Social networking brings educators together

More and more it seems technology is an integral part of our everyday lives, so much so schools are looking at how technology and education

More and more it seems technology is an integral part of our everyday lives, so much so schools are looking at how technology and education can work together.

Working with Central Alberta Regional Consortium, the Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS) hosted their second 21st Century Technology & Learning Symposium Sept. 21 at Terrace Ridge School in Lacombe. More than 300 teachers, administrators and other educators attended the symposium to find what apps and software and other technologies teachers use to enhance students’ learning.

Many of the classes were presented by teachers in the school division who have put into practice learning with technologies available to them.

Keynote speaker was Dean Shareski with Discovery Education, who has been able to take social network applications such as Twitter to connect with educators around the world with what he calls the Human Network.

It was in his first year of teaching that he realized how teachings can sometimes be an isolated experience. Anytime he could glean information from a peer on how they were able to overcome a situation or have a new technique succeed were valued experiences for him. “Anything I could get from everybody was just gold.”

With new technologies and social networking Shareski believes developing a network can bring lessons in education to more teachers. “As tools, as educators, we have a tremendous opportunity.”

With more than one million views on his web page, 1,013 blog posts (with more than 5,000 comments), more than 12,000 photos posted and 64,352 tweets on his Twitter account, Shareski showed ways he has been able to use these networks to become tools for teaching.

He gave a brief rundown of what the different social media outlets are used for.

“We talk about Twitter, that’s basically ‘I’m eating bacon.’ Now, Facebook is ‘I like bacon.’ LinkedIn, ‘I have skills in eating bacon,’ and Four Square is ‘Where I eat bacon.’ You Tube is ‘Watch you eat bacon.’ Instagram is a photo of eating bacon. Pinterest is ‘Here’s a recipe of eating bacon,” he joked. “That’s one way of looking at it, but it’s a lot more complex than that.”

He feels educators need to have a working knowledge of these networks. “We need to be, if not users of it, at least have an understanding of how it works.”

He suggests it is problematic if people do not understand what the symbols mean in a network such as Twitter. Technology is more available to people because of smartphones and tablet PCs.

“I would venture to guess that less than one per cent of that (people in the room) don’t have a camera on hand,” stated Shareski.

He also feels his network is more than just talking about bacon, but more around a community sharing information. He used the example of teacher Tamara Awad Lobe, who gave her students an assignment where they had to find another way to research information without the Internet. He feels it gave students research experience, but took issue with one quote in the Globe and Mail article: “At this age, they get stuck on Wikipedia being the answer to everything. They forget that people can be a really great resource.”

He was quick to point out that people wrote Wikipedia. “She’s missing the notion that the web is not a place of information.”

Shareski told attendees of his desire to learn how to play the guitar and how he tweeted the information. A music teacher in the United States got her students to post videos on the lessons they learned and give suggestions on his techniques. A website was built for him to follow along.

“That’s a real different level of communication than just some book  or video,” he stated.

Ownership is another topic Shareski spoke about, especially when it has become unclear who owns what. His suggestion was to buy domains with their name. “It’s worth your while to stake that and own that place.”

Being marketable is also valuable and the larger the network the better opportunity to sell yourself, explained Shareski.

The more information that is shared gives educators a better opportunity to learn from their own situations, which he feels can be a vehicle to enhance a student’s education experience.

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