What have I learned about social media tools?
The overarching benefit of this social media class that I have gained thus far is exposure to a wide range of tools and options of how to use these tools. I think of these tools in two main categories — student-oriented for classroom activities, e.g., using Twitter to develop creative writing abilities; and teacher-oriented, such as exchanging ideas and resources through a website like http://www.delicious.com. Prior to this class, either I had no idea these Internet-based resources existed or I did not understand how they could benefit students and/or teachers.
In terms of Web 2.0 tools, first I had to learn what this term really means. I now understand that Web 2.0 programs allow on-line interaction and collaboration that encourages students to hone their critical thinking skills especially within the context of accessing and utilizing social media resources.
What connections have I made?
I interpret ‘connections’ in terms of the potential applications of how I can make the best use of social media tools during my upcoming first year of math teaching. For example, I joined the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) last year when I did my student teaching, but I only recently made the connection to NCTM middle school math through Twitter. NCTM posts about two Tweets per day with ideas for the classroom. I also like the idea of making use of Google apps and document sharing so students can work in groups outside of the classroom. The other connection I have made is gaining ideas for a blog that I can utilize for parent and student communication.
What have I learned from my PLN? What does my PLN include?
I have to admit that I had never heard of a Personal Learning Network (PLN) before this social media class. PLNs are valuable networks of people and ideas that exchange ideas and resources. Just three weeks ago, I opened a Twitter account and already I’ve found it be very useful. For example, I discovered that NCTM tweets a few times a day with ideas and concepts for middle school math classrooms.
Thanks to a key member of my PLN, Dr. Fritz, I gained access to list of middle school math blogs on http://ispeakmath.wordpress.com/middle-school-math-blogs/, which is going to be immensely helpful both in terms of learning from colleagues around the world about lesson and project ideas, as well as how I should best approach setting up and managing a professional blog. Another key member of my PLN is my mentor teacher from my student teaching. I follow her on http://www.delicious.com, where she posts URLs that will help me gain exposure to current trends in mathematics teaching in the United States. This will be critical for me when I transition from working in international schools to working back in the U.S.
Where am I in comparison to the National Educational Technology Standards (NETS)?
Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity — While I believe I inspire student learning and creativity, I know that I need to incorporate more technology in my lessons. When I teach next year, I want to take full advantage of Geometer’s Sketchpad to develop lessons in which students can work in pairs and small groups to investigate mathematical concepts.
Design and Develop Digital Age Learning Experiences and Assessments — I think spreadsheet skills are critical in real-world scenarios, so I plan to use Microsoft Excel in my math lessons to help students develop basic skills so they can manipulate and analyze data effectively and efficiently.
Model Digital Age Work and Learning — I have a long way to go in this regard. I need to develop my knowledge and skills of on-line resources and communicate this to parents, students and the school administration. My blog and exchanges with my PLN are key elements to help me develop experience in this NETS category.
Promote and Model Digital Citizenship and Responsibility — In a math classroom, I do not think I will have many opportunities to promote this standard, but I see a role for myself in showing students how I access resources and how I evaluate the validity of Internet-based information.
Engage in Professional Growth and Leadership — Since I’m at the beginning of my teaching career, this is the ideal time to establish technology-based professional development as a priority. I hope other teachers in the math department and my principal will appreciate how I search for and incorporate outside resources into our curriculum.
What questions do I have?
The key question I have is related to time management as a new teacher. How can I take advantage of social media resources while also keeping up with the demands of a new teacher? I know that I will feel slightly overwhelmed with lesson planning, assessments, parent communications, other faculty obligations, etc. While I realize that access to social media tools can support my work and efforts in the classroom, I can imagine how too much access may be unproductive.
Also, I know that I want to start a blog — well, I am starting a blog as part of this class, but I intend to develop this site further to be a resource for parents, students and potential future employers to assess my teaching perspective. In this context, I need to ensure that the blog is high-quality in terms of content and appearance, and that requires significant time and effort. Again, the question is — how to balance the time needed to put together an interesting and well-written blog during a first year of teaching?
Where would I like to go from here with what I have learned?
My answer to this question is related to the questions I just described. I believe a key for me going forward is to develop a habit of dedicating a certain amount of time per day (e.g., 20 minutes during a free period) to explore social media resources that will either support me in terms of current lesson plans or in terms of professional development in a wider context. Another aspect of my future social media activities will be to become an active contributor to my PLN. I know that I cannot simply be a “follower” in the long-term and that I will need to contribute ideas/resources too.