Monday, October 4, 2010

Social Media Benefits

As I read Melanie Holtsman's blog post, Are You Ready For a Challenge, I decided that it would be a good opportunity to share some thoughts that have been developing over the last few months and years. This particular post is a result of a message I saw as part of my Microcomputers for Administration course. We are practicing using Twitter. The teacher posted this tweet: "Communicating & Connecting with Social Media: What's your experience?"

The Beginnings
I have been communicating with other educators through social media since 2007. It all started with a message through Wikispaces. I was searching for resources to teach middle school math when I found Chris Harbeck's room17math wiki. I sent him a message through Wikispaces mail. The answer I received showed me a wealth of learning I never knew existed. 
"I was lucky enough to take a course with Vicki Davis "" during the k12online conference.

Wiki's are great and Wikispaces is very easy to use. Have the kids create a login name first and create an account. This way you can restrict your wiki to Wikispace members. I did not do this and I had many students login as guest and I did not know who was editing the pages.

Creating a wiki is easy for the students. A problem is uploading pictures. My students had many files that were similarly named. If you were to have many students use one wiki as I did I would create a system for naming pictures and files. I would use a roomnumber, then name as an example.

I have a generic form letter that the division sends home at the beginning of the year. I have all my parents participate on the class blog with their students to see what they are doing so I do not send home extra notes.

If you need a sample I can find some that I have used in the past.

One of the reasons for success is that this is the second year for these students using these tools. They are comfortable playing in the 2.0 environment.

A great place to start is at Women of Web 2.0 They have a chat every Tuesday at 9:00 est on Worldbridges ( They are an excellent source of knowledge. I will be a guest next week. They also have a website

If this is not enough please email at ...".
This Led To...
Creating Wikis which led to fabulous work for my students with other students around the world including the Monster Project I do with Anna Baralt.

...which led to writing a K12 Online Conference presentation "Monsters Bloom in Our Wiki"
...which led to me leading a session at EdCamp Philly on Primary Collaborations

...which led to me volunteering to help organize EdCamp NYC, create the website for EdCamp NYC, and manage the TicketLeap account for the event.

...which led to countless other wiki collaborations such as 1001 Flat Tales (2008 and 2009) with Jeff Whipple as my co-lead, @manyvoices, Math Connections, Winter Wonderland, and What Could It Mean. All these collaborations led to interesting work for my students.

...which led to Voicethread collaborations between my school and a school in Canada.

...and led to Skype calls between my classes and classrooms in Australia, Canada, and many classrooms in the United States. I've now had the privilege of helping other teachers outside my building use Skype for the first time.

Listening to Women of the Web 2.0 led me to eventually feeling comfortable to participate in the chat.

...which led me to starting a Twitter account and learning to not feel shy about following people who lead in education and more specifically education technology.

...which led me to starting a blog to keep track of my path through my work on projects.

...which led me to conversations with Kevin Jarrett.

...which led me to attend Students and Electronic Media: Teaching in the Electronic Age at Princeton.

...which led me to having dinner with Vicki Davis, Kathy Schrock, Janis Jenson, and Nancy Willard.

...which is leading me to a complementary admission to Tech Forum NE at the end of the month (thank you Kathy).

...which led me to conversations with Lisa Parisi.

...which led my students and I to working with Lisa's students on the first Time Zone Experiences wiki.

...which led me to attend the Celebration of Teaching and Learning through complementary tickets as a result of the Time Zone project being selected as a winner in the multimedia category.

...which led me to hearing Sir Ken Robinson, Alan Alda, Governor Patterson, Eric Schmidt, Charlie Rose, Danica McKeller, and Temple Grandin in person.

...which led me to share a hotel room with Lisa, Christine Southard, and Karen Janowski.

...which led me to learning about the UDL Toolkit.

...which led me to Dragon Dictation app to help a student.

Meeting Kevin led me to finding the Kean University fall conference.

...which led me hearing Lucy Gray, Marco Torres, Will Richardson, Michael Furdyk, Milton Chen, Lainie Rowell, Peggy Sheehey.

...which led to amazing projects for my students with Garageband, geocaching, using Diigo, and thinking about how students can Take IT Global.

...which led to learning about the Creating 21st Century Schools program through Kean.

...which led to spending two days with Alan November for free through the state.

...which led to other teachers in my building attending free programs through Creating 21st Century schools.

Meeting Kevin led me to learning about his experience at Barcamp Philly.

...which led me to attend EdCamp Philly and ntcamp.

...which led me to enjoying informal conversations with Joyce Valenza and David Jakes and time in a session they both led.

...which led to me leading a session at ntcamp on Free Learning and Inspiration at Home.

Sharing with people on Twitter has expanded what I find, learn, and experience.

...which led me to @riptidefurse whose tweets eventually led me to Win a Wireless Tablet Lab through CDWG and Discovery Education worth $50,000 to the school.

...which led me to amazing free and open source software to save me further money at school while supplying the teachers and students with resources to build projects.

...which led me to learning how to use the Promethean Board so I could eventually teach the teachers in my building.

...which led me to listening to @betchaboy (Chris Betcher) lead a webinar, reading his book, and conversing online. He has generously volunteered to Skype in to talk with the teachers in my building.

...which led me to conversations with @plugusin (Bill Ferriter), reading his book, and writing a review. He has generously volunteered to Skype in to talk with the teachers in my building, too.
...which led me to teaching a graduate level course over the last few years at the local alternate route program about technology in education.

...which led me to volunteer to help other teachers by judging a horizon project for Viki Davis and Alice in Wonderland project for Christian Long and their students at the high school level.

...which led me to volunteer to help as a lead wiki curator for the 2010 Global Education conference.

The benefits involve technology for my school, many hundreds of dollars in free conferences, access to the best minds in education, and opportunities. I feel that I give back as much as I receive. I don't want to go back to life before social media because I know that my program at school, my ability to provide help and learning to the teachers and students at school, and a more focused and broad perspective on education in general would be hurt.

I've read books at other people's suggestion that I would not have previously such as Made To Stick and Switch by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, and A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink. I have Linchpin by Seth Godin and Brain Rules by John Medina sitting by my bed and I continue to pick up The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman.

I enjoy getting out to meet other educators. Whether it's offering to spend time in New York City with a teacher visiting from Australia (as I did with Jenny Luca last year) or meeting interesting people at conferences, I've learned to expand my comfort zone.

I still haven't had a chance to attend ISTE's conference. I thought I would this year since it's in Philly, but now I have graduate class all that week in 2011. I just signed up for Educon 2.3 today. 

With 232 posts on this website, I still have more to learn and share.

Photos via Ann Oro (with the help of a member of the wait staff at a restaurant and a friend's daughter on my camera).


  1. Isn't it amazing how we've all met and learned from each other? Sometimes I have trouble remembering if I've met someone in person or only virtually because I feel like I already know them so well! I loved reading your story, so much like mine, which reminds me of "When You Give a Mouse a Cookie" by Laura Numeroff. One thing leads to another thing that leads to that other thing.... :) What amazes me most about virtual connections and learning partners is that you are able to always learn and do more than you could have ever even imagined. Thanks for joining the challenge!

  2. You're right, it is like the book. I really have gained so much from my online colleagues. Your challenge came at the right time for me. I write so many of these posts for myself to come back to year after year. I get disappointed when I come to my blog to search for something and realize I never wrote it up.

    I finally signed up for Educon in Philly in 2011. I'm looking forward to meeting many people in person for the first time. What I like about it is that we already have a background with each other. I'm looking forward to meeting you some day. Thanks for the comment.