Posts Tagged ‘Social Media’

I was somewhat disturbed about a recent post by a friend and connected colleague concerning the state of Twitter and its use by some individuals in what is now fast becoming the education social media culture. My friend seemed to be longing for the “good ole days” of Twitter when it was smaller numbers and people knew their place in their interacting with others. I remember those days as well, since I was on Twitter years before my friend. I think my perspective and take-aways on this are a little different.

I see the benefits of having a collaborative tool like Twitter to improve the profession of teaching. Twitter enables educators to easily and quickly exchange content in the form of links to other educators. The very things that need to be exchanged for collaboration include: articles, posts, movies, podcasts, websites, whitepapers, videos, interviews, and now even books. Twitter is not the format that one uses for exchanging ideas requiring deep thought and reflective exchanges. Twitter does however enable educators to drive traffic to places where those exchanges may take place. I personally do not consider Twitter as a form of Professional Development, but rather a bulletin board that directs folks to the places that they can get personalized professional development. It is that ability for educators to self-direct their intellectual growth and skill improvement that has led me to push to grow this social media culture for many years now.

Back in the day before Twitter there was little transparency in education. Teachers were trained in education courses from colleges, many of which were slow to change from 19th and 20th century models of teaching. They were then placed in a job that was governed by the culture of the school to which they were assigned. Collaboration, to whatever level it existed, was limited to a building or district. Those educators who were invited to attend them attended education conferences. It was also a matter of whom the budget allowed for conference attendance. The speakers at these conferences were often administrators who brought along their lead learners to share their best and most progressive lessons in sessions with others. Keynotes or highlighted session speakers were often celebrities, authors, administrators, consultants, vendors, or even politicians. Social Media has changed that for educators. Educators, many of whom gained prominence by sharing with others through social media, are dominating today’s conferences.

Sharing Is Not Bragging. The whole condemnation of self-promotion is a little ridiculous since to a degree everyone on social media self-promotes in order to get their message out to a larger audience. Using your voice to a limited audience seems counter productive. There are some who do it too often, but it is a public platform. We can’t regulate what others tweet. Of course the irony of many bloggers writing about, or condemning self-promotion is that they often self-promote within their own blogs or tweets to drive traffic to their posts. It is the best way to share ideas with a larger audience. Yes, there are “Rock Star” educators on Twitter, but that more often comes from sharing great ideas. If I might indulge in some self-promotion here; I direct you to A Rock Star, not by choice.

I hate that we have, what I refer to as, Drive-by presenters at conferences. They fly in for a session or keynote and fly out immediately after their delivery. The fact of the matter is that they did share needed info with a larger audience and as much as I hate their not sharing further with more personal interactions with conference participants, they do offer what people often need to hear. That is the goal we want to achieve.

My friend also seemed to be down on those who only RT tweets. Re-Tweeting serves several purposes. First it allows novice tweeters to somewhat engage in Twitter as they learn the culture. I RT frequently when I find great tweets so that my followers, who may not have gotten that tweet, may benefit from it. Yes, there are some who never get beyond the RT phase of tweeting, but that is their choice and loss. We need not judge them for that. I also discovered the power of an RT lies in how good the original Tweet is. If one RT’s really smart Tweets from really smart people, She/he is credited for that tweet and those smarts, as well as the original tweeter. It does build a following, but if it is not followed by original thoughtful tweets, that following may be short-lived.

One other thing that we must all keep in mind is that Twitter is Social Media. That word “social” opens the door for folks to talk about whatever the hell they want to talk about. Most of my followers know my Friday’s are Pizza and wine nights. That has nothing to do with education, but everything to do with me. Twitter is based on relationships. Often those relationships come with more than just exchanging links.

An important fact that my friend overlooked in the post is that we each have a responsibility to pick and choose that we trust to follow in our personalized learning networks. That is what makes them personalized. I would suggest to anyone who uses Twitter, that if for any reason someone does not strike a chord with you, UNFOLLOW him or her. I would also caution you to maintain people who disagree, as opposed to those who are just being obnoxious. That disagreement will promote deeper reflection on the very things you need to reflect on. That is why I read posts that I do not always agree with.

The very strength of Twitter comes from it being open. It affords access and transparency to education that has never been afforded before. It is also new to many educators who need time to adjust and fit in. We best serve our followers by modeling Twitter the best way that we can, but we can’t tell others what they must do to fit in. Eventually, everyone will get it. We must be tolerant of those who get it but choose to game the system. This sounds like real life outside the classroom. Control and compliance don’t seem to fit into social media. What is different is that we can pick and choose who to follow and how much to engage them. It’s all about the personal learning. By the way this is just my opinion and has no direct bearing on whatever you choose to do in your social media interactions.

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Today, I read yet another in a growing list of articles involving a teacher who wrote a Blog Post with totally inappropriate comments about her job, students, parents and administrators. In the past month or so, I have read several articles about teachers using social media for contacting students in an inappropriate way. More and more teachers are coming under attack and when the opportunity arises technology, as well as Social Media are being piled on as the reason for the ills of society and the deterioration of our education system, if not actually being the root of all evil.

The unfortunate consequence of these mindless acts of stupidity in the actions of a few is a knee jerk reaction on the part of some administrators, and politicians, who pander to the fears of a public, that is sorely in need of an education and understanding of Social Media (including:Facebook,Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogs, et al). These solutions sometimes result in the banning of the internet in school districts, or attempting to alter labor contracts restricting the use of the internet by teachers even in their private lives.

When we examine the offenses of these individuals however, it is not the social media that is the offense; it is the inappropriate behavior of a few individuals. It should be that behavior that is banned. It is that behavior for which we should hold individuals accountable. It is that behavior that is the punishable offense. It is not the Technology or the Social Media. The vast majority of educators use it responsibly, yet they and their students will suffer by being disconnected from the free-flowing content and collaboration of the learning-rich environment of the Internet.

Please do not comment to me about the dangers of the Internet. I am the first to insist that we educate our society about internet safety, as well as, what it means to be a responsible digital citizen. It is obvious to me that our entire society is in need of such lessons, because the internet and social media is new to a vast majority of our citizenry. It hasn’t existed for all that long and it needs to be taught and learned. It is not a fad that will pass in time. It will grow and move forward. We need to deal with it rationally. It needs to be introduced and taught early to kids as a tool for learning with more access and freedoms as they mature. Yes, there are predators that will use the internet to get to kids. This is why we must teach our children about this as early as we teach them not to go with strangers in a playground or amusement park, or shopping mall.

The prevailing myth governing some parents’ views of the Internet however is skewed by the repeated battering as a topic by shows like To Catch a Predator. The show with the hard-nosed investigative reporter luring predators to the homes of, theoretically, internet-duped adolescents, expecting something more than the awaiting cops hiding behind the bushes on the driveway. These are real incidents; it is undeniable, and sickening. However the dangers of  predators on the internet is a fact that is sensationalized and dramatized and repeated over and over on TV and Radio distorting the frequency of occurrences.  The real fact of the matter is that over 90% of the victims of child molestation are molested by family members, or close family friends (including some clergy). This is rarely captured by the cameras. Yet, do we ban family picnics, block parties, or church functions as a defense? No child should be molested as a result of the internet use, or face to face contact. Our best defense for our children is education, and, not banning. We should not ban picnics, block parties, church functions, or the Internet from our children.

One post that offered some great quotes was BLOG PUTS TEACHER IN HOT WATER by: Christina Kristofic from The Intelligencer. Beyond every educator, all adults should heed this advice. these ideas should also be taught to students from an early age.

“Each time you post a photograph or information on the web, make sure you would gladly show it to the following people: Your mother. Your students. Your superintendent. The editor of The New York Times,” The Pennsylvania State Education Association tells teachers on its website. “Even though the First Amendment protects your speech as a private citizen on matters of public concern, that speech may fall outside of First Amendment protection if it ‘impedes your employer’s effectiveness or efficiency, or otherwise disrupts the workplace.’ Avoid posting anything on your profile page about your colleagues, administrators, or students, as well as using inappropriate or profane messages or graphics, or anything that would reflect negatively on your workplace.”

I never liked the argument used against gun legislation, “Guns don’t kill people; People kill people!” It was a statement however, that could not be disputed. It actually is an effective defense to banning guns. The right to bear arms is guaranteed under the constitution. Responsible gun owners educate themselves and their families in the proper safety and maintenance of weapons. There is a good reason for this. Without understanding and respect, a gun in the wrong hands can be a tragedy. There are many parallels that may be drawn with the internet and Social Media. Our society has no choice. All of these are part of our culture and we must be smart and deal with them responsibly, or live with the consequences of not dealing with them at all. I would hope that commentary to this post is limited to technology and the internet in education, and not Gun Control.


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