Adventures in Education…Social Media Stories

I’ve been experimenting with Social Media in my classes for some time now. I think it has tremendous potential as a tool to teach both students and teachers how to become better learners. It can also make information more portable and accessible. This is the first installment of a series I’m doing on the different tools I’m using to develop an online component of the classes I teach. I work at a vocational college in Northern NJ. One of the biggest problems I face is the disparity of the skill sets of the students in my classes. Complete Novices, to neo-Hackers (“I use the word neo with extreme sarcasm”). But one thing that I’ve discovered about the modern student, is that the textbook is not their native learning environment. This is a generation of students that don’t know what it’s like to not have personal computers and the internet. They are constantly interacting with screens, TVs, Mobile Phones, hand-held game consoles, computer screens. Reading books is not organic to them. Did I just say “organic” I’m such a hippy. At any rate I’m looking to create an environment that supplements and if necessary supplants the text books and reach as many students as I can. I’ve decided to share some those experiences in the hopes that other educators can learn from them. Basically a journal of my attempts to incorporate different tools so that I can make a functional model/template for myself and other teachers and become a better educator.

Tools I’m Using

One of the first tools I started using is Google Docs. It’s really helpful as a storage medium and allows you to edit your files anywhere you have a computer and internet connection. It would be nice if there was a Blackberry app for it (Hint, Hint). Personally I want to be able to walk into school without a book or a laptop and know that all my class materials are still literally at my fingertips. Wikispaces was where I first started posting the links to my Google Documents it let me post the links and other material. Twitter I have a Twitter account that I used to notify students of new posts. WordPress. I’ve moved my Links to the blog and have added posting articles relevant to the class there.

How I’ts Gone

My students have responded best to the Wiki and the blog. They go to both to get their lesson outline and review questions for the test. Interestingly, they are always on top of me to update the blog sooner. They want the review questions at the start of the week. While they have utilized these sites as a reference resource they are slower to respond and so I’m not getting the exchange of information and collaborative learning that I would like to see. I think I might be related to the class culture. That’s a tough one to overcome, I don’t keep them long enough to completely change the culture. We’ll see where this goes with other classes.My only grade book is Engrade, which has been well received and got me recognized (unofficially) as the most accurate grade book in the school.

Tools I’m Testing

I’ve created a group in Facebook but not sure if I can implement it with this class seeing as how they’ve already joined the blog. To be honest I don’t want to overwhelm this group with memberships. I’ve joined Edu20.org.This site has potential as an organizer of information and assignments, it’s sort of an education cloud all in one solution. It’s comprehensive but initial set up takes some time. I plan to move over the best of what I’m doing now and have it completely organized before I give it a run. I’m Also looking at a solution that has online testing.

Tools I’d Like To Try

Really Interested in Moodle but I don’t run Windows. So I’m planning to install it at school and see what happens. I’ve also signed up for Edublogs, but after seeing the Admin interface I realized it was basically a specialization of wordpress. I plan to look at some of the blogs there for ideas and I may eventually move a blog over.

That’s it for now, I’ll be posting updates, successes failure and other musings on Social Media in Education.

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