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!
Every summer for many years, a friend of the family, a retired teacher, could be found hip deep in the cold water of the Rio Grande, his fishing line splayed out into the river, and the sun reflecting off the rushing water. It took such patience to wade out there and cast the perfect arc of his line so that it sunk right where he aimed. And he’d wait, and wait and sometimes reel one in and pocket it into his creel. Sometimes he’d come home empty handed. Every year through Oklahoma winters he’d sit contentedly making flies, and each one was directed to a different kind of fish, and each one was a work of art. This planning and building was important to the process. When asked why he did this: plan, create, practice and perfect his craft—especially since it didn’t always result in bringing home any fish—he’d just say: “Well,you know… they call it fishing. Not catching."
What an amazing thought that is: to think about process, and how sometimes the results are not the point. In education today, the emphasis, we are told, is to be placed on the product – and the results had better point to success. Did we “reel in” our students and teach them what they needed to know so that they can pass the test? I hope that when one comes to visit our school libraries that what they see are teachers who are standing back and helping their students demonstrate their interest, creativity and learning using the tools that we can offer.
I hope that the process is as valued as the product and that one day, someone will walk through those doors, look around and say: “Well, you know… they call it learning. Not teaching.”
Connie Williams is a high school librarian and an advocate for school libraries. Connie loves to read and loves talking 'story' with others. You can contact her via email, or leave a comment below. She also wants to see YOU this week in Chicago!
I started out this blog with an introduction to a series of stories I had collected with my friend, storyteller Joe McHugh. It was while doing this project that I discovered that there is true power in “story” and that we encounter its power in a variety of venues. Today I’m investigating the power of reading.
It is the power of story that motivates us to read. That story may be fiction or it may be non-fiction – but it is the written collection of events that propel us towards a deeper understanding of who we are, why we’re ‘here’ and where we might want to go. Once a story is started, we just have to find out how it ends. How often have we, as teachers and librarians, read to students and then stopped right at the crest of the conflict, that last little bit of resolution hanging out there like a chocolate drop on a string… and then slowly closed the book and put it away? Cries of “Don’t stop now!” or “Whaaatt???? Keep reading!” set the stage for future reading, often by kids who don’t even like to read. Those books get grabbed up quickly and devoured to the very end.
Dr. Stephen Krashen wrote a compelling book, entitled The Power of Reading, that guided my teaching in the classroom and still guides my work in the library today. His thesis is simple: we read better if we read more. Seems pretty simple. And it is. But for some reason, it seems that the “reading wars” will continue on around us for many years to come. Is it just a question of money or is it that educators think that they have to be doing something that makes us feel as though we are actively creating learning for our students as they practice reading? Worksheets, phonics, whole language and leveled reading all have their place, but the research is truly clear: we get better at reading… by reading.
So what does that have to do with us in the library? Plenty, since we are often the recipients of the logistics of dealing with the outcome of those ‘wars’. We purchase books, we ‘level’ them, we arrange them and we apply those ‘levels’ to our MARC records so that teachers, parents and kids can find specific books assigned to them.
But through the years, in emails to listservs and at conferences, I see a larger back-story to what goes on in the school library: kids get the books they want from their librarian. Sure, it’s extra reading, but it’s that “story” thing again… the need to find their own voice reflected back to them from the larger world. Librarians know, from experience, what Dr. Krashen found out through research: “A number of studies show that contrary to popular opinion, when interesting and comprehensible reading material is available, most children read them.” [From an e-mail to CALIB listserv 2010.]
Which brings me to the next idea in this stream of story consciousness and politics and school libraries: being fierce. Joyce Valenza’s charge to us for this year is to ‘be fierce’. What an excellent arena to do that: reading…books… sharing stories! We can easily be there as a strong presence in even the most strident AR/Language!/Read 180/Open Court /etc. schools handing out books; leading book clubs - both physical and virtual, creating book trailers, helping students create their own, sitting in with them in class and helping them to read, and instructing them in how to find books on their own in the library.
Be bold. Be fierce. Tell stories. Give books and encourage that love of story… it will, on it’s own, encourage reading. Be there for that.
In my last post I talked about the library as a “third space” – that space where students congregate to complete homework, chat and otherwise occupy themselves as they relax from the daily pressures of the classroom. In thinking about how to make this physical space enticing, I think it’s important to equip it with the tools students need. The big question is: what would this place look like if it were to be the place students wanted to be?
In interviewing people for our audio journal “Circulate This! Stories from the School Library,” Storyteller Joe McHugh asked Glen Warren what he thought were the challenges facing students today. Glen replied that they needed a place to create, to think, to search for the answers to the questions they had and the interests they wanted to pursue.
He reminded us about “20 percent time.” At Google, employees are encouraged to spend 20% of their time working on personal projects or join in on projects that others have designed. Applications such as Google Earth were created during 20 percent time. Google staff has all the resources of the Google plant – including staff partners – at their disposal. The freedom to go after projects or ideas that interest you allows you to really think through the process. Gathering experts in related fields allows you to develop a more complete product.
What if we allowed our students to carve out their own 20 percent time? What would they create? Think of the incredible possibilities that would emerge.
In this day and age of test bombardment, we easily forget that often our best productions come from “down” time – when we have the moment to drift off and jump out of the proverbial "box" and see things a little bit differently from a different angle.
I’ve been thinking of converting a particular space in the library and calling it the “20 Percent Room.” I’d like to fill this space with computer access and excellent online applications, paper, markers and other creative tools. Then, during lunch or tutorial, students could make use of the room to work on projects of their own interest. Giving students the tools, the time and the space might be all that they need to show us their greatness. One of my favorite quotes comes from the book Bel Canto [by Ann Patchett] : “It makes you wonder. All the brilliant things we might have done with our lives if only we suspected we knew how." If only we were all given this gift of time and support.
Wouldn’t it be great to have our own space and designated time to complete that novel, painting or garden design? I think we could all use some 20 percent time, don’t you?
Connie Williams is a high school librarian and an advocate for school libraries. She likes to use her 20 percent time to think. About BIG stuff. Connie loves comments; you can also contact her via email.
Each morning, I walk to school through a series of semi-suburban neighborhoods in northern California. Over the past winter, I spent the 3 miles with my iPod and school librarians, legislators, administrators, school library clerks, students and many others who had participated in audio journal interviews led by Joe McHugh, author and storyteller. Each day I listened to their stories, and each storyteller brought a unique voice to the larger story of what happens in a school library.
The stories were morphed into listenable sound bytes that Joe and I put together into one CD. The purpose? To tell the bigger story of what’s happening to school libraries nationwide.
Over the past few years, we library folks have been bemoaning the fact that parents, school board members, administrators and legislators who make education decisions do not really know what goes on in the school library.
Despite the multitude of research linking well staffed school libraries and student achievement, I’ve come to believe that what decision makers need are the stories – our stories. Technology, reading, library issues, authors, teachers and students all intertwine into wonderful stories that move us to action, to thinking deeply about ideas. And how we, as educators can create learning environments that help our students not only succeed, but thrive.
So what do you do every day to impact your students? I want to hear your story!
Be sure to check out our stories and listen to the music performed and played by Martin Simpson and Joe Weed. And then, send me some of your own.
Connie Williams is an advocate for school libraries and believes strongly in the power of ‘story’. As a high school teacher librarian, she loves hanging out with the big kids. This is her first blog post, but most likely not her last. Connie loves comments; you can also contact her via email.