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Using Social On-Line Networks in Teaching and/or Professional Development

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By Ana Kawenga

Using social online networks in teaching and/or professional development

How much have I utilised the social media in my teaching practice? In what way?

“Cyber-enabled interactions foster the development of weak ties. Weak ties are important for bringing in new ideas and connecting people so that information can travel through a network” (Schlager, Farooq, Fusco, Schank, & Dwyer, (2009).

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Social media has become more important to me in my teaching practice because it allows me to connect, collaborate, professionally develop and form professional relationships.  Most importantly it provides a ray of opportunities and curiosities towards student learning.  “Digital is where students are at” according to Tvoparents (2013) referring to students living in, what I like to call the ‘wondrous’ world of the internet. Therefore, I want to create a learning environment that is student-centered, rich in context with authentic tasks that is meaningful for my students.

I am currently in the beginning stages of using student blogs as a means to enhance student agency in the classroom as “technology presents new opportunities for drawing out and leveraging student agency” (Corbett, Koedinger, & Anderson, 1997, in Lindgren & McDaniel, 2012 cited in Gerstein, 2013 p.1). The benefits my students would gain is the opportunity to share their work, thoughts, ideas and opinions with their parents/whanau, community and like-minded people.  However, I did face some challenges, prior and during the process of using social media with my students.

The challenges of utilising social media in my teaching practice?

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My professional development in on-line learning is constrained by the operational budgets at my school.  Due to lack of or no funding, I have had to source and fund my own professional development.  As a result I am actively utilising the use of the VLN (Virtual Learning Network) social network site and Mindlab (pioneer in digital and collaborative learning) as effective education tools in my professional learning.  VLN and Mindlab has allowed me to engage in professional discussions, to seek out specific digital themes, to share ideas and resources, to blog and to collaborative with others world-wide.

Teachers will only embrace social network sites if there is evidence that they are effective (Dwyer et al. 2009 cited in Melhuish, 2013)

Another issue I am currently working on is establishing a safeguard around what and how on-line social media is used with my students. The New Teachers Council (2012) deliberates on the importance of establishing a clear purpose of social media used in one’s practice. They go on to say that, teachers need to reflect on the purpose, the benefits, and ways in using the technology to communicate with young people.  Communicating with others’ in my school including the community is another approach, I am working towards to ensure the use of the social networks is used in a safe manner.   

How I Use social media to support my engagement with the professional development?

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Being active on social media whether it is via face-book, twitter, google+, VLN and so forth has allowed me to engage, collaborate, converse, learn, seek information and develop a deeper knowledge in my own professional learning.  Such communities have created opportunities, for me to “produce something of value that is then accessed by another person, as enabled by the socio-technical network” Dwyer et al. 2009 p.16 cited in Melhuish). In doing so, others like myself, have benefited and have been exposed to the range of educational programs that are user-friendly and add value to ones’ own personal growth.   

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Gerstein, J. (2013). Learner Agency, Technology, and Emotional Intelligence. Retrieved from https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/learner-agency-technology-and-emotional-intelligence/

New Zealand Teachers Council. (2012). Establishing safeguards.[video file]. Retrieved fromhttps://vimeo.com/49216520

Schlager, M., Farooq, U., Fusco, J., Schank, P. & Dwyer, N. (2009). Analysing Online Teacher Networks: Cyber Networks Require Cyber Research Tools. Journal of Teacher Education, 60(1), 86-100.

Source: p. 36-44 in Chapter 3 of Melhuish, K. (2013). Online social networking and its impact on New Zealand educators ‘professional learning. Master Thesis. The University of Waikato. Retrieved on 05 May, 2015 fromhttp://researchcommons.waikato.ac.nz/bitstream/handle/10289/8482/thesis.pdf?sequence=3&isAllowed=y

Tvoparents. (2013, May 21). Using Social Media in the Classroom.[video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=riZStaz8Rno