Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Using Social Media to Promote Student Voice

One of the most powerful things technology allows for our students, is the ability for student voice to be heard. Many educators who embrace the use of technology in the classroom, are still very leery of talking about social media in the classroom. The negatives of social media usage between students and teachers can be disastrous. However, if used carefully by teachers, social media can be a powerful tool to not only engage our students, but to promote their student voice as well.

DISCLAIMER: Students are not legally allowed to have a social media account if they are under 13 years old. We as educators should not encourage students to use Social Media apps before that age.

This post IS NOT suggesting that teachers connect with current students on their personal social media accounts. All discussion will be about school permitted, classroom/school accounts.

What do you mean by student voice?
To quote Bill Plamer from the Edutopia article Including Student Voice: "The term 'Student Voice' describes how students give their input to what happens within the school and classroom. Our desire is for students to know that their expertise, opinions and ideas are valued in all aspects of school life. Student Voice permeates all levels of our work together, from students participating in small group classroom conversations to students partnering in curriculum design or establishing school norms and policy."

Why promote student learning/voice with social media?
Think about the power that social media tools have brought to our society. For good or bad, people share what they are doing, buying, eating, creating, and so on. In turn others are excited to try and buy the same things that they see posts about. Making an interesting change in our world's marketplace.

What about our classroom "marketplace," the marketplace of learning? If students share their learning the way they do their other daily activities, will that encourage other students to learn? I believe it will.

As equally important, what about those students who don't add much into classroom conversation. This can give them a different outlet. Maybe they feel more comfortable expressing themselves through a creative Instagram post or Tweet about what happened in class as opposed to speaking in front of all of their classmates. This outlet allows for student voice to happen outside the classroom walls.

How is this done with Social Media?

  1. Keep it Optional: Stay away from making posts about learning mandatory. We want this to be an authentic activity for the students, something they want to do. Many may oppose or shy away at first, but it will only take a few trendsetters to get many students on board. Keeping it optional will also avoid issues with any parents who do not want their child to participate. 
  2. Open App Choice: There are so many different tools out there, and it is impossible to keep up with them all. Put the students in the driver's seat of which tool to use. Also, we know that students are into different social media tools than teachers are. Chances are if you ask a kid to post what they learned on Pinterest, they will look at you like you're crazy. 
  3. Create A Classroom Hashtag: Creating a hashtag is pretty easy, you literally just make up a phrase out of letters and numbers only and put a # in front of it! Letter casing doesn't matter, I like to capitalize each word just to make it easier to read, but you don't have to. This could even be a class activity that you allow the students to create with you! 
  4. Feel free to edit and use this poster in your class!
      Access it by clicking Here.
  5.  Give Examples: Just because your students use social media for fun, doesn't mean they will automatically know how to post in a professional manner. Give them a few examples on your classroom Twitter or Instagram account. 
This may seem like a scary step for many teachers to take, but these steps can help you get started on a path to get student involved in owning their learning. The benefits they will receive in learning how to use social media in a responsible manner will only improve their understanding of digital citizenship. Why not give it a try!?

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Introducing SAMR: Planning & Reflecting Classroom Technology Usage

As the 2017 school year comes to an end, its a time of reflection for classroom teachers. A mixture of projects, activities, and events from August to May come to mind. Hopefully for most teachers and students remembering an engaging activity that utilized technology in the classroom is part of that mixture.

During this reflection, what tool do teachers have to help them reflect upon this tech usage? The answer to that question: The SAMR Instructional Model. The SAMR Model points out the 4 categories of how technology can be utilized for students. The interesting aspect of this model, is that it differs from other educational criteria tools. The "high level" of SAMR, does not equate to a DOK level 4 or the highest level of Bloom's. Instead, the model brings an awareness that there are different levels of how technology can be used to support learning in the classroom.

The following presentation is a simple introduction to the SAMR Model that I was able to present to a group of educators. There is a task card activity included to practice identifying these levels. Feel free to share with your fellow educators.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Facilitate Online Discussions with Backchannel Tools

There are many Learning Management Systems out there, such as Google Classroom and Seesaw, that allow teachers to post information and questions. In return, students can make comments when prompted by the teacher. While this can be an engaging piece, it still doesn't feel very conversational. This is where using a Backchannel chat can be used facilitate discussions between your students either in the classroom or from a distance.

I know what you may be thinking... "Did he just say chat? As in a chat-room?" Yes chat rooms can have negative connotations with them, but when used correctly in an educational setting, they can be a safe discussion alternative. Two backchannel sites that I am going to suggest allow the teacher to create a virtual room that can only be accessed with a specific link shared by a teacher. This means that you have total control of who has access, keeping your students safe.

Why should I try a backchannel discussion with my students?
First and foremost I am not saying that these discussions should replace verbal discussions you have with your students. Giving students the opportunity to collect their thoughts and speak them verbally is a skill that is different then typing them out on a screen. However, occasionally using a backchannel has an advantage as well. These virtual rooms allow a teacher to save/print the conversations had with students. This gives the teacher a record of student participation within a content conversation, as well as leaves a record of the students understanding.

There are many backchannel sites out there, but two that I have used are TodaysMeet and Chatzy.

TodaysMeet is an easy to set up and use virtual chat room geared for classroom usage. After logging in, which it does allow you to login with Google, you are sent to a simple dashboard to set up as many rooms as you like.

After setting your room up, all you need to do is share the link with your students, and your class is ready to have a discussion. At the end of your discussion, you may save/print the transcript.

Chatzy doesn't advertise itself as an education site quite as much as TodaysMeet, however several of it's safety features make it great to use in your classroom.

You can add a password to the chat along with allowing or blocking several features for users. Chatzy also allows them to embed YouTube Videos or Internet Images if they wish. This could allow for some creative answers. These are features that could be turned on or off.

The beauty in these and other backchannel tools is the simplicity to them. These tools allow the students to focus on the conversation and not get too wrapped up in the bells and whistles that they are used to seeing in social media.

If you have a backchannel that you like to use, please add it to the comments below!