Social media, whether we like it or not, is here to stay. In 2005 approximately 10% of all internet users were on some form of social media, which at the time was likely MySpace, due to “Tom’s” tremendous influence over deciding who your “top 8” friends truly were. Now, in 2016 after a plateau of social media usage, we have still seen statistics sky-rocket. Approximately 76% of internet users are on some form of social media platform. As evidenced by the data presented, and likely your own experiences, social media has changed the face of how we interact with one another. It has essentially given everyone a soap box, in which to share their feelings, opinions, hopes, dreams and desires upon. Want to test a new product, have a book club, create a focus group, participate in professional development, heck, even workout with someone? It can all be done on social media. Sure, it has it’s pitfalls, and often contains content we don’t want to see or hear about, but for the most part, it has defined our world in a somewhat positive light, at least from my perspective.
You might be asking yourself, well how does social media definite itself in the world of education? It’s easy–global connectedness. Research Professor and 3 time New York Times Best Seller, Brené Brown states that “connection is the energy that is created between people when they feel seen, heard and valued- when they can give and receive without judgement.”
We’ve created a world in which this connection can happen instantly at the touch of your fingertips. This is especially important in education, because as educators, it’s often times hard to see outside of the four walls of your classroom. It’s easy to become isolated, feel alone, and maybe even like a crazy person who tells herself jokes in her head about events that happened during reading group, just to make it through the day. To each their own. However, with social media, and more specifically, Twitter, educators can now connect with one another. From your classroom neighbor, to other teachers in the district, even nationally and globally constant connectedness is a reality. We can now easily find like-minded educators, who share our same vision, hear our problems, value or opinions and help us create change, without even needing to get out of our pajamas. If I could encourage any educator who is just starting out, or a veteran down the line, make social media your best friend. Instead of telling you all the great benefits social media has, I’d like to share two national connections our class had this week as a means of modeling those benefits of social media.
Mystery Skype- South Riding, Virginia- 701 Miles
I initially signed up to Mystery Skype after hearing about the global Skype-a-thon on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Little did I know how huge Mystery Skype actually is. Microsoft has an entire Educator Community, from virtual field trips, to lectures from celebrities and professional educators. Mystery Skype itself though has many benefits. First and foremost it is a global guessing game. Essentially your class pairs with another class, somewhere in the world. The way Erin Broy and I formatted the Mystery Skype, was to have her class guess our exact location first, and then we would Skype again so that our class could guess where her class was. The students developed a series of systematic questions that would essentially narrow down where the other students were located. Some of the questions included, “what is your state famous for?”, “how far do you live from the state’s capital?” etc.
There are so many benefits to this national connection. First and foremost, it gets our kids familiar with geography, which has taken a back seat in our Common Core world. It also introduces students to different cultures as well as similarities and differences of students all over the world. Just like teachers, students often do not know what the world is like beyond the boundaries of the school yard. This is especially important for students who aren’t given opportunities to travel often, both within and out of the country or have that background knowledge about the world around them, which lets face it, most children do not have. This helps my students to expand their cultural awareness and knowledge of other students and gives them the chance to travel the world, without having to leave their desk. Since both schools now know where the other is located, we will be maintaining our connections through virtual pen pals and other collaborations that are in the works. We’d love to hear any ideas that you may have for virtual collaboration. Thanks so much to Erin and her class for embracing this new challenge with us. We are so thankful for the new friendship we have made with them. Also, did I mention that their school is also the Eagles. How perfect?!
#gmttc5- Edison, New Jersey- 791 Miles
Last Sunday, a teacher from Edison, New Jersey reached out to me via Twitter to ask if I’d like to participate in a #gmttc with her class. My initial thought was that I had no idea what a #gmttc was, but that we of course would love to participate. After researching the hashtag, I discovered that it stood for a Global Math Task Twitter Challenge, which in my opinion is just the coolest thing. After collaborating and discussing our action plan via Twitter, Vicki and I decided that we would start the challenge on Monday. The challenge did not take the place of any content, instead it was used as the student’s PBL for the week in a center, in both of the classrooms. We may have formatted our centers a little bit differently, but nonetheless, they were supplemental.
On Monday during our Math block, (luckily we seem to have the same math time) I received a tweet from Vicki and her class that I projected up on the SMART board for the kiddos to see. My kids, much like any other students I would imagine, love a friendly challenge and competition and were so motivated by the word challenge. What is so great about the #gmttc is that you don’t necessarily need to be working on the same standard, to take the challenge. Our kiddos are in two different places, but we were still able to share and challenge one another. We each used an Illustrative Math Task but since our chatting I think I’m going to try to utilize TenMarks more, thanks to Vicki! MARS tasks would work great for this as well!
Throughout the week our kiddos would work on the challenge in pairs and get their answers checked by me to move on to the next problem. My favorite part of all of this, was the errors that they made and how much they learned from their mistakes. I wouldn’t tell them why something was incorrect. Instead I asked them to find their error and then come back and chat with me after they thought about where their error was and why it happened. Such an amazing growth mindset time in the classroom for our kiddos. Students who finished early had the opportunity to Screen Cast their thoughts on the computer that we then shared on a Padlet wall with Vicki’s class. Of course I didn’t see the tweet on Friday with the link, so we have to share our answers with them on Tuesday, but it was our first time, so cut us some slack. =)
After lunch on Friday we had a Voxer chat with Vicki’s class, asking questions about our task challenge’s and our school environments. We also came up with the idea to continue to challenge one another in math and…wait for it… COLLABORATIVELY READ A BOOK TOGETHER AND SHARE ABOUT IT! How amazing?! Our classes are so jazzed. We’d love to hear some reflection, suggestions and ideas on how to make this come to life!
Again not only is this great for global connectedness, allowing students to see beyond the classroom but it also provides opportunities for growth mindset, problem based learning, incorporation of math practices and friendly competition. I’d also like to tie in a piece of public speaking into this since our kiddos chatted with one another via Voxer. While not face-to-face, the students still needed to articulate their thoughts clearly in front of an audience of their peers. Kiddos who aren’t normally excited to volunteer, jumped at the chance to chat with new friends. They could “be seen and heard” without judgement, and therefore, felt the CONNECTION.
This weekend, Vicki and I are working on some guiding reflection questions for when the students screen cast. This way they are talking more about the “why” instead of the “how” they did something. A few of our kiddos sent me their files over the weekend for their math task challenge which I’ll upload to our class YouTube Channel. Make sure to check it out and to subscribe. I’m so thankful to have found a new Teacher Friend in Vicki.
I’m excited to continue on with these global connections and find some more ways in which we can grow our collaborations. I’m so thankful that I found these two teachers across the nation. I feel our teaching styles and passions reflect each other tremendously and we’ve never even met in person. Get connected and see what benefits you can find in your own life.