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Articles: Social Media

Zak Project

Students at The Emery/Weiner School in Houston are taking part in an unusual project. Ben Stern, a technology integration specialist and history teacher at the school created The Zak Project. The project’s purpose is to help students review for their final exam in a way that also commemorates a former student, Zak Rosen. Before he could graduate, he passed away of Familial Dysautonomia (FD), also known as Riley-Day Syndrome, which largely affects Ashkenazi Jews. According to Stern, Zak was a sweet, funny and driven young man who overcame the symptoms of the disease to lead a rich life.

gaming, minecraft

Seven-year-old Chanse, a first grader in Kathleen Gerard’s classroom at PS 116 in New York City, is in a “World of Goo.” On an iPad, he’s using his index finger to pull little black animated “goo balls” around the screen and to connect them in an attempt to build what will end up being a flimsy but balanced bridge made of oily glop. He’s building across chasms and cliffs, avoiding windmills and spikes, trying to connect to a pipe that will suck up any goo that he didn’t use to score him big points.

One of the most popular games finding its way into classrooms now isn’t much of a game at all. Released originally in 2009, Minecraft is a “sandbox” 3D video game built in a Lego-like environment that allows “players” the creative freedom to build anything, from towering castles set high on ocean cliffs to complex roller coasters.

Social media tools like Facebook, Myspace, Instagram, Google+ and Flickr are potentially exciting learning and teaching tools that can help teachers and students make connections to ideas, skills and concepts in a 21st-century learning environment. However, social media are getting a bad rap in education. Some students use the tools in ways that pit their First Amendment rights against their responsibilities as students in brick-and-mortar schools.

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Abrams

Palm Beach County (Fla.) School District is the latest district to take its social media accounts to the next level. The district is launching its own Facebook and Twitter accounts, which will represent the district as a whole as opposed to individual teachers or administrators. The district’s public affairs department will run the operation, coinciding with a growing trend nationwide to emphasize social media.

Have you ever dreamed of experiencing a watershed moment in your field? Moments like the splitting of the atom or the landing of a man on the moon? If you're an educational leader, buckle up, because your moment is here. Schools are still experiencing the shockwaves of the Internet, a transformative global network that is radically changing how we think about learning and schooling. Moments like these are exhilarating, because our decisions matter so much.

I’m not a Luddite, or even a technophobe. I just don’t have time to waste on technology that promises the world but fails to deliver. I’m the “show me” administrator, the doubting Thomas of school leaders. I write not about the latest and greatest technology for those administrators on the avant garde. Rather, this is a cautionary tale about letting the digital cognoscenti dash ahead to pastures new while we figure out how tried and tested technology can help us now.

The textbook, The lecturer and the classroom are three pillars of modern-day schooling that date back hundreds of years. Each was invented to solve a problem.

The textbook was invented because information was scarce, the lecturer because teachers were few and the classroom because learning was local. These enduring icons persist into the Internet age, shaping our view of learning and driving the popularity of their digital grandchildren, things like iPad “textbooks” and the Kahn Academy “lectures.”

Administrators

#cpchat – connected principals

#edadmin – school administrators

Education Levels

#earlyed – early age education

#preschool – preschool

#kedu – kindergarten education

#kinderchat – kindergarten education

#elemchat – elementary grades education

#midleved – middle grades education

#highered – higher education

Issues

#edreform – education reform

#ptchat – parent-teacher issues

#parenting – parenting

#bullying – bullying

#cybersafety – cybersafety

I have a monthly email communication with Elliot Soloway, a University of Michigan professor and the chair of ISTE’s Special Interest Group on Mobile Learning, who writes our Going Mobile column with Cathie Norris. Somewhere within the email thread, Soloway is sure to write words such as these: “Someone has to tell the emperor he’s naked.”

There is a catch phrase among educators on Twitter: Lurking and learning. It’s used to describe the first steps an administrator or educator new to Twitter should take. According to Tom Whitby, a retired English teacher turned education professor at St. Joseph’s College in New York, who helped create #edchat, by “lurking and learning,” searching for relevant people, and taking time to see how others engage on Twitter, the initial learning curve will gradually flatten out.

On Feb. 23, Steven Anderson, instructional technologist for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County (N.C.) Schools, celebrated his three-year anniversary—on Twitter. Anderson began exploring Twitter in 2009 as a way of finding people with similar interests, opposing views, and resources on integrating technology in the classroom to share with teachers and staff in his district of 57,000 students.

It’s becoming clearer by the minute that, as Web technologies open more and more doors for learners, they also pose more and more challenges to traditional thinking about schools. At the center is figuring how best to prepare students for the vast learning opportunities they have outside of the traditional education system. While the challenges are different for each individual school and district, all will be forced to come to terms with five new realities in the short term.

While Facebook and Google+ are popular social networks for everyday life, dozens of other networks have been created to provide safe and effective social learning environments for K12 education. Social learning networks (SLNs) allow students to learn 21st-century skills. Students can build online portfolios and resumes and collaborate with peers through project-based learning, which will help them in college or the workforce.

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