Something that I didn’t know before tonight – I grew up in the age of the “Early Internet”.
Slightly upsetting, but none the less interesting that as I was growing up, the internet and social media were doing so with me. I recall being in high school when friends were discussing something called Facebook, and how you needed to create a network by “Friending” one another. Ridiculous! You need to ask your real life friends to be your friend on the internet too?!! I later had a friend set up my account for me because I didn’t know how, nor did I have an email address yet (the email she made me was “firstname.lastname@example.org” so do try to hide your jealousy). Solid evidence right here that Prensky’s 2001 Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants work might not be accurate after all if you ask me (more on that here though).
Social networking in my earliest reference was solely for the purpose of it’s namesake – socializing. For a long time it stayed that way. As I progressed through university for my Bachelor of Education I was told many times my professors and mentors alike, that the most professional thing to do would be to not in fact have social media at all. If I did maintain a social media presence that it should not only be extremely difficult to find, but also extremely sanitized in terms of content. The idea stemming from that advice suggests that social media is for recreational use, and holds no practical applications for learning, sharing or collaborating within educational contexts. At that time I could never imagine that a few years later I would be applying for new positions in my school division, and on my resume including not just my contact information but also my twitter handle because I felt that my professional account could be seen as an extension of who I am as an educator and the work that I value.
In preparation for writing this blog post I watched Alec’s video that referenced how to use Twitter effectively in education. As I watched, I reflected on my journey of social media usage for the purposes of education. When I first joined twitter by making an account for my classroom in 2016, I joined with the sole purpose of having a new way to communicate our learning projects to parents. Although I was always genuinely immensely proud of my students and their work, what this account inevitably turned into was a sort of PR account for my classroom. “Look how cool this project is!” “Look how much fun we are having!” “See how creative we are?”. Since I was writing in student voice I was not using the account to network, or to engage with others in any sort of collaborative form. There was no, “collision of ideas” as Alec speaks of, because I was limiting my audience and limiting the accounts the kids could see for “safety”.
It was was not until I joined the Connected Educator project with Regina Catholic Schools that I started to think more critically about what that “safety” I was considering really meant. I was utilizing a form of social media in my classroom, but it did not mean that I was creating transformational opportunities. As I continued to evaluate what my role as a teacher should be in students understanding their own digital identities, I found that my usage of social media – twitter specifically evolved. Over time I have created a PLN (thanks for sharing Leigh) of educators from all over the globe who specialize or take an interest in the topics important to me and my own digital identity.
We must remember that lifelong learning requires effort. We expect this commitment from students. We should accept no less from ourselves. Fortunately, with a little information … and an openness to learn, anyone can begin to expand his or her knowledge by using a PLN.-Whitby, Edutopia (2013).
Because of my growing network of educators on at least one social media platform, today I am consistently challenged to think more deeply, review my beliefs, redesign my work, and share ideas I want to build upon. I still like to communicate the incredible things my tiny humans do – but it’s more than a pat on the back it’s more of a push for “what’s next”?
I hope that my work in ECI 830 can help me further evolve this learning journey.