Monday, August 30, 2010

Why social media for educators?

Cross-posted (and better looking) at NCAIS Innovate. Not sure why I'm struggling with Blogger and succeeding with Wordpress, but I definitely am.

Once upon a very hot August almost-back-to-school day, I came upon a tweet. A tweet that traveled across the country, from North Carolina to Oregon (and maybe beyond) in a flash.

I was not the only one. . .

Within a few days, at least 10 (and I suspect far more) teachers asked the same two questions of the fresh faces gathering in front of them: When do you feel most engaged/interested/curious in school? and When do you feel most checked out/bored/uninterested in school?

The result? You can see my class's responses here:

They resemble, but are not identical to the responses Ms Stewart's students gave.

Sharing ideas among teachers is nothing new. Back when I began teaching, it sometimes (often?) took a semester or more for an idea to make it down the hallway. This shared question went from North Carolina to Iowa to Utah in moments. Next, the questions, along with their accompanying images, sparked a spirited conversation on the English Companion Ning, as well as a less feisty but just as heart-felt series of responses on Ms Stewart's blog, In For Good. So what's the value of this rapid spread of an idea?

First, every teacher who asked the questions spent a some time thinking about knowing the students they encounter a little better as learners. Which means that a few hundred students learned that their teachers care how they learn.

Second, a few teachers engaged in a lively conversation that involved debating the value of pedagogical methods, sharing professional resources, and critiquing said resources with intellectual vigor. Teachers are busy this time of year with activities that can seem decidedly unintellectual. To have teachers engage in visible intellectual discourse can only be described as heartening! And this happened without a course, a scholarly journal article, or a professional development session!

The American Lit students in my course and I had an interesting conversation about their thoughts as they looked at the Wordles. I'm sure that the other classes that answered the same questions did too. Is the next step connecting the students together to see what they have in common with students across the country (and maybe across the world?) That would be yet another value add.


Susan Carter Morgan said...

Sarah, your two points speak volumes. Yes, this is the value. Explaining this to colleagues can be difficult, but your post will help. And I love the image of Meredith's questions being asked all over the world! Thanks

Meredith (@msstewart) said...

The irony is that post and therefore the tweet almost didn't see the light of day. I didn't know if people would be particularly interested in it. Clearly it struck a chord!