Social Media, Educational Research, and “Keeping It Real”

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Join the KQED #TeachDoNow MOOC this summer!

This summer, I’m participating in KQED’s #TeachDoNow MOOC, though I am just a little bit behind the game. I finally caught up on the week one webcast, and I have been checking out the discussion board on Google+.  Later this summer, the week of August 11, I will cohost a webcast on the idea of “How do you manage learners, tasks, resources, and assessment in a connected learning environment?” There are many things happening in many places with this MOOC, and I am really intrigued how they are using Tagboard as a hub for collecting resources.

So much to think about! This, of course, is both the opportunity and a challenge of social media use in education. For the moment, however, I want to focus on the question of the week: What is the value of social media for your professional learning?

Of all the possible answers to this question that I might consider — such as finding resources that I can use in courses and workshops for preservice and in-service teachers, delving more deeply into the lesson ideas and unit plans of networked colleagues, or simply keeping my finger on the pulse of conversations around education — the biggest value for me, as an educational researcher and teacher educator, is simply making connections with K-12 colleagues.

There are many examples that I could cite, but I will share one that happened just this week. On Wednesday, I was presenting a session about growing your PLN at the Michigan Reading Association‘s summer literacy conference. In my session, one of the participants was an NWP teacher consultant from the Lake Michigan Writing Project, Erica Beaton, whom I hadn’t had a chance to meet in person, though we were connected on Twitter. She acted as a guide and mentor to others in my session as they were learning to use Twitter. I, in turn, then made the choice to attend her session on “creating hype for reading,” and posted numerous resources.

At the end of the session we were talking about possibilities for engaging readers with e-books. Though we only have a few moments, it turned into a lively conversation and Erica offered me an invitation to visit her classroom next school year. What had begun as a collegial, though semi-anonymous relationship on Twitter before the conference quickly blossomed into a new professional connection and, ultimately, will probably result in me visiting her classroom and — who knows? — perhaps even writing an article together or co-facilitating a conference presentation.

This is but one example of how social media contributes to my professional learning, specifically as an educational researcher and teacher educator. I am talking with teachers all the time, and many times those conversations begin on social media and result in sharing coffee or a meal together. As one Michigan colleague, Todd Bloch, recently reminded me, our K-12 colleagues rarely, if ever, actually see university researchers and teacher educators engaged in real conversations with teachers, visiting classrooms and attending the conference sessions. This continues to exacerbate the “ivory tower” divide between educational research and classroom practice, and he was appreciative of the fact that I present at conferences, visit classrooms, write with teachers, and participate in social media.

All of this is to say that social media — to use the popular phrase — “keeps it real” for me as a professor with deep roots in the K-12 classroom. Social media participation is a must for all educators, especially those of us who do educational research and are preparing the next generation of teachers. To do less is a disservice to the educators that we serve and to our own sense of what it means to be a professional.


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2 thoughts on “Social Media, Educational Research, and “Keeping It Real””

  1. It was so great connecting with you at MRA, Troy!

    Thinking about e-books, did you see the recent School Library Journal article “Eight Reasons Why Print Trumps Digital for Reading?” (http://www.slj.com/2014/07/technology/eight-reasons-why-print-trumps-digital-for-reading#_) It offers an interesting perspective on young readers, but I’m curious if adolescents fit within the same bounds. I’d love to know what you think.

    Thank you also for the kind shout-out and pingbacks. 🙂

    Like

  2. Thanks, Erica, for your comments and the link. I always hesitate when I see articles like this that position a technology/literacy as an “either/or” choice rather than a “both/and.” For instance, could the article take the stance that e-readers serve certain purposes and have certain advantages and opportunities, yet in some cases print is better for these purposes? I think that is a much more nuanced argument.

    Moreover, as students grow — both in abilities and interests — I think that we can look at how digital devices do offer choices and options. Rather than seeing distraction as a temptation, I would argue that it is possible to teach mindful reading with digital devices, just as we would teach any other kind of mindful reading practice in print.

    So, I do understand where the article is coming from, though I would have appreciated a different approach. Thanks for sharing and I will be curious to hear more about how your students are using e-readers and digital books in the year ahead!

    Like

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