This year I have jumped on board the social media train. Previously I was fairly ambivalent towards twitter, blogging, personal websites, instagram and other social media forums (and quite frankly negative about facebook). It’s fair to say that I had an epiphany and have become something of a social media evangelist. It started with a solid 6 months of lurking on twitter, a few forays into instagramming and reading the occasional blog. Gradually, almost without me making a conscious decision to do so, lurking became the occasional retweet, then the odd response to a question, question of my own, and before I knew it I was setting up a rotation curation account for educators in Australia (if you don’t already follow it it’s called @EduTweetOz, just hit 2000 followers, we’re very excited) and writing my own blog.
How did this happen? Or perhaps more importantly why?
The short answer is learning. I am by nature a learner, for me social media is like an enormous classroom in the best possible sense. I choose what I want to learn by who I follow and what links I open. I choose how to learn: reading articles, asking questions, engaging in conversations and I choose when I learn; a time and pace that suits me. The biggest shift for me has been realising the importance of sharing. Sharing my opinion, my ideas and my own learning has been an incredibly powerful learning experience. It helps me to clarify my ideas, 140 characters is a great motivator for succinctness. It is an opportunity to reflect in the context of a real question, issue or someone else’s ideas. At times it forces me to defend my beliefs and even, at times, change them. I’m not just sharing what I learn but the very act of sharing helps me to learn.
Watching the Grade 1and 2 students in my class draft, refine and redraft a tweet about their learning for our class twitter account reinforces this even further. There’s no shortage of volunteers to tweet about what they learnt in a lesson and they rise admirably to the challenge of getting the main points across in 140 characters. Sharing this tweet with the rest of the class provokes further discussion as other students have different ideas about what happened in the lesson and, in sharing them, the understanding of the class is refined and improved.
There are the obvious benefits of social media: connecting with learners around the word, access to information, ideas and viewpoints and then there’s the value of sharing. Sharing as part of the learning process, not as an end result in itself of some finished product but as an opportunity to reflect, to challenge and to change.
In the spirit of this, I would really appreciate your thoughts. Does sharing help you learn or is it sending out your thoughts into the universe? What does social media bring to your practice and learning? What else do you do for yourself and your students that uses sharing as learning not of learning?