal.

Everyone Benefits from a PLN- When educators connect through personal learning networks, everyone benefits. Connected educators have immediate access to resources, support, and information. When teachers bring these learning experiences into classrooms, students benefit. It is truly a domino effect. Among the most important things I’ve learned in this course is that students – even young ones- can benefit from their own PLN and social networks. With proper safeguards in place, students can learn, share, and grow through connections with others in a digital environment.

Share What you Know– I believe in the power of collaboration. I also truly believe that everyone has something to share. Even people who are new teachers or new to social networks have something to offer. This was, for a very long time, where I would often fall short. I was certain that I couldn’t offer anything new to a group of well-connected educators. It wasn’t until I started answering questions on Twitter and sharing links on different platforms did I realize I was wrong. We truly do all have something to offer.

Proceed with Caution- Social Networks are powerful indeed. Based on the learning from this class, I will argue that claim with conviction. That does not mean, however, that we throw caution by the wayside. We must all manage our digital footprint with the utmost care in order to protect our professional, personal, and digital reputations. As educators, we must not only set the example for those we teach, but we must also give them the tools and knowledge to protect themselves. We have a responsibility to keep our students safe in every possible way.

As I continue to take on more leadership roles in my school district, I hope to serve as a resource for teachers who are growing their own PLNs.


Grading: My posts for this course have been thoughful, reflective, and published on time. After taking time to look back at the requirements and the specific writing tasks, I think it’s fair to say that I have met all of the expectations. 75/75

Social Studies and Social Media

Image Credit:https://twitter.com/storify
Image Credit:https://twitter.com/storify

I have recently discovered something that has made me rethink how I share my lessons. IWhile scavenging the internet for real life examples of how teachers have used social media in their classrooms, I have learned that very few teachers post reali life uses of social media. Most of what I discovered in my searches were “how to” guides or lists with ideas. While all of this is helpful, I began to wonder, “Where are the real life lessons?” As a result of finding few examples, I realized that I have only rarely shared anything beyond ideas, either. Perhaps it’s time to change that…

While thinking about social media uses in the middle school social studies classrooms, I realized that middle school is that age where most students have their own accounts without legally being allowed to have them until they reach the age of 13. As a teacher who likes to follow the rules, I looked for ways to use social media to help  students learn in a way that allows teachers to follow the law while encouraging them to connect and learn about the power of learning through social media. I found some creative ways to extend classroom discussions beyond the walls of the classroom with tools that teachers can moderate. Additionally, there was a real emphasis on having students share their learning with a public/semi-public audience. When publishing for an audience of peers, parents, and other members of the public, the quality of work can increase. So many good ideas can be found in these resources:

Social Studies and Social Media in Middle School Classrooms 

Social Media Policies

RISE Logo (2)

Many of my middle school students enter my class with social media accounts. Despite the fact that they are not legally allowed to have these accounts until the age of 13, many of them have them anyway (some without their parents’ knowledge). Because I teach at a K-8 school, I am often aware of the social media drama that takes place among the 4th, 5th, and 6th graders. Yes, even kids as young as 8 have these accounts.

I absolutely believe that social media can be a powerful tool for good. In fact, as I have been reading about and learning about social media, I am more convinced than ever that social media is changing how we learn and connect. The questions that arise out of thoughtful reflection related to social media in schools must be addressed in order to capture the goodness in these connections and avoid the potential negative consequences that occur when users use social media improperly.

Unfortunately, I work in a district that has no policy whatsoever regarding the use of social media. While we do have an AUP (Acceptable Use Policy) that emphasizes the importance of following federal laws regarding children and the internet (FERPACIPA, and COPPA), no mention of social media can be found. Our district staff has been asking for such a policy to provide direction in how to appropriately interact with families and/or students with social media tools. Without this guidance, staff members are left to their own judgement about how to handle this world.

Because I know that I will be using social media in my classroom (Google Classroom, Edmodo, etc.), I want to make sure that I set my students up for successful online interactions and learning experiences. Without any kind of district or school policy in place, I have decided to establish guidelines specific to our middle school students on campus. I work closely with the other teachers and we have often discussed the need for a policy such as this. With the start of school only a few days away, it is the perfect time to introduce this to the stake holders and ask for feedback.

First, I will bring the policy to my teaching team and ask for thoughts and suggestions. Because we have discussed this topic at length over the past year, I feel confident that any suggestions for change will be minor. The next person I need to speak to is the principal. Because we have a brand new principal this year, I expect that she will be asking questions about how we currently use social media tools in our classrooms in order to gain insights about how and why this policy is needed. Upon her approval, I will be bringing this to district administration, specifically our Technology Coordinator. Because she works at all school sites in the district, she may have experienced issues with middle school students and social media that I have not had yet. With her feedback, I will present this policy to parents at our upcoming back to school night. I know that many of our parents have limited knowledge on how to help their children navigate the world of social media, and my hope is that bringing this policy to their attention will raise an interest in supporting their children and their online identities.


Social Media Guidelines –Franklin Middle School

RISE Logo (2)

As a student in the Loomis Union School District, you already understand that the adults in this district hold you to the highest expectations academically, behaviorally, and socially. As middle school students, there are additional expectations that you may not be aware of. You are living in a time of great technological change, and it is our job to work together to prepare you for those changes, especially as you learn to navigate your digital life.

Throughout the year, we will be using technology to connect, to share, and to learn from others both inside and outside our classroom.  There is power in these connections as long as we use that power for good. There is a famous line in Spiderman where Uncle Ben turns to Spiderman and says, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Imagine for a minute that Uncle Ben is talking to you. Imagine that the great “power” you hold is the internet. Now imagine him saying to you, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Can you feel the shivers down your spine as you truly think about the magnitude of your responsibility? The power you have with the internet can help you do great and wonderful things. Let’s work together to make sure that you live up to that responsibility.

Franklin students are expected to abide by the RISE principles at all times- this includes your time online.

Respect

  • Maintain a level of respect that reflects a strong character.
    • Only say things online that you would say if you were sitting face to face
    • Consider how others might feel reading your posts, comments, and thoughts about them
    • Respond to others’ posts, especially when they are asking for help, in a timely manner

Integrity

  • Be honest in all that you do
    • Always use your own work and ideas in your assignments. Claiming someone else’s without giving proper credit is a serious issue.
      • Follow the copyright laws you learn about in class- this includes giving image credit to any images you use in your presentations and other work
    • Think about the consequences of the ideas and thoughts you post. Your posts can can bring negative consequences that you may not expect in your future. What will colleges, future boyfriends/girlfriends, or employers think about you if they were to view your social media accounts?
    • Be aware of the fact that what you put on the internet stays on the internet. Unfortunately, there is often no way to remove negative images or posts.

Safety

  • Protect yourself in every way possible
    • Keep your personal information (phone number, address, etc.) private. Don’t share this anyone online
    • Keep your Password Safe Space Safe. Keeping track of your usernames and accounts is not only important so that you can access web 2.0 tools for class, but it is also important to protect this information so no one else can access your accounts.
    • Communicate any concerns or worries with your teachers and/or parents. We are here to help!

Effort

  • Give every effort to showcase your best academic self
    • Use proper spelling, punctuation, and grammar when communicating with others online. While many classroom discussion may take place online, it is an academic environment that requires academic quality work.

Remember that school rules do apply. Instances of cyberbullying and plagiarism are not unlike bullying and cheating that we experience inside classroom.

Many of you will be using social media for first time in this class. Some of you may have had accounts for some time. Each year, students ask “What if….?” Here are a few“What if” scenarios our Franklin students have experienced in the past.

  • What if…I posted something that I now regret?
  • What if…someone posted something that really hurt me?
  • What if…I see instances of cyber bullying or mistreatment of others?
  • What if…I lose all/one of my passwords and usernames?
  • What if…I know someone cheated?

As a middle schooler, no one expects you know how handle these challenging and difficult situations on your own.Believe it or not, the best thing to is to talk with your parents and/or teachers. Even if you think you’ve been involved in something that is impossible to fix, we will help you. We expect you to make mistakes- it is what you do after you make the mistakes that truly speaks to your character.

The teachers at Franklin have helped students with some very difficult social media situations. We know that it is not always easy to bring your problems to us, but please trust that we will help guide you through any issues that arise. We care about you, your online reputation, and your future. Let us help.

Resources:

Anderson, S. (2011, May 15). Blogging About The Web 2.0 Connected Classroom Sample Social Media Guidelines. Retrieved August 1, 2015, from http://blog.web20classroom.org/p/sample-social-media-guidelines.html

Anderson, S. (2012, May 12). How to Create Social Media Guidelines for Your School. Retrieved August 2, 2015, from http://www.edutopia.org/how-to-create-social-media-guidelines-school

Catapano, J. (n.d.). Laws, Policies for Using Social Media in the Classroom. Retrieved August 1, 2015, from http://www.teachhub.com/laws-policies-using-social-media-classroom

Fisher, C. (n.d.). Creating Social Media Guidelines for Educators. Retrieved August 1, 2015, from http://www.ascd.org/conferences/conference-daily/ac12/social-media-guidelines.aspx

FrontPage. (n.d.). Retrieved August 1, 2015, from http://socialmediaguidelines.pbworks.com/w/page/17050879/FrontPage