Friday, August 28, 2009

Educating Young Teachers in the Use of Social Tech in Education

Spent last evening with a group of young teachers in Baltimore.

This was the first of our ten sessions on social technology in education, and a few things struck me as noteworthy.

First of all was the professionalism of the group. It's not that I don't regularly encounter teachers who take their profession seriously, rather it's so long been a standard quip that young teachers are so inherently unprofessional that it was a nice fork-in-the-eye of hearsay to see that our young teachers -- at least the folks in my group -- are more than equipped with a good set of professional skills.

Second was that by-and-large, these young teachers are unaware of everything we've been talking about on this blog. That is, with the exception of two or three 'social' Twitterers, the only social technologies represented among the group were MySpace and Facebook. And almost everyone who admitted to using MySpace claimed that they had long since given the service up.

In a way, there seemed to be a bit of embarrassment surrounding the use of social networking. Many admitted that they'd not want their students peeking into their own FB profiles.

Ten weeks should change that attitude.

One of the goals of this course is to help the teachers build their PLNs, so it was exciting to see so many of them sign up for their first Twitter accounts. In fact, we got off to what I consider a good start beginning with a review of the shift in educational technology from the old hardware days to the Cloud and social media followed by a look into the work of folks like McLeod, Fisch, and Richardson.

Then it was on to the nitty gritty of building a digital profile: students created their own Weebly pages to be used as the hub of their social network (I've found this is a relatively easy way to organize if you are using several Web 2.0 services). Folks left the class with a web page, a Twitter account, Diigo, and instructions for starting a blog.

Certainly a different sort of thing than when I was in Ed School.

Next week, we'll take a look at Google Apps for education and Google Profiles as well as ways to activate one's PLN. And on that latter note, I have to give a big hearty shout-out to my own PLN across the Twitterverse: responding in a massive voice in my request for things young teachers should know about Twitter, you all gave the medium the chance to perfectly illustrate the message.

Thank you and I hope you all continue to be a part of this building process for these young teachers over the course of the next ten weeks.


  1. Good luck. Will be reading Tweets to keep up to date with your progress. Will you be putting anything together as a reflection on the whi=ole 10 weeks?

  2. Shelly,
    Your experience confirms what I see when I teach grad students. The younger students (newer educators) have not experienced technology/new media as a tool for learning. They know FB and word processing but that's about it. They learn quickly, though.
    I think the current adults, ages 18 to 25, are the ones who missed out on tech for learning. My own three children (19,20 and 25) fall into that age range and I think that's why i'm so passionate about the use of new media for learning for current k-12 students.
    It is a tremendous that you will have a profound impact on a cohort of new teachers. You do not need encouragement to take advantage of that fact.
    Would love a pre-post survey in changes over the ten sessions - in attitudes about social media and impact on teaching/instructing/learning.
    Keep us posted.

  3. I would like to do something very similar with teachers here in Gwinnett County, GA. The trouble is, a lot of the social networking technologies are blocked in the schools. Can you tell me a little more about how you get around this in Baltimore schools? I am a recent follower of this blog and I am loving what I am learning from you so thank you!

  4. Shelly and Karen,

    As a college student on the front lines when Facebook and MySpace first sprang up on the net, all it took was a conversation with an online PLN user to realize the minor adjustments I needed to make to turn a 'social' network site into an enriching professional tool. I share this story with any teens and peers that will listen. Many have since jumped on board. I suspect that just as corporations have swarmed to hype their twitter feeds and fan pages - noting the positive effects on consumer relations and business as a whole - growing waves of individuals will make the positive connections between social networking sites and PLNs. May the network grow and grow!

  5. I know your students are older, but I'm curious to hear what you have to say about incorporating tools into the elementary level. Many of them have an age limit. I'd love to be able to have self-contained social networking that only the kids/teachers would have access to so that I could get parental permission but not cause lots of problems! We've done some things with wikispaces because that is a site that happens to not be blocked in my district, but I'm looking for fresh ideas :)

  6. There was a recent study of the use of Twitter in general and the average age of the user. We tend to assume teenagers are early adopters, when in fact the bulk of the under 24 crowd is still focused on Facebook. The most common word used about it is "pointless"...and don't forget, these kids were raised with parents who promoted internet safety and keeping names and information private. They listened! Now we just need to teach them how to use the networks as invaluable tools. Someone sent a tweet last night that 30% of teachers use Twitter. Is that possible?
    Also, I am seeing a surge in teenagers, as they get older toward mid-late college, using two Facebook pages. One is their "professional" page - for family or job prospects. Yes, family is included, they often consider a family broadcast a hindrance to their privacy! The other is their regular page complete with beer pong and weekend parties.
    There is no reason this can't be done with Twitter as well. They can have a professional Twitter account and a personal one, if they like.

  7. Teachers should involve themselves in all sorts of programs to learn more about teaching.Getting in touch with social technologies helps them to update themselves with new ideas about controlling the students and making them learn better.There is an excellent website that educates young teachers to make use of social technologies in teaching.
    Teaching Resources


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