As the founder of edWeb.net, a professional social network for the education community, I was struggling with how to build active and engaged communities on our website.
Then I attended Michelle Luhtala’s presentation at CoSN in March of 2010 on “Using Web 2.0 to Embed 21st Century Learning,” and I got an idea. Why not use Web 2.0 tools to spread the word about this to other school librarians?
Michelle (Head Librarian at New Canaan High School and winner of the 2010 School Library of the Year Award) uses many social networking tools and free collaborative technologies that are often banned in schools. After her presentation, I approached her with the idea of extending her presentation into a series of free monthly webinars embedded in a social networking community on edWeb.net. She loved the idea.
We launched “Using Emerging Technology to Advance Your School Library Program” in July of 2010, and could tell right away that we were onto a good idea. In spite of our initial technical challenges with the webinar platform, the librarians in the webinar would say, “Hey, this is just what happens at school!” Michelle is a fabulous presenter with so many innovative ideas. Members love connecting with her, and with each other every month.
We found the right tool (InstantPresenter.com) so we can incorporate video, text chat and polling so Michelle’s presentations are very personal and interactive. Each session includes lots of time for participants to text questions to Michelle, which she answers “live.” After the webinar, the conversation continues online through our community discussion forums. Emerging Tech creates a sense of community and connectedness that you rarely get from webinars – and even from online communities.
Over the past year, Emerging Tech has grown to 2,400 members. We hear from members all the time about how much they appreciate the program. The archived webinar recordings are a great feature of the program. Librarians can join the program at any time and catch up by watching any of the past programs.
Our members asked for CE certificates for participation, and we’ve been amazed at how valuable these certificates have been even though we are not an accredited program. If teachers could receive accredited CE certificates for participating in online Web 2.0 programs, we know the use of this kind of Web 2.0 technology would spread faster.
Emerging Tech would not have been possible without the support of Follett Software Company. Their offer to sponsor the program for an initial trial of three months and willingness to support our Web 2.0 experiment was truly visionary, and we can’t thank them enough! Two months into the program, Michael Campbell, the Director of Marketing, called me to say that Follett wanted to sponsor the program for the full year, and now Follett is sponsoring the sophomore year of Emerging Tech.
When Michelle started a discussion thread in Emerging Tech – “What do you want on the syllabus next year?” she received 80 posts of requests for topics to address! In July, we launched Year 2 – the Sophomore Year of the program. And it looks like we have enough topics to keep this going for quite some time. Emerging Tech has become a model for other Web 2.0 PD programs we are offering on edWeb.net.
Any librarian or educator is welcome to join Emerging Tech and can sign up at www.edweb.net/emergingtech. We hope to see many of you there!
Lisa Schmucki is the founder and CEO of edWeb.net, a professional social network for the education community. edWeb.net is free for all educators and schools. Join edweb at www.edweb.net.
Social media brings excitement and interest to learning and empowers students to grow as global and digital citizens. One obvious example of an educator who is embracing this technology to engage students is Van Meter Community School Librarian Shannon McClintock Miller (@shannonmmiller). We were fortunate to have Shannon present her ideas on the Positive Effects of Social Media in Education at our New Leaf in Learning Conference, which took place in March. It was a standing-room only session that illustrated how this trailblazer's confidence in social media as a constructive learning tool is paying off.
The session was recorded and is embedded below – if you can’t see the video, click here.
As she makes clear in the video, teachers and librarians don't need to fear social media—they need to encourage kids to use it to advance learning and show them constructive ways to utilize the tools. Using social media in her school allows Shannon to connect with other teachers and classrooms well beyond her district, and her students are sharing, publishing, discussing, creating and collaborating with peers and other teachers around the world.
"Social media brings excitement, currency and engagement," she told us. "It gives kids a voice and enriches their learning experiences by letting them connect with individuals, groups and experiences around the world."
As audience members expressed concern about kids wasting time texting from their cell phones and reading Facebook posts instead of participating in class, this enthusiastic educator pointed out that a driven instructor can steer students toward using social media productively, so that they don't have time or desire to use it in the ways many teachers and parents fear. She also described how the administration at Van Meter was 'on board' with her use of social media because everything is transparent—there are no secrets—and she takes the time to teach etiquette and literacy so all students strive to use social media wisely.
But don’t take her word for it. During the session, Shannon made it easy for everyone to get ideas and see social media in action by letting her students do the talking. As a group of students appeared on the screen live via Skype, each student greeted Miller enthusiastically then told the audience about their individual projects using Animoto, Skype, Facebook, iMovie, YouTube, Flickr and others. The audience immediately saw the power of social media through the students' own stories.
What positive effects are you seeing by using social media in education? Share your stories below!
Isn’t dessert the best part of a meal? I love to look at the dessert menu first so I know what I want to leave room for! Dessert makes my main course more complete and sweetens my memory of the meal.
Ever wonder what the dessert of our profession is? It too is the best part: our learning, which has the potential to sweeten the impact of student learning.
By participating in professional learning communities, collaborating with colleagues and conducting action research, we have an opportunity to indulge in the dessert of our profession and sweeten the memory of our hard work.
If we are lucky enough to find professional resources that spark a wondering in us, tempt us to dig into that sweet bowl of fresh ideals and sip on new skill-sets, then that can potentially impact student achievement.
“What if” we raised the bar on how many books we required students to read? How would reading more increase reading comprehension?
“What if” we provided opportunities for teachers and classmates to whisper book recommendations to each other; essentially creating an endless thread about reading experiences?
“What if” we could engage students in the culture of reading through social media; keeping them more engaged and encouraging goal setting?
I’m working with two fourth grade teachers on our own ‘Book Whisperer’ Action Research project. Here are the highlights of what we’re doing:
I’m developing a unit to build students’ understanding of how to use social media appropriately and responsibly.
We are collaborating as we use Destiny Quest to facilitate and engage students in reading conversations and to teach them how to write effective book recommendations.
Students are using the MyQuest feature as their own "space" where they can create Shelves containing the books they've read, those they're currently reading and those they want to read. Friends can make recommendations to Friends which creates a dialog or comment "thread" between Friends. Friends will have a clear picture of why the student liked the book and discover titles they may not have self-selected.
Classes are discussing safe methods of online social interaction as students learn about Acceptable Use Policies. MyQuest offers educators an authentic opportunity to discuss these issues with an age-appropriate social media tool.
Our Action Research is now under way. I’ll keep you posted on our progress and results. We would love to have feedback as we work through this process and enjoy our dessert!
Jeanne Ziemba is currently a Technology Integration Specialist in St. Lucie School District in Florida. She believes learning is simply a sweet way to enjoy life to the fullest. You can connect with Jeanne by leaving a comment below or via email.