Thursday, January 8, 2015

Using Social Media for Yourself and Your Students

Everyday in America, students and teachers alike sit through many lectures racing to keep up with the information that is being presented in order to have complete notes. In the process, you are only hearing every third word and are missing key concepts that are being shared. How many of you have left PD sessions with hand cramps? Think about how your students feel!

There is an answer to this problem that can be found in the use of social media. Through tools such as Twitter, note taking becomes an interactive activity rather than a menial task of writing fast. “Now wait” you say, “Twitter is blocked in my district”. No worries, I have you covered. Social media does not always have to be Twitter and Facebook. Any time that you can use a site to interact with each other, you are using a social media tool. Sites such as, and allow you similar functions as Twitter in terms of communicating with others.

Let’s take This site is designed for you to be able to have a chat about the topic of a meeting or lecture without disrupting the presenter. It allows you to have dialogue about the information being presented and enhance the content in your own way. So instead of having to take all of the notes for the session, you share an interactive space with others in the room who are also taking notes and providing commentary. The best part is that these notes can be printed as a transcript after the end of the meeting as a summary of the session. Participating in this type of activity is considered being part of the “back channel.” At the MACUL conference every year, there is a dedicated back channel that is always bursting with information… look it up!

I would be remiss if I did not talk about the use of Twitter in the same fashion. By simply using hashtags (i.e. #macul15 or #miched) you can participate in collaborative note taking in a more public forum. Personally, I have used this technique to attend many conferences from the comfort of my couch! Rather than worrying about missing a session or lecture, you can find comfort that the 5 people who are back channeling the session will provide you with the information that you would have gained had you been in that room.

How does this work with students? Have them do a TodaysMeet room during a lecture for your class, or while they are researching a topic. This collaborative gathering of the minds is the basis for the need of social media. Your students will gain more from this activity than if they had to take paper notes (the old fashioned way). Additionally, they will be very comfortable with the idea of interacting around a topic as they do it all the time on Facebook. This also gives you a way to go back and see what they found important and any misconceptions that may have occurred.

Take some time and try to join in the social world of collaborative note taking. I promise you will create a back channel for everything you attend, and will have your students wanting to do the same thing.

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