Leveraging Social Media

I am excited to share that I am an invited speaker at the First Annual Digital Citizenship Summit! The conference is hosted at the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford, CT on October 3rd. I will be speaking about one of my passions - Social Media to Leverage Learning. Be sure to go to the website to see all of the summit's nationally acclaimed digital citizenship experts.  

created by Tracy Mercier

The infographic provides compelling reasons to integrate technology, particularly social media, into elementary classrooms.  

First, our students are already adept at using mobile devices to read books, play games, watch videos, and use apps before they even walk into our classrooms. Seeing as how almost 50% of 0-4 year olds constitute first time device users it is imperative for us elementary educators to leverage devices to engage students.  In addition to the numerous apps that are available to strengthen skills in a variety of content areas incorporate one of these ideas:

All of those apps are free, some have an option for in-app purchase, and others have a free and paid version.  When using apps to leverage learning with students it is important to make sure that they have time to discover its possibilities so they can creatively use them during academic times.   Before my students used Talking Tom they had a few minutes (5 - 7) to see what it could do and share out their discoveries.  This prompted a very important conversation - just because the app allows you to hit Tom and knock him down does not mean it is okay to do so.

Not only are our elementary students using mobile devices, but they are also frequent users of social media.  Based on the data, how they are using it and the experiences they are having on social media platforms make sense for their age; even toddlers are 3 clicks away from explicit content on YouTube.  These reasons make it imperative that we integrate social media into our classrooms.  We, as elementary educators, can teach children how to effectively communicate in a way that will instill that they take care of themselves, others, content, and maintain safety online. We can meet these goals using platforms such as blogs, social networks like Twitter, or networks designed especially for classrooms (like Edmodo).

When using social media with students we first need to be very clear about our purpose for doing so; we need to have a clear understanding why we are using it.  Is it for students to share learning or create portfolios?  Will we be providing resources for students to access?  Will students be using it to have thoughtful conversations about books, or content topics?  When we have a clear understanding of our purpose it makes that much easier to communicate to students and their families.

Just like integrating the use of mobile apps into the classroom you will want to provide children the time to discover what the social network is capable of so that they can use it to support their learning.  When I first introduced Twitter to my third grade students this was an important step for them to learn what all of the buttons do - retweet, favorite, follow, reply; all functions that they needed to use in a Twitter conversation with Tim and Moby from BrainPOP! You will also want to explicitly teach them certain skills such as how to write a blog post or comment or how to write a caption that adequately describes their learning on Instagram.  Part of what made writing a blog comment purposeful for my third and fourth grade students what that it directly related to the skills they were learning in reading and writing.   

Once students understand the capabilities and have learned some basic skills to use the platform we need to have clear guidelines and hold them accountable to those guidelines.  I would suggest that you use your class rules as those guidelines; whatever rules they are following for face - to - face interactions will certainly apply to online interactions.   One year my third graders created these rules: help each other, be serious about our experiences, and be responsible with and respect all materials.  Before we would blog I would ask, “When we are leaving comments on each others’ ecosystem blogs, how might we help each other?”  When we would tweet our field trips I would ask, “When we tweet about our trip to the historical society today, what are some things we can do to be serious about the experience?”  When the children did not follow our guidelines, I held them accountable.  For example, when two students were tweeting from home about diarrhea I related their actions to our rules (this one happened to apply to all three), asked them to remind me what tweeting looks like in our classroom, and they temporarily lost the privilege to use Twitter.  

For some of you the school year has already begun.  For others it is just around the corner  If you happen to be reading this in August, October, January, or May - now is the time to start thinking and planning about technology integration in your elementary classroom.  How will your students be using technology this school year?  What are some platforms and/or apps that they will use?  What critical skills will you teach them for successful use and experiences?


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