As a teacher in Australia, I first started my journey into social media at a conference where I was introduced to Edmodo, a global network for teachers and students. Through Edmodo I was able to break down the walls of our classroom and enable my students to communicate with students and their teachers all over the world. One of the most exciting things we did was join a multi-global group with classes from the U.S, China, Vietnam, Australia and New Zealand. We discussed important issues, found out what we had in common and shared our projects with an authentic audience. The students loved it, and particularly loved the interaction and the feedback they would get from teachers and students in other parts of the world. Our school is in an isolated rural area, and this connection was extremely exciting and helpful in promoting global understanding for my students. Giving students the ability to connect on educational social media is just as important as making connections with other teachers is for me.
My next step into the world of social media for educators was to join twitter. As an older teacher, this was a big step for me, but it was a very positive one. Through twitter I was able to connect in real time with teachers from all parts of the world and have fascinating and informative discussions on an extraordinary range of educational topics. I now regularly participate in weekly discussions on twitter with other teachers. I have gained tremendous knowledge and amassed terrific resources and connections through twitter. I cannot recommend it enough to other teachers.
Yammer is another network I regularly participate in with other teachers from the Department of Education & Communities in NSW. Yammer has become an essential part of my professional development and also provides enormous inspiration to me as a teacher. I am able to ask a question on any technical or educational topic I could ever imagine, and almost immediately I receive wonderful advice, resources and support from other wonderful, collaborative teachers. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine such a treasure trove of educational support than I receive from my network on Yammer!
Blogging is another medium my students and I have used to connect with other classes online. My class kept their own blogs and posted their links to a multi-class group on Edmodo and received tremendous feedback, again learning so much about what goes on in other classrooms beyond the walls of our school.
Our students live in a world where social media is the norm, in terms of connecting with others. They need to practice and learn safe digital citizenship under our care so they can navigate the internet without danger. It is our duty of care to give them a safe online space where they can master these skills in preparation for both their present and future. We are negligent if we do not provide this opportunity and model the necessary skills and ethics they need to use online.
The game of Minecraft, which can be likened to digital lego in a virtual world, can also be a shared community for students. I setup a server so that my classes could all enter a Minecraft world together and help each other to build. We named this unit of work Respectful Relationships, and the students put together their own Charter of Rights for all to follow. This was an extremely engaging and exciting experience for the students. The most rewarding aspect of the unit was that it was the students who peer taught each other collaboratively. It was a truly wholistic, student centred learning activity.
It was wonderful to see students teaching each other how to build. In addition, some of my students joined in a weekly session on a minecraft server with students and teachers from other schools. We were all able to learn a great deal, problem solve and have fun doing so.
Social media comes in many forms now, but has become an essential part of my teaching practice and professional learning. My professional learning network has grown exponentially since my journey began in 2010.