Power of Social Media

Rt. 26 in West Corners, Endicott, NY

As we are dealing with historical flooding here in New York State, I continue to be amazed at the power of social media.  The rivers have risen fast and by last Wednesday afternoon major flooding was occurring.  All schools in our county were closed Thursday and Friday, and we are still unsure of when the flooding will recede and allow us to start cleanup and getting back to “normal”.

Through all of this many of us in the school community, as well as the larger community, have stayed in touch through facebook and other social media. Even those without power have been able to post through their cellphones.  Those who have been evacuated from their homes are able to ask others about their areas and the condition of their homes. I am truly amazed at all the community support and assistance that is being given.  People asking about routes to take, others volunteering updates on water levels or assistance with cleanup, or gathering supplies for shelters and those landlocked in their homes and unable to get out. I even saw someone volunteering their boat to get needed supplies to those trapped. During the last three days there have been countless examples of people connecting with others for every kind of need you can imagine and they are all connecting through social media.

As educators and members of our communities we need to be involved in social media.  We need to let our lawmakers and district administrators know the importance of being an active member of our districts and communities, both in person and digitally. When I read about districts and states restricting the use of social media in their communities it makes me cringe.  If the issue is improper communication between educators and students, then deal with that issue. Social media is not the problem, the improper adults are the problem.  As educators let’s educate our staff and students as to the proper, professional way to use social media instead of banning it.

During the last couple of days here, I believe more and more we need to have a presence on facebook. District and building administrators need to use this media to help keep parents informed, whether it be announcements, celebrations, or emergency updates. Administrators: If you don’t have an official facebook page for your building, create one.  We have a building starting with a parent’s page and it has had great support so far.  Parents appreciate it and it gives the principal an easy way to get information out to the parents that have ‘liked’ the page. She has it set up so she is the only person who posts to the page, and monitors the comments made.  I believe every principal should have, at the least, a parents’ facebook page for their building.

Let’s continue to celebrate the power of social media and show our administrators the positive benefits of this highly valuable communication tool.

LMS with a social flair: Schoology

Many schools, both K-12 and beyond offer teachers and students a Course Management System, Learning Management System or Virtual Learning Environment. No matter what you call it, it is a platform by which you can put course materials all in one place. These systems also offer many different features including blogs, wikis, discussion boards, gradebook, assessments, digital locker/dropbox, as well as many other features.

When looking at tools to use with your students the first thing to think about is purpose, what purpose will you need it for? Many teachers really don’t use all the features of a Learning Management System, and would rather have a different online platform to use with their students. These platforms might include a social network like edmodo, blog, wiki, website, or various combinations of these.  I will address these tools in later posts.

Let’s say you have already determined that you want a Learning Management System to use with your students. A place where they will have one sign in and can be informed of assignments, hand in assignments, have class discussions, maintain their own blogs, take course assessments and surveys, and communicate with their teachers and fellow students. The next question is: Which platform do I use?  There are many out there including moodle, Blackboard, Desire2Learn, edu2.0, ecto, SchoolRack, dokeos, ePals LearningSpace, sakai, Joomla!,class.io, edline, and Schoology just to mention some that my PLN have mentioned. It is really exciting that there are so many choices, and some of them are free! On the other hand, there are SO many choices… you may wonder where do I begin? Let me save you some time… start with my resources below and definitely make sure you check out Schoology!

I have been exploring many, and as a district we are moving away from Blackboard due to its cost and lately not so user-friendly interface. So, although Desire2Learn and LearningSpace may be great LMS they are cost prohibitive right now for our district so I didn’t really give them much exploration.

schoology

After exploring many of these mentioned above (admittedly not all of them) I have landed on one that I have found very user-friendly, free, and has all the features I think a LMS needs.  Schoology is that LMS. It looks similar to social networks that students are familiar with. As advertised on their website they are a free web-based learning management system (LMS) built on a social network. This gives you the best of both worlds. Students can easy network, collaborate, and communicate with other students and their teachers. Privacy settings can be set to make it as open or closed as the district, school, or teacher want it to be. Teachers can enroll students or give them an access code that allows them to sign-in to their course. I really like this platform, it is easy to use, very intuitive, and above all free! Make sure you check it out along with these resources:

I think I’m breaking up with Moodle... great discussion here on the Educators PLN ning about different platforms

Schoology Instructional Guide easy to follow to get you started

CMS Compared This is my comparison chart that I started to use when comparing these systems.

Moodle vs edu2.0 Great slideshare comparing these two LMS