Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Article Review #3: A "SIMPLE" Model

Huffman, S. (2013). Benefits and pitfalls: Simple guidelines for the use of social networking tools in k-12 education.  Education, 134, 154-160.

     In the article, Benefits and Pitfalls: Simple Guidelines for the Use of Social Networking Tools in K-12 Education, Huffman (20 13) not only examines the advantages and disadvantages of social networking tools, but also discuss how districts can plan effectively for such tools.  This includes taking a look at professional development and the role of teacher preparation programs.

     Huffman states, “Social networking tools provide ample opportunities for children and young adults to explore ones boundaries of self through presentation of self, learning, building relationships, exposure to other diverse groups and perspectives and the self management of privacy and intimacy” (as citied by Livingston & Blake, 2010). In other words, social networking tools are a benefit because they allow individuals to discover who they are.  In addition, these tools allow students to extend learning beyond the traditional classroom setting.  Some disadvantages highlighted include teacher and students sharing private information and cyber bullying.

     Huffman (2013) presents the SIMPLE Model as a plan for using social networking tools in school districts.  There are six components to this plan:
1.  Student/staff assessment – knowing the skills that already exist among teachers and students will allow for proper training;
2.  Inventory – a complete inventory of existing resources will allow for availability of technology resources;
3.  Measurement – assessing current and future needs of the district in regards to new technologies and a standards aligned curriculum will aid with technology training;
4.  Planning – with any tool, teachers should use a professional account with students and parents and all safety features should be used;
5.  Leadership – teachers use social networking tools and have continued professional development in order to grow as a professional;
6.  Evaluation – assessing after each planning cycle will allow for new needs with technology to be met.

     What role do teacher preparation programs play?  Huffman (2013) states, “Having a basic set of skills in crucial for all educational leaders and classroom teachers” (p.159). Teachers, both future and present, must be up to date with current technology tools in order to benefit student learning and growth.

     It is evident that school districts must protect their teachers and students from the pitfalls of social networking tools.  A plan should be put in place at the district level to ensure cyber safety.  The SIMPLE Model provides sound guidelines to aid in the development of that plan.  Technology in education is not going to disappear; in fact, it is becoming a necessity more than ever.  As technology continues to evolve, so should educators.  That is, districts must continue to educate both teachers and students about these new technologies and how to protect themselves from social networking tools.

Article Review #2: Professional Learning Networks

Trust, T. (2012).  Professional learning networks designed for teacher learning.  Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education, 28, 133-138.

     In the article, Professional Learning Networks Designed for Teacher Learning, Trust (2012) defines a professional learning network (PLN) as “a system of interpersonal connections and resources that support informal learning” (p. 133).  Trust presents two types of PLNs.  The first is information aggregation, where educators are able to stay current on new information by following numerous websites and news sources through RSS feeds.  The second type of PLN is social media connections, where teachers use social media tools to network with people worldwide.  Such tools include Facebook Twitter, Wikispaces, and Skype.  Trust states, “PLNs transform the paradigm of the isolated teacher who shows minimal professional growth into a lifelong learner who grows and shares expertise with others in his or her network” (p. 134).  In this way, educators grow and evolve through collaboration with their peers.

     Trust (2012) highlights three popular professional learning networks: Classroom 2.0, Edmodo and The Educators PLN.  Of the three, Edmodo is the most popular PLN.  Teacher benefits include joining subject communities where resources can be shared, questions can be asked, and ideas can be presented.  All of the posts from communities joined are sent to an RSS feed right on the member’s profile page so they have up to date information.  In addition, teachers also can create a cyber-safe group page for their students.  This is where items such as assignments, posts, quizzes, and uploaded files can be posted.  Students too can take part in a learning network through the use of Edmodo.   

     Trust (2012) finally presents the key reasons teachers are using professional learning networks.  These include collaboration, availability of resources, and the ability to get ideas and feedback from educational peers.  According to Trust, “Only teachers who are continual learners that work to improve their practice, skills, and instructional strategies can successfully help others learn” (p. 138).  PLNs can support a community of teachers which in the end will benefit our community of young learners.

     It is obvious that professional learning networks are changing the face education.  Never before were educators able to collaborate and share items, such as unit ideas and lesson plans, so quickly.  To put it simply, PLNs like Edmodo have made the field of education more efficient.  From professional development to learning new technologies, PLNs offer a gamut of possibilities to teachers and, in turn, students.  Most importantly though, professional learning networks are fostering a collaborative community where teachers around the world are sharing their experiences in order to benefit student learning and growth.  

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Article Review #1: Building a Bridge

Chen, B., & Bryer, T. (2012).  Investigating instructional strategies for using social media in formal and informal learning.  The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 13, 87-104.

     In Investigating Instructional Strategies for Using Social Media in Formal and Informal Learning, Chen and Bryer (2012) researched how educators use social media to connect formal and informal learning and allow students to connect to educational experiences in new and meaningful ways.  Research conducted by Banks and his team found that as students progress to high school and beyond, informal learning becomes more important because “learners acquire knowledge as a function of interactions between connected partners” (as cited in Chen and Bryer, 2012, p.89).  In other words, learning is a collaborative effort.  The goal of the study was to investigate how educators could use social media technologies to support the bridge between these two types of learning.

Chen and Bryer (2012) developed three guiding question for their research:
I.     What social media tools do public administration use and why?
II.    What instructional strategies do public administration faculty use to integrate social media in formal learning?
III.   What concerns do faculty have regarding the use of social media for teaching and what strategies do they have for mitigating these concerns? (p. 91)

     The participants of this study included eight educators from various universities across the United States.  They participated in telephone interviews regarding their experiences using social media in teaching.  The interviews were conducted so that all participants were asked the same questions to ensure sound qualitative data.

     Chen and Bryer (2012) found that all the participants used social media for personal and professional purposes.  The participants saw added learning advantages and encouraged student participation for the sake of social connecting and learning, yet they were still cautious about the use of these tools for entertainment.  Social media tools used by the participants included blogs, YouTube, Facebook, and LinkedIn.  Discussions and collaborations were the strategies that most participants used by taking advantage of Web 2.o technologies; furthermore, they also voiced the need for clear instructional goals when using social media tools.  The major concerns communicated by the interviewees were internet safety and privacy concerns, and they perceived there was a need for implementing clear institutional guidelines on the use of social media.

     Chen and Bryer (2012) stated “social media provides them [educators]with the ability to break limitations with course management systems, enables innovative and collaborative interactions, connects text book knowledge to real-world problems, and facilitates personalized constructive learning” (p. 97).  Students are learning in a world that uses a cutting edge form of communication and collaboration.  Educators need to question themselves, is a formal traditional learning environment most effective to support 21st century learners?  Or do educators at all levels use that bridge of social media to create educational opportunities where informal learning can be supported?   It is clear that social media is a means to liven educational experiences by allowing students and educators to connect and collaborate in new and meaningful ways.