Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Socially Networked Classroom : Pt 1 - The Teacher

If you are reading this blog, chances are you already have made some social connections, possibly are in the process of developing a PLN and are already or are at least thinking about socially networking your students to each other and the outside world. Those of you who are at the beginning of this journey – hold on – it’s going to be an exhilarating ride. Get ready to be dazzled by the amount of opinion and content out there that’s being uploaded by educators on a daily basis. Your PLN (Professional Learning Network) is your best tool for finding out what’s new and innovative in classroom teaching and sharing your own knowledge and ideas with the world. There are educators online that are so generously sharing and its amazing the depth and breadth of the offerings, its staggering. Here are some ways to get into social networking as a teacher that I’ve tried and use regularly.
  Twitter: Make sure you sign up and start tweeting. Find some like-minded professionals and follow them. Look for people who tweet regularly, share links and stay more or less on the topics in which you are very interested in to start – you can be overwhelmed by tweeters so take it slowly to start! As you become less self conscious – you’ll really enjoy the interactions you can have online. Go to a Teachmeet: Although not strictly an ’online’ space, many educators that front up to these are also online – you will definitely find people with which to connect and these are the professionals that are really interested in what’s going on with technology, education and 21st century skills.
  Facebook: Use your Facebook as a learning space as well. Lots of education groups have a presence and if you are a regular Facebook user, it will be with very little effort you are connecting to your interest groups on a daily basis.
  Edmodo: Edmodo encourages groups of teachers (and students) to gather online in groups and discuss topics of interest. If you have something you are really keen to talk about online, think about starting your own discussion space and inviting others by email. This is my new favourite. Create a account on a topic of interest – practically does the rest for you. It searches the Web, and as long as you have created a great set of tags, it will offer interesting posts, articles, Youtube clips – lots of different content direct to you and you can choose to ‘curate’ it onto your own site. You can add your own content too by using the bookmarklet. It works out a bit like an online newspaper, that you can update as often as the mood takes you. I highly recommend you give it a go. You could also try Tumblr.
 Blogs: There are lots of blogging platforms out there – Blogger and Edublogs are two popular sites to get started on. Weebly allows for a combined Website and Blog, which is very neat, particularly if you want to connect with other educators by offering content as well as opinion. Blogs are built for comment – don’t be shy add your two cents to someone else’s blog that you follow.
 Project 365: If you are feeling shy about writing a lot to begin with – maybe try a photo blogging site. These sites encourage you to upload a photo a day and talk about it briefly. Find some people to connect with and start conversations through the commenting facility. This is a great way to share what’s going on in your class with parents or other classes around the world.
Wikis (wikispaces): Wikis are great ways to connect with other educators on a particular topic of interest. You might like to join members of a PLN onto a wiki about something you are researching, collect web tools with others, and build a useful site cooperatively.
 Photo sharing sites like Flickr: Again educators are generously adding great content to their Flickr pages. You can share what’s going on in your classroom, create graphics and posters and add them to your Flickr stream. It’s a really good place to curate your images and they are accessible from any computer. Flickr has some great features which means you can work flexibly with your content – you can lock down a site to private, share with invited people or be public with your offerings.
Pinterest: This is pretty much the latest fad – think of a topic, scour the Internet for content. Pintrest is your personal online bulletin board to share.
Wallwisher: Post a topic, get contributors to add ideas, links, photos and videos. This is great for collaborative planning and thinking. Invite a few people to join you in a thinking session. These are great tools to use for professional development.
Many of these site (and others) have mobile Apps – so you can even connect with your PLN on the run - there's no excuse! And don’t forget to publicise your writing in a second forum. Your posts will be read if you tell your Twitter followers for example that you have just posted something for them to read.
Lots of these are not new, but are well used and worth mentioning and really work to establish you as a connected educator. The first step to a socially networked classroom is a socially networked teacher – give it a try!

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