It is now the end of a weekend that found me flat on my back all day Saturday and still sick today (Sunday.) I had planned on grading this weekend but my head and body had other plans. With that said, I ended up learning a lot this weekend. As I lay sick in bed, I had my laptop near me with the social networking tool Twitter running. While I did not feel up to net surfing or doing much thinking whatsoever I was always aware of what the people in my Twitterverse were up to. And they were up to a lot – from the group that was at Educon, to the group that was chatting with Thomas Friedman, and so forth. Some were just at home with their families. I was living vicariously through and with them while I lay in bed coughing up a lung.
I planned on writing my next post on social media and this weekend proved to me how important it was becoming. I actively (while I was awake that is) following people as they were attending conferences and living vicariously through them. This was an entirely new usage of the social networking software that I had been using during the past year. Normally when I am sick, I do the typical guy thing and groan and grunt and watch TV for hours. This time people were sending me links to live video feeds from Educon and the audio feed of Thomas Friedman as he talked about education and a flat earth. I was not just a slug.
For those new to social medial and networking in education, it is a daunting thing – one that does not have an immediately obvious educational purpose. Or so I thought. I now think about the time I wasted a year ago as I lurked some of the sites (lurking is a web verb for checking out social web things like blogs and never participating.) I had a few blogs that I read regularly but never added my own thoughts – and I had plenty of thoughts, I am VERY opinionated. I just felt uncomfortable doing anything. That all changed last year when I became a NASA MESSENGER Fellow. Here was a group of people I wanted to stay in touch with. One of the fellows and I talked about a web tool called Twitter. I had been using it to follow the Mars polar Lander and thought the tool was great. Little did I know its power or lure. We exchanged user names and started following each other. Then came the opportunity of a lifetime, as I was invited to attend the Mercury flyby of the MESSENGER spacecraft at the mission SOC, along with the other MESSENGER Fellows. I needed a way for people to follow me live and social media came to the rescue. Twitter is like texting but anyone who follows you gets each message. Some call it micro-blogging since you are limited to 140 characters. I had k-12 students following me as well as teachers and staff and administrators. I had found a great way to reach a lot of people – and have them comment back. A dialogue was started. Then I learned about Ustream with its interactive video capabilities and was able to answer elementary students questions live with scientists at MESSENGER headquarters. The results were amazing as children heard me answer their questions live on “TV.”
I thought I had learned all there was to learn about how useful Twitter and other social media tools were when one day as a I was checking my email, someone “tweeted” (sent a message through Twitter” NASA-Colab meeting in Second Life at 4pm.” I had heard about 2nd life but never considered it useful, but I had a few minutes and so I checked it out. I was able to attend the meeting and add knowledge that I had to the discussion. Now things are getting interesting.
Within the past month, I went from about 30 people following me on Twitter to 160 and growing. How did that happen? I stopped being a wallflower and “lurking.” I started putting my opinion out there. I started posting sites that I thought were interesting. I started making myself open to criticism and judgment. And you know what happened? People liked me! They really liked me! (Shades of Sally Field, anyone?) Like anything worth doing, you have to take a risk to get anything of value back. That is what every social networking tool is about. If you don’t add anything, you are not worth anything to anyone. Don’t lurk and just watch. Don’t be a leech and just take what is offered. Throw something out into the group and see what people say. Join the Party. The water is warm.
I was going to post a bunch of stuff that I do online but I thought I would let you tell others what you do. Please comment on this post and tell us one way you use social media in education.
I use Twitter to connect with my Personal Learning Network
I use Delicious to send/receive the best links with my PLN
I use Facebook to keep track of NASA and space science media and events
I use Youtube videos to teach physics and astronomy
I use Flickr to have my students show off their work and activity
I use a wiki for teaching, student work, labs, and student collaborative projects
What do you do with social media? Add a comment with how you use social media in your classroom.
Addendum: TEACHMEET INFO: As of February 1st, @AngelaStockman @Turrean and I have decided to try to have Western New York’s first TeachMeet. A TeachMeet is an “unconference” where teacher can get together and build relationships and learn a little more. “A little more what?” You may ask. A little more of whatever anyone has to offer. Each session is either 7 or 2 minutes long. No Power Points allowed and everyone is wired to the net. This is a developing new social event for teachers which started in Britain. Goto TeachMeet to find out more. The tentative date is in May, so stay tuned!