Someone laughed at me the other day. Two consultants sent by the Ministry of Education were interviewing several of us about technology, infrastructure, and personalized learning (whatever that means—although I do note they were asking us to define it). I made a statement about Social Media and a colleague jokingly mocked me for my expertise given that I have been on Twitter since April 26th. That’s almost two months and I think it should count for something! However, now I want to set the record straight. I am not quite the neophyte that everyone assumes. Since I’m desperately trying to catch up, I stumbled on this historical fact in The Social Media Marketing Book (selected by me for its short text and many graphics). Social networking began in the mid-eighties with the introduction of electronic bulletin board systems (BBS). And that’s when I remembered. I was in my first or second year of teaching at D.W. Poppy Secondary when I hooked up my Social Studies 9 class with a class from Prince of Wales Secondary. Our students were engaged in an electronic discussion. And even back then, I remember that challenge of trying to design questions to encourage student thinking rather than a frivolous exchange of information. The Prince of Wales teacher at the time was doing some very innovative things and, I believe, went on to win what might have been a Premier’s Teacher of Excellence award.
Here we are almost two decades later (yes, I’m dating myself) and it is interesting how sophisticated Social Networking has become. Twitter is totally different that the BBS I remember. No amber text on a black background. The flexibility and ease of use is remarkable. I like how I can choose to retrieve the information most relevant to me. It is only recently that I have found Twitter to be of any value. I feel like I have scored when I find a link that takes me to a really provocative read. I want my thinking stretched. It is becoming, for me, a form of professional development. It is about my learning.
And, I suppose, that’s it. It’s about the learning: for me, for teachers, and for students. And just like two decades ago, it can be a frivolous exchange or a chance to sharpen our thinking. So it’s about the thinking too. It’s all in how we, as educators, take advantage of it. The back cover on the book encourages the reader to take “advantage of social media for your business or organization.” How do we harness it for schools and for students? I know teachers are using it—I’ve read about it on Twitter and in blogs. Perhaps, it’s really about busting down the schoolhouse doors. Whether it’s Twitter or some other form of Social Media, we can market it for our own purposes. So the learning can take place anywhere, any time, any place.