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Teachers: Are You a Social (Media) Wallflower?

Blogger, tweeter and teacher Michelle Baldwin wants other teachers to know you are the social media rock star you’ve been looking for. In fact, Baldwin argues, teachers owe it to their students and to other students to be active on social media.

Over the summer conference season, Baldwin said she heard far too often from other teachers who said they were afraid to talk to this or that person because they were a “rock star.”

In a recent blog post at http://avenue4learning.com, Baldwin sounded off on the issue. She ended her conversation with us on the idea of social media rock stars with this idea:

“Look,” she said, “you are doing amazing things in your classroom. Sharing those experiences makes you someone else’s rock star. Those teachers you look up to are just like you. Approach them, share ideas, make them better, too.”

As a former technology specialist and now an elementary school teacher at Anastasis Academy near Denver, Colo., she’s lived the social media challenge, first rejecting and then adopting Twitter, where she now has nearly 7,000 followers.

Here’s how she believes Twitter and other social media tools can change students’ lives:

What You Owe Your Students on Social Media:

1. Brag about your class. This is great way, Baldwin said, for shy teachers to find their social media voice, or to at least get used to talking about their successes in the classroom. Because, she added, they aren’t really the teacher’s successes but the class’s success, after all.

“I bet you do have things to share,” Baldwin said. “Teachers can brag on their kids all day.”

Once class stories are online, there is a real benefit to teachers bragging on their students. Those teachers are promoting their classes, as learners, as bright and exciting people.

“It’s also empowering to the kids,” Baldwin said. Suddenly other people can follow what students are accomplishing in class — and it’s not just parents or family, it could be academics or people from around the world.

One course Baldwin taught shared a math puzzle they were working on online. An Australian man jumped into solve the puzzle, too. Working through social media, he expressed an interest in what the students were working on.

2. That’s part of why social media matters. It empowers students and it also makes what happens in the classroom matter. Suddenly there is a larger audience that makes learning, well, more real.

It’s like old-fashioned pen pal projects designed to help students learn about a different region or a improve their language skills, except, Baldwin said, “it’s happening in real time.”

“It provides immediate feedback and that isn’t always from just me,” Baldwin said. “(Students) are getting different perspective from different kinds of people.”

What You Owe Other Students

Baldwin adds another idea to the social media conversation. Being a social media wallflower is keeping other students, in other classrooms and maybe even in other states, from succeeding as much as they could.

“We have an imperative to share what we are doing. Take that idea of being a teacher beyond the closed classroom and end the isolation. If we don’t share, we are hurting kids,” Baldwin said.

“If (what’s working in your classroom) is good for your kids, it is good for other kids, too.”

A solution one teacher has found could help another a teacher struggling with a similar battle. A group of teachers working together can grow and learn more and better serve students, even if they are working together from a distance.

Teachers who see things that work should jump on social media.

“It’s as simple as saying, ‘It’s really working at our school and I wanted to share it,’ ” Baldwin said. “If you don’t share you are looking at only the kids in your classroom and not the world’s children.”

The Caveats

Don’t expect Twitter success over night, Baldwin warns.

It takes time to build up a network of people you can trust and share ideas with. Start by following people who have interesting things to say about education. And getting out there and sharing experiences from classrooms, successes and struggles both, Baldwin recommends.

Want to know more? Check out Baldwin’s blog at http://avenue4learning.com. Follow her on Twitter at @michellek107.

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