Summertime Social Media

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Plenty of educators use social media on a regular basis and for a variety of reasons.  It can be helpful for:

  • keeping in contact with parents and students,
  • networking with other educators, and for
  • connecting with local, national, and international organizations.

What many fail to recognize is that social media can be a wonderful tool for taking your teaching beyond the walls of your classroom.  Personally, I enjoy using it for keeping my students engaged on platforms they already frequent.

So how do I plan to use social media during the summer?

While my students are in the process of transitioning from middle to high school, I plan to keep in touch with them through my #56DayVacay almost-daily blogging where I plan to chronicle my summer travels.  Beyond keeping my students up-to-date on my summer, I hope to connect with other like-minded educators and organizations.

I started playing around with this idea back in March when I ventured to Houston, Texas to the annual ASCD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) Conference for three school days.  It was such an amazing experience, however I am not a fan of missing school at all.  So I thought long and hard.  How could I maintain some interactivity with my students in an educational manner so that they were not just swimming in a sea of sub plans in my absence?  I decided to put my teacher Twitter and teacher Instagram accounts to use.

Using the hashtag #WillipediaINHouston, I kept track of photos I took while in Texas.  I then took it a step further.  I asked my students through Instagram and Twitter to offer suggestions of what I should photograph.  They sent me on a scavenger hunt around Houston and for their participation, I offered them extra credit.  What ended up happening was that my students got to experience Houston along with me, but with a silly twist.  I found images of shoes for P.W., a black hole for E.C., and a picture of my principal taking a selfie for a few different students (selfies were the top requests, interestingly enough).  The student -moderated scavenger hunt gave them the opportunity to really engage with me and each other in a creative, real-world relevant manner even though I was away.

Based upon the success of this scavenger hunt, I did it again in May when I left to attend my cousin’s wedding in Jamaica.  Knowing fully well that I would not be inclined to take numerous photos while relaxing at the beach and attending to bridesmaid duties, I changed my tactics.

This time, I announced that I would offer extra credit to those who successfully answered three clues.  Clue #1 asked the students to figure out to what city and country I had traveled.  Clue #2 asked the students to identify for what reason I was traveling.  Finally, clue #3 asked the students to do a little research to identify at what resort I stayed.  It was like a modern-day take on “Where in the World is Carmen SanDiego?”

While not as student-involved as the previous campaign, I did notice that this contest, hosted mainly through my blog, attracted a different group of students.  These students shared their answers in the comments section of each clue.

So how will I use this in the future?

As I mentioned, the summer break is upon us and boy am I excited! (Not that I don’t enjoy the school year, which I do very much.)  This summer I will keep track of my trips using the hashtags #56DayVacay and #WillipediaTravels.  While not connected to any specific task for extra credit, whatever student interaction that arises from this campaign will be a great way to illustrate to next year’s students (and their parents) how social media can be an educational tool as well.  After all, in my current graduate studies, I have been learning about the importance of showing students how to appropriately and effectively use digital resources.  This, paired with (hopefully) more community involvement through social media next year, will continue to bring my school (and its students/teachers/parents) farther into the 21st Century.

Should you opt to do the same with your educational social media accounts let me know how it goes.  I can recommend the following tips:

  1. First, remember to be clear about your focus and goals with your campaign.
  2. Secondly, be sure to drum up some excitement with your classroom community.  This includes students, their parents, and other educators in your building.
  3. Third, keep an open dialogue.  Be sure to respond to to questions and comments.  There’s a reason why it’s called social media after all.
  4. Get creative.  Include interesting factoids, bits of history, or trivia about your destination in your image caption.  Ask your students to solve a riddle.  If you find an interesting car in once city, invite your students to find an interesting car back home and tag you in the picture.  Find an image that relates to a piece of literature that you and your students have read in class.  There is no limit to what you can do to make social media an educational experience.
  5. Lastly, remember to have fun!  Enjoy the process.  Take fun pictures and continue to show your more human side but don’t be tempted to over-share.  This should go without saying, but remember, this is your professional account and represents that aspect of yourself.  When interacting with minors (or really, any student), keep things platonic, respectful, and age-appropriate.  Sometimes students may opt to be a little too friendly or overly-conversational and that’s to be expected.  Just be sure to remember that as an educator, your interactions online are public.  Make sure they work in your favor and not against your ability to maintain your livelihood.

Well, it is time for me to double-check that I have everything I need before I hit the road.

Let the educational adventures continue!

-Ms. Willipedia

The 56-Day Vacay

Leaving on a Jet Plane!

With the end of each school year, teachers everywhere are faced with important and potentially life-changing decisions such as:

  • What will I do this summer?
  • Should I take on a summer job
  • Should I travel?
  • Should I attend a conference (or two, or three)?
  • Should I start planning for the next school year?
  • Is there really anything wrong with doing absolutely nothing for almost fifty days?

Okay, so I am exaggerating a little bit.  We do have the freedom in having such a break to pursue our personal interests or catch up on our Netflix guilty pleasures.

Now, I have just completed my seventh year of teaching.  In the past, I have gone to visit family, hung out with friends, enjoyed my favorite summer sports of golf and tennis, and attended grad school.  I realized about a year and a half ago that I wanted a little more.  I wanted more of a sense of adventure.  I wanted to spend my summer break traveling.

This year, I am making that plan a reality.

With friends in a variety of places around this great nation, I booked my airplane tickets, and am excited about the adventures to come.  Follow me as I traipse around the country on what I am affectionately calling the “Ms. Willipedia U.S. Tour 2015” through the hashtags #56DayVacay and #WillipediaTravels on Instagram and Twitter.  I have challenged myself to post at least one picture daily and to log my longer-form observations and anecdotes here.  With only two days left of post-planning (the days after the kids leave that we teachers still have to work), I have been packing my bag in preparation for my first trip destination: Miami!

Stay tuned!  This summer is shaping up to be one full of many fantastic adventures.

See you on “the ‘gram” or “the Twitters”!

-Ms. Willipedia

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