Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Students are at the Social Media wheel, but who is teaching them?

     My daughter is now 10 years old and all ready she is excited about driving.  She of course feels she is ready to drive now, but after riding in the Grand Prix cars with her at Disney World I can fully attest she is not!  None the less, the next five to six years will come all to soon for my wife and I, as my hair is already turning gray.  However, when the time comes she will go through the steps of learning how, before we ever let her take off alone behind the wheel. Then it will be even longer before she will be allowed to have any friends in the car with her. After-all, she needs to show us she is responsible and can meet our expectations.

     First she will get her temps & began begging to drive at every possible opportunity (You know like when they want to cut the lawn...until they do).  We will wear out the floorboard pressing the imaginary brake, she will cry a minimum of ten times, and at least three cats will probably lose all nine of their lives in the process.  There will be classroom hours of drivers ed where she will watch videos, read pamphlets, & take those vital practice tests.  Then will come the hours behind the wheel with an instructor (lucky guy has his own brake) who will ride around town, go on the freeway for ten miles, and teach her how to weave through cones while staying on 10 & 2.  Finally she will take a written & a driving test, making sure to stop, look both ways, roll forward, stop, look both ways again, wait three seconds, slowly turn the corner, and accelerate gently all while staying at 10 & 2 and checking all her mirrors (As I am sure all of you do at every stop sign).  Then after a little scribbling, a couple humphs, maybe a cough or too, the instructor will hopefully pass least after the second test.  Off to the BMV to take a photo she will most certainly hate and then she can drive between the hours of 6 am to 12 am with no more than one non-family member in the car (State rules...Dad's rules will be stricter).

     Now let's see to start using social media she will have to turn thirteen.  Hmmmm, really that's it huh...well at least the schools are educating kids as to the appropriate use of social media...what's that...they're not...okay that's a downer...well I guess it is up to the knowledgeable, techy & responsible parents that every student has...and now you see the problem.

     If we are not teaching students how to use social media, who are they learning from?  Perhaps a few from parents who are knowledgeable, techy, & responsible (quite the hat-trick), but most are simply learning from each other.  Would we let 15 year olds teach each other how to drive?  Shoot, they will figure it out, don't worry, what's the worse that could happen?  Do I have you attention?

     Now let's amplify the fact that whether you like it or not...accept it or not, social media is becoming the way we are conducting our lives.  Businesses are pouring millions (some billions) into social media.  Entire new divisions (meaning lots of new jobs) are being created to handle the social media needs of companies.  Yet too many in education are ignoring it because, "it is a waste of time" or though it is not said, let's be honest, social media questions are not showing up on any state tests.  Haydn Shaughnessy, a contributor to , said this in January of 2012;
"By this time next year we’ll all be looking back at 2012 and saying wow, the explosion of social media inside the workplace has been one of the most amazing disruptors I’ve seen in business."
He hit it on the money and schools/educators need to wake up.  Let's do a quick Google search for fun.  I searched the following terms/phrases on Google and got the following number of results.

  • Social Media - 4.5 Billion
  • Social Media Marketing in business - 1 Billion+
  • Common Core - 178 Million
  • math reading science social studies - 142 Million
  • cursive writing - 3.4 million

You want data?  There is some data for you.  The purpose of schools should be to prepare students in the best way possible to succeed post-schooling.  Am I way out of line to think that preparing students to harness the power of social media, to promote themselves as both a learner & worker in the digital age, would fall short of what they need to succeed?

    Let me see your skepticism and raise you some common sense.  There is no need (in fact I think it would be impossible) to teach the power of social media in a vacuum.  It is a tool, NOT a subject!  No one who understands this is advocating a social media class.  We need to be clear this is not something to displace what is already being taught.  Social Media, if embraced by educators, can be utilized to better connect current academic content to real authentic experiences in our digital world.  We simply have to get teachers over the hump of thinking of it as a nuisance and social waste of time, and instead visualizing it as a powerful academic tool.

     Universities take note, you should be promoting & incorporating this in your preparation of our future teachers.  If this is taught as an educational philosophy and powerful tool than lesson plans will naturally take a step forward.  Social Media in the classroom will be second nature.  Then why are not all Educational departments equipping future teachers with the needed skills to seamlessly blend social media with academic content?  My theory can be summed up in one word...BLOCKED!

     Stop blocking because it is the easy solution (Could say something about gun-control here, but we will keep this non-political).  Educators need to educate & EXPECT students to use social media appropriately and responsibly.  After-all, don't we often say, "Students will rise to your expectations".  If you don't believe that, than hunker down, keep your head low, and good luck getting your 30 to 35 years in, but maybe education isn't the career for you.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Our kids waiting for us to run by!
     Education talk can wait for a day....

     What more can be said about the tragic events that took place in Boston yesterday.  As a 5-time Marathoner myself (once with a finish time of 4:09) I simply can't imagine the pain & suffering.  Especially that of the father whose 8 year old son died seconds after trying to give his dad a high-five as he was finishing.  Just this past weekend I ran the Athens Marathon with two friends and high-fived my own 8 year old son several times during the first half of the race while our kids were cheering us on.  Few things in life are as uplifting as coming around the bend seeing your kids jumping up and down cheering you on.  My 8 year old son has grown up stretching with me before races, being pushed through many a race, and always hugging me at the end sweat and all.  I am hard pressed to even begin to imagine how that father is feeling right now.

     I heard it said that on the radio today that "Freedom is unfortunately the greatest weapon of those whose intent is to do harm.  It is also what makes this country so great."  What empowers us often is the thing that cripples us.  I am so grateful to the men who got it for us, to the men & women who protect it for us, & to those who use it to benefit us. It is a tragedy when some use it to harm us, but they are the extreme minority and we as a nation have never allowed them to paralyze us.  Freedom is a gift, an each one of us must decide what they will do with the gift.    

     No words can explain the tragedy & for those involved comfort and answers, at the moment, are hard to find.  For the rest of us it is a reminder of how precious our moments are and why we should appreciate & cherish them.  I am thankful for my family, friends, coworkers, & all of you out there.  Thank you!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Social Media: Empowering students or waste of time?

     Social Media doesn't have educational value.  Social Media doesn't belong in schools.  Social Media is a preemptive strike by aliens to weaken our society & destroy the minds of our children.

     Hmmmmmm...maybe I exaggerated on the last one there, but sadly the first two are often still accepted statements by many in education.  Social Media is seen as distracting, a waste of time, something to do with friends, & a pursuit of the irresponsible.

   If you know someone who agrees with that then I need you to find two large pots or pans (cymbals will also do for you music majors) walk up behind them and bang them together repeatedly.  It's time for the FUDDY DUDDIES to wake up & realize the power of social media, the impact it can have on education, & the importance of teaching students how to leverage it for their benefit.  If we refuse to teach them how to use it, they will teach each other...and the power of how to use it to succeed will probably not be a topic they choose to discuss.  

     I feel like I'm on my soapbox here, but the main reason educators are against social media is they don't understand it.  They use excuses like, well it can't be controlled, kids use it to bully each other, it's dangerous.  The solution is just to block it because then it's not our problem.  As long as kids are misusing it on their own time what do we care (as long as their test scores are okay).  It is always easier to hit the block button than address the real problem.  While we are at it we should probably ban pencils because I have seen kids stab each other with them, they are very sharp & pointy.  Kids have also used them to write mean notes & dirty words in textbooks.  What? We are not going to do that, but why?  They are useful you say...and most kids use them responsibly...hmmmm...I wonder if it's because from an early age we have expectations as to how they use pencils.  Even though some discipline issues have to be dealt with most students understand how to appropriately use a pencil.

     Do you see where I am going.  What if from an early age we taught kids how to use social media or similar tools appropriately.  Along with those responsible skills we taught the effective educational uses of social media and how it paints a picture of who they are as a digital citizen.  Of course that would mean educating teachers to the importance of their own digital footprint & that facebook is more than just growing crops on their farms.  I realize that for the most part I am blogging to the choir here, but if I can give you some motivation to keep on doing what you do than it is worthwhile.  Those of you fighting to use social media to empower your students are not crazy.  Keep the fight because social media is not going away and to succeed professionally it will be important that our students understand how to use it to shape their digital lives & connect with others.  Just today this example/story was emailed to me by a teacher:

     "It's funny because I just had a picture I tweeted of our students in Budapest retweeted several times because of the hash tag I added - #hungary. I started hashtagging (is that a verb?) each country while I was tweeting (several parents were following from back home) and a few tweets got picked up by tweeters like @weareczech and @hungariantourism.  Interesting to see how other sources picked up my tweets from there ...kind of like a massive game of connect the dots."

Here is the really cool part...

    "I also then used twitter to complain about united airlines losing my luggage and got a direct message from them about looking into where it might be. (They finally found my luggage today - after 5 days in limbo!)  Some of the (ahem, "older") adults on the trip were talking about how much they hated social media like Instagram and twitter, but then I had eight parents and GRANDparents thank me when we got home for tweeting so they could follow along. Don't knock it until you understand it, right? #IHeartTwitter"

      For years banks & credit card companies have had "preferred customers" based on your credit or the size of your account, but other companies are going to begin issuing (or already have) similar "preferred customer"  status to those who have a larger social media presence.  Not only is social media a new & ever growing job market, but it is the way many companies are starting to service customers in a more effective & prompt way.  If we want our students to succeed (beyond the test) we will find ways to incorporate social media into our schools, classrooms, & curriculum.  It can empower the learner, empower the consumer, and empower the job seeker.

     For those that still think it's a fad, childish, or not worth learning about, get out those pots & pans!!!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Teachers: Get addicted to Hash...Tags

     No not that Hash, I'm talking Twitter Hash.  Hashtags are to Twitter like Tabs are to a filing cabinet   They categorize & highlight tweets that correspond to similar topics.  The difference is they allow you to follow conversations live by following the hash or you can always search the hash later, its the best of both worlds.

     Many educators have created Hashtags specifically for their classroom so that students can ask questions, find answers, & get news/announcements.  Most school districts, businesses, & organizations have also created hashtags to promote & get information out quickly.  By adding a # it simply helps others find relevant information quicker or perhaps come across info they may not have thought to search for.  

How is using Twitter to search any better than Google?

     This is a question I often get so I'll give a couple reasons I feel it has advantages, although I'll be quick to note I still use Google as well.  They are both search tools (although Twitter is more of a search & provide tool) & have value.  Compare it to a set of pliers or a wrench.  Sometimes they can be used it ways that are similar, but both function as tools & can be used as needed.
  1. As mentioned above Twitter is also a provide tool.  If you get used to using it to search you will find, that more often than not, ideas you didn't even know to look for will come to you instead of you searching for them.  Saving time & sparking your imagination as an educator.
  2. When you search in Google you have to use the exact term or phrase & only those items are found in your search.  On twitter if you get used to relevant hashtags you will be exposed to ideas & resources you might not have ever found or searched for.  Using subject or grade level specific #'s will ignite your creativity.
  3. Finally when you search Twitter you are finding an idea that has often been Tweeted out there by another educator.  You have the unique opportunity to tweet back questions, ideas, or thoughts & get real feedback...quickly. Those types of connections are still fairly unique to Twitter because of the ease of which you can connect.  The more you search, the more you add to your Personal Learning Network (PLN), the more connections you will eventually have to help your students excel.
     If you are interested you can look up or create your own HashTags at TagDef. As an example check out my Reynoldsburg Professional Learning Community Hash defined there as #RPLC.  You cannot own a # per-say, but if you define it & claim it this helps others be aware & not double use something already in existence.  Here are what I consider to be ten of the top Educational Hashtags out there:

1- #edtech
This is one of my favorite hashtags on Twitter. It provides you with news, tips, tools.....etc on the use of technology in education

If you are interested in discovering and learning more about the use of educational apps in teaching, edapp is a hashtag to follow.

This is one of the most popular hashtags in education and it is a great way for you to meet other teachers from all around the world and stay updated about the trending topics in education. Edchat is also a weekly chat that takes place on Tuesdays, for more info checl out the article #Edchat – the new Teacher Movement on Twitter

See above except this hash is specifically for Ohio teachers, other states/countries may have something similar. Explore what is relevant to you. The actual chat takes place on Mondays at 9 pm.

This one stands for education reform and it speaks for itself , when you join this chat you will have the chance to explore what educators are sharing on educational issues.

Using this hashtag you can connect with other people interested in online and electronic learning and also distance learning.

This hashtag is where you will find all kinds of web 2.0 tools pertaining to education.

This is a hashtag that allows you to stay updated about the issues related to science, technology and education.

This is hashtag created by Edutopia last May it stands for New Teacher chat. The actual chat takes place Wednesday nights at 8 pm.

This hashtag is short & simple making it an easy add at the end of anything that relates to K12 education.

Other notables hashes include subject or grade specific tags like #sschat, #elachat, #scichat, #mathchat, & #elemchat. For more info & hashtag knowledge check out these three sites & the Hashtag infographic below. Happy Hashing, hope you get addicted!