Five Lessons, continued

In my previous post, I talked about two of the five lessons of using social media in my classroom. Today, I’m going to tackle lesson three: Integrate Tightly.

Of all five lessons, this is probably the most important, and it’s one I’ve learned over the past few years, particularly with the use of Diigo, the social bookmarking tool.

My goal with using Diigo was to provide a place for students to share resources related to course content. As someone immersed in the content myself, I made the assumption that my students would be equally immersed, spending time going beyond the readings and activities to tap into the wealth of resources on the Internet related to the ever changing field of educational technology. For the first semester or two, I did not make any quantitative assignment related to Diigo but asked them to share resources. As you might imagine, few got shared.

My next step was to make a quantitative assignment, asking students to share at least three resources related to the weekly topic. It worked a little better but had an inauthentic feel. Many students simply waited until the night before the end of the week and posted the first three sites that came up on a Google search. There was no annotation, interaction or discussion.

I had the most success when I tied Diigo use to specific assignments. For instance, in the early weeks of the course, students create a webpage related to the history of educational technology. Before they dive into the page, they research and share resources via Diigo. This use of Diigo seemed to make more sense to them and thus led to more activity.

This semester, however, I have changed the sharing piece of the assignment. I am teaching two versions of the course for two different universities. I wanted a place where they could share but also experience opportunities for discussion and collaboration that go beyond Diigo. So, I set up a Google Plus community and have substituted it for the various places where I had used Diigo in the past.

I continue to use Diigo but as an optional tool. I kept the groups from the last time I taught the course and offer students the opportunity to join. A few will use it to share; mostly, I use it to post additional resources. It has become a great repository of course-related resources, my 21st century bibliography.

In addition to Google Plus, I’m using Twitter and Feedly. These are both part of my Professional Learning Network assignment. My goal is for them to make connections with the larger community of school leaders with the hope that it will continue even past the course. Learning from my lesson with Diigo, I realized I needed to make these tools an integral part of the course, so crafted a semester long assignment around them. Students are asked to reflect on their progress several times over the course of the class; at the end, they create a multimedia report about what they learned. The assignment does not have any quantitative component, which can be difficult for students, but I try to provide as much support as possible and that will be the topic of tomorrow’s post.

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