This past November, I gave a presentation at the Science Teacher’s Association of Ontario annual conference. The presentation was called, Social Networking in Science Education: Learning Beyond the Classroom.
In the presentation, I tried to make the case that our students are, in many ways, different than the generations of teenagers who came before them – primarily because of the world in which they have grown up. Furthermore, that recognizing exactly how students are different must inform our teaching practice if we are to remain relevant to students in the 21st century.
One of the ways that I have been expanding my ability to reach students has been with the use of social networking sites in my classes (like Ning, Edmodo, and grou.ps). There is no doubt in my mind that social networking has been a phenomenal success with my students and I continue to be excited about using this tool to break down the walls of my classroom.
The following was the printed description of the presentation at STAO:
Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter have revolutionized the way that people interact online. This presentation will discuss how teachers can leverage social networking technology within their classrooms to improve student engagement and extend learning beyond the walls of the classroom. The presentation will demonstrate how to use many different free online services to create moderated social networks that uphold student privacy and maintain safety.
Previously, at the 2009 STAO conference, I delivered a presentation called Wikis in Science Education. The turnout was wonderful – 45 attendees, who filled every seat in the room. Going to this year’s STAO conference, I expected a similar turnout. After all, everyone knows what social networking is and I thought that my description would have been perfectly clear and unambiguous.
As it turns out, only 8 people came.
I still feel the presentation was a wonderful success and the small number created a very intimate sphere (of which I was very thankful considering it was my first time giving this talk.) In fact, because of the small group, we were able to have much more discussion and audience participation, which I think brought a more personal element.
Reflecting back, I have wondered what made the difference in attendance from one year to the next. I would have thought that if “wikis” could draw a crowd, then certainly “social networking” would be an even bigger pull.
Then it dawned on me – teachers may already think they know what social networking is all about! Moreover, many teachers hold the belief that social networking is the opposite of what their class needs. After all, Facebook consumes the attention of our students, drawing them away from good ol’ fashioned learning! A teacher might only read the title of my presentation before deciding that they already know everything they need to know about the presentation.
Yet, few teachers really know what a wiki is. That word is still novel in the world of education, and because it is a little bit mysterious, it develops intrigue. I think that when I prepare presentations in the future, I will be more careful in the wording of the title and description – specific enough so as not to mislead, yet elusive enough to generate interest. Of course, this idea is just a working hypothesis. It is entirely possible that my wiki presentation in 2009 sucked so badly that no one wanted to hear me talk again in 2010!
I am lucky enough to have opportunity to deliver the social networking presentation again in May at the conference for the Ontario Association of Physics Teachers. This gives me an opportunity to test my hypothesis. Any suggestions for a new title and description that would develop more mystery and intrigue?
Image Credit: turboalieno