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Archive for the ‘Social Media’ Category

This weekend, I had the exhausting pleasure of attending Educon 2.3 at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia.  The first class that I was privileged to participate in was “Crafting Character” led by Karen Blumberg and Meredith Stewart.  Here, the conversation focused on educating students about acceptable behavior online and the implications that mistakes can have in the future.  As a librarian, this issue is certainly not a new one.  We have revised our Acceptable Use Policy with an awareness of the impact of a student’s behavior online, although postings take place after school hours.  We have dealt with the issue by including any derogatory postings about our students, faculty, or school online as falling under the “harassment” section of our disciplinary policy.  I think our AUP has become a fluid document, that is revised and revisted as situations occur.  With this document, and a library curriculum that taught students about protecting themselves online, acceptable behavior, and future consequences of improper behavior, I thought that I was preparing them for the future.

But, as the discussion progressed, it took a turn I had blindly not foreseen.  We discussed taking a more proactive stance by helping students craft a positive digital footprint.  Someone suggested flooding online sources with positive information about oneself in order to subordinate the inappropriate or unflattering information that may already exist in searches.   I had not considered attacking the issue from the other side, from a more upbeat action-oriented way, giving the students the power to take charge of their online persona.  While concentrating on “don’t do this,”  I missed “do that.”  Thanks to all the participants in the class who helped me open my eyes and see that thinking forward  is much better than looking backward.

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This morning, I read a great blog post  by Michael Smith entitled “Believing You Are Great Leaves Very Little Room for Improvement.”  In it, Smith asserts that teachers’ unwillingness to change may in fact be due to a belief in the excellence of their methods, lessons, colleagues, and the school program/curriculum  itself.  I thought this was an interesting take on the situation, as I had seen the problem more as a lack of desire to change, and satisfaction with the status quo.  But when you think of a school as a microcosm, where the community is often small and closed, you can easily understand how the ideas and myths perpetrated there could come to be accepted as truth over time.  The characteristics of the faculty, students, and parents remain fairly static.  So, thoughout the years, feedback and comments may also remain the same.  In addition, because the community is fairly closed, exposure to the methodology of others outside the school is fairly uncommon.  This leads to a misconception: that something we’ve done in the past considered excellent, continues to be excellent forever.    The problems is, that as time passes, our expectations and standards should evolve.  Lessons applauded ten years ago cannot be assumed to be excellent today.

This is where social media comes in.  In order for teachers to be able to see excellence in an unbiased way, they must reevaluate their lessons in light of the work of other educators.   They need to see and hear what other teachers are doing in their classrooms, and become familiar with the tools that they too can use.  Because for most of us, attendance at multiple conferences each year is a financial impossiblity, teachers should take advantage of the free information on the web.  Using Twitter and blog posts, for example, can greatly increase exposure to worlds outside our school walls.  Information from others can help us reevaluate our plans to best serve the students.  What new sources and tools exist that can create a more authentic learning experience?  Constructive criticism is available from well-respected peers, if we’re open to have others look at our plans.  Teachers have at their fingertips a wealth of information that can lead to the develop of truly excellent lessons, if they’re only willing to try.  Educators can go on assuming that what they’re doing is excellent, or they can take a brave step into the world of information and evaluation to see their lessons as others would.  After all, how can we assume academic excellence if we’re unaware of what is possible?

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