Friday, July 16, 2010

How Far Will You Go To "Connect" With Your Students?

The tweet pictured above struck me as ironic when one of our students (Melanie) asked me on twitter how close we are to connecting with our students through social networking.  I wanted to respond, "You and I are doing it right now."

Here is how I responded -

I think this what Melanie was getting at. The question was more about when she could expect a majority of teachers to start using social media to connect with students.  This is where I was left without  a clear answer.  Instead all I can do is ask a question to all of the teachers out there.

How far will you go to connect with your students? 

In reality, maybe connect is a word that will scare some people off when we are using it alongside social media.   (A quick aside - It is painful to me how carefully we have to choose our words when we are talking about this stuff.  Why is it so hard to give something new a shot when it could allow you to get more students engaged?)

Because student engagement is what we are really talking about here and not social media or technology or anything else.  I strongly believe that passionate teachers will try new tools (whatever they are) to increase student engagement.  While I know that we are inclined to talk about the worst case scenarios when it comes to social media and delving into this with students, I also know that there are plenty of people who have utilized social media in a structured and appropriate manner to engage their students.

While integrating this stuff will no longer make you a pioneer, it will still remove you from the category of mainstream teacher.  But again who cares how people categorize you when we are talking about students and their level of engagement?

Here are a few links that may be helpful:

Teachers Guide To Using Facebook 
100 Ways You Should Be Using Facebook In Your Classroom
Backchannel in Education - Nine Uses
Top 5 Ways To Use Twitter In The Classroom 
Nine Great Reasons Why Teachers Should Use Twitter


  1. It's great to see that students are reading the Principal's Blog over the summer. Great inquiry, Melanie. I always encourage my students and their parents to read the blogs daily. Melanie, there are a number of us teachers who are going for training this summer in the various genres of tech for the classroom. Like you, we're life-long learners and wish to invest our time and energies into maximizing our student learning. Thank you, Melanie, for taking the time to read, inquire and respond. We truly care about our students.

  2. Using "new" technology (including social networking) should most definitely be used to keep everyone (including teachers/students)connected and engaged, but it is all about keeping it professional. You can't be the same kind of "social" with your buddies that you are with your teacher or co-worker or boss. Connections on a social network are different between different people ... just like real life. As long as expectations are set ... social networks can enhance education greatly!!

  3. Not only that, it encourages (not quite the right word) value in the eyes of students for their teachers. If you are the messenger/communicator/facilitator, and the receiver perceives value in you, the value will be transferred to your message.

    More ideas here:

  4. When the schools start allowing and encouraging teachers to "connect" with students using social media instead of providing "guidance" that it is not appropriate due to potential liability issues, then I think more teachers will really try to use social media to connect with students.

    Also I liked Chris Lehman's response that I read today about if someone posted a picture of him with a glass of wine in his hand. "Get over it, I am a 39 year old guy who can drink legally and responsibly (paraphrased)"...when leadership takes that view of what may be posted online accidently, then more teachers will use social media with their students.

    Until then I will continue to use my friend/follow policy which becomes more progressives with each update. :)


  5. As other readers commented, being connected and engaged are so important in the classroom and social media is a fantastic tool available to teachers to extend learning beyond the classroom. The more teachers and administrators model effective use of social media the more students will learn about digital responsibility. Our connections with students are at times the most powerful form of motivation. It only makes sense to harness this power and meet students on their level as much as possible. Great post Patrick!

  6. nice post and comments. thank you.

    this is no small topic. connecting makes or breaks learning - esp in a public school setting. my current view... learning is social - if connections aren't made.. they will be made elsewhere. very cool for everyone if it's the teacher that is connecting in places natural and most used by kids. (@deangroom just tweeted this insightful article by Michael Felstein

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. Thanks for all of the comments. I think Eric's point about modeling is huge. Not only do we need to show students constructive uses for these great tools to engage students, we also have to model appropriate use and reinforce the importance of maintaining a digital footprint that is something that we are proud of. As Monika says, "if connections aren't made...they will be made elsewhere."

    Thanks also Harold for the great quote from Chris Lehmann about the fact that we are sometimes overly cautious and because of this we go into lockdown mode and cast aside so many useful tools to engage our students, teachers, and communities.

  9. May I just add that I was talking with my uncle last night about using tech in the classroom. He has been a professional musician for the past 65 years. He is very knowledgeable in his field. As you all know, I still consider myself a novice in the world of tech, but I am willing to get my feet wet and learn more. I explained to my uncle that I took a very basic vocab lesson on body parts and had the students use tech to illustrate the vocab. I told them that the theme was "motion". They had to get into groups and illustrate the vocab. I am very grateful that BHS allows You Tube in the classroom. Well, the students got really creative. One group practiced a dance, the Macrarena and managed to find the song using their Ipods and also using You Tube on the classroom. They demonstrated the dance using the body parts , translating the some verses in French, all accompanied by the You Tube song. Another group did aerobics.Another group tried "The Cotton-Eye Joe" I was impressed. That was the day when one group actually gave me my first lesson on the Ipad. It was so rewarding seeing the students have fun with tech and actually getting into the lesson.I was humbled as I saw how much I depended upon them because of my limited knowledge of tech. But, you know, I was grateful that they helped me and encouraged me. In August, I'll be taking a course at Northeastern Univ. on Using Technology in the Foreign Language Classroom. I'm excited that this course is geared specifically to my discipline.

  10. Susan - Your willingness to embrace new tools that can engage your students is tremendous. You are a wonderful role model! In addition I commend you for giving up control and learning with your students. When we get away from the model where the teacher has to always lead and move to a model where we all consider ourselves part of a community of learners we will be on the right track!

  11. What a great post. Thank you for writing what I think but struggle to articulate!
    I use social networking with my students on many levels and find it just another (very useful) way of communicating with them. So often though, I find myself in a defensive position with other teachers and administrators who see me as some sort of radical and unprofessional renegade. Just today I was asked, "What sort of teacher liases with young people on facebook?" I found the question astounding, confronting, offensive and ignorant.I don't liase with my students on facebook anymore than I liase with them in the classroom. I talk to them, share jokes with them, collaborate on work with them and I model the sort of behaviour I hope leads to leaving a positive digital footprint.
    Thankfully the parents of the students I communicate with via Facebook and Twitter often tell me how pleased and grateful they are that their children can connect with their teachers in this way and that they feel much safer knowing there is an adult presence in their online environment.

  12. I am not specifically commenting on the use of social media but on the accessbility of teachers via technology beyond the school hours. I have been apprised that many Lexington middle school and high school teachers make virtual office hours using live online chat with students in the early evening on a weekly basis to answer questions reqarding upcoming tests and ongoing homework/class assignments. This is a wonderful model.