Before I jump into the world of social media and how it can be a productive tool in the education world, let me take you down memory lane.
It was 1992 and I was in second grade. We all loved our computer class that we attended once a week for about thirty minutes. This was my norm all through grade school until I was in junior high. I didn’t have a computer at home and we only had one land line to share amongst me and my two younger sisters (talking on the phone was our “social media” back then). In 7th grade I remember logging in on AOL messenger to chat with my friends for a few minutes a week at my grandparents’ house. It was dial up and super slow, so I didn’t get on very often. Until my ninth grade year, I had to use their computer for research and I can vividly recall Yahoo! as the search engine. In 1999 my mother remarried and we moved into a new home. It was then that we got our first computer which had no Internet, but gave me a place to type my reports and print them in the comfort of my home. Throughout high school, I utilized technology as much as I could at school and loved my BCIS class, which I believe set my foundation for my computer skills. It wasn’t until I graduated that I got my first cell phone which was a brick Nokia, but allowed me to at least text! And then came my first smartphone mid college career…life changing! Facebook had come out while I was in my first two years of college, but since I was at a junior college without assigned student emails, I was unable to sign up for Facebook because it required a valid college email address (yep, it was only for college students at one time). It was about ten years ago that I finally started an account with Facebook and from there I have added numerous other social media platforms to share my life’s journey on.
I say all this to show you how much our digital world has changed and yet, how much some of it has kind of stayed the same…for some of us. Facebook has been around for over ten years and unlike MySpace, which came first, it has continued to be a big part of the social media world. As a teacher, we hear our students talk about what they read or posted on social media, and through just that we know that Facebook is not the first choice among the kids. However, when it comes to communicating with PARENTS, it is still a valuable tool since they have been using it for years. You could say that Facebook (FB) has been the go-to social media outlet for most parents. But even this will shift as time passes and the go-to will change to a different platform for most parents due to what they grew up with.
Since Facebook is a great source to communicate with parents, I think having a page solely for your school library/learning commons is a great idea. I checked out several school library pages and found that most of them shared book reviews and/or information for events that were going on or coming up. I found that the book reviews didn’t get as many likes, but the pages that shared events and pictures of students AT those events, got more traffic. Neither of those really got many comments though. Some of these things have to do with FB algorithm and how they only allow a certain percentage of what or who you follow on your personal feed. This hurts pages that do not pay for advertisement within Facebook. Even still, I believe a page is a good resource for sharing information because it is still reaching some of those parents and students.
The campus I will be at next year (as the new librarian) has a pretty meaty page on Facebook that has over 1,000 followers. With this being said, I will discuss creating a separate page for the library with my principal and the district lead librarian. Click on the photo below to open up my new school’s FB page.
If Facebook isn’t the end all, be all for communication with our students, then what is? That’s a tough question since so many apps and sites have been created since the spawn of MySpace and Facebook. Every time I turn around I feel like there is a new social media site the kids are talking about. However, there are a few that are super popular with the majority. Twitter and Instagram have been pretty tried and true aside from Facebook.
Twitter has been around since 2006 and is user friendly for all ages (must be 13 or older to sign up). My son, who is six and does NOT have any social media accounts had this conversation with my mother-n-law:
He may only be six, but he knows enough about social media from myself, television, youtube and older kids.
So what is Twitter exactly? I held off getting a Twitter account for a long time. I attempted it poorly in 2015 when I was trying to network my personal training business. I didn’t give it a fair shot and gave up quickly. Twitter is a microblog. This means that users’ posts are limited to so many characters. With Twitter it’s 280. According to a post on The Verge, Kastrenakes (2018) says that it was 140 character but increased to 280 in length. It makes the posts short and sweet and thus cutting down on fluff in my opinion. Twitter seems to be utilized by educators, authors, publishers, associations, etc. as their go-to for sharing out information. It is easy to post, retweet (share), comment and like others’ posts. It is super simple and can be a place to connect with your students, parents, colleagues, and friends. It is also a place where you can follow mentors and others that share information and posts that interest you. It can be a learning tool for all.
I began a Twitter account last year, @theMrsHargrove which I share to often (mostly via my Instagram account), but I do get on quite a bit to check out and read what else is going on in the library world and what other librarians are doing in their school libraries. I recently was turned on to several library and tech gurus to follow and found what they post to be useful as a newbie in the librarian field. I was immediately drawn to Jim Lerman, @jimlerman, who has lots of great information on STEM learning with students. I also enjoyed some of his links he shared that went to his scoop.it website found here. Below is one tweet of his that I retweeted:
An educational technologist that I came across was Kathy Schrock, @kathyschrock . Before I follow anyone, I always check out their bio first and if they have a website link, I follow it to learn a little more about them. Kathy had her website in her bio https://www.schrockguide.net/ and after a couple of minutes of perusing, I added her site to my Symbaloo board. She has created tons of pages that are resources for all things digital that can be used in classrooms and learning commons. I was floored at how thorough her information was and happy for additional resources.
Kathy’s posts are educational for all. I felt like even things such as the tweet above are beneficial for everyone and could be a good way to connect with parents and students.
Alan November, @globalearner, is the author of Who Owns the Learning? and is the host of the conference Building Learning Communities. He understands the value of teachers and social media!
Gwyneth Jones, @GwynethJones, author of The Daring Librarian has a fun Twitter where she shares not only informational tweets that link to other sites, but also lots of pictures and opinions about being unbiased and accepting all who come through our library doors.
The last name in educational technology that I was informed about is Linda Braun, @lbraun2000. Braun is an educator and librarian who was the past president of YALSA. She really seems to advocate for librarians and YALSA and shares lots of tweets by the association. Here’s one of her current retweets:
All in all, Twitter is uncomplicated to use which makes it a great social media tool for teachers and librarians to share through.
The last social media site I want to share is my favorite of all. Instagram.
Instagram is as simple as Twitter, but whereas Twitter shares with very little words, Instagram shares in pictures. We’ve all grown up hearing the proverb, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” and with Instagram that is really put into action. This platform is fun for everyone and can get addicting. You can search by user’s name, handle as well as through hashtags (#) for certain topics or ideas you want to see pictures of. I have an account for my personal use, but also one for educational.
On my teacher account, I share pictures and videos that have to do with my graduate schooling, students and clubs at school as well as my new career as a librarian. My students, parents, colleagues and friends all follow me as well as community members within my district. I feel like sometimes we don’t have the words to say, but a picture can say it for us. You can also download apps such as Rhonna, Fotor or Font to add text or other clipart to photos or short videos before uploading them. You can also create collages using apps such as LiPix.
Instagram has recently added a feature called “Stories.” This feature only lasts for so many hours, but you can add spotlight stories that won’t disappear. I use this to be silly, to celebrate an event at school or simply to ask a question. Users can respond to the stories which uses the private messenger feature.
One other great thing about Instagram is that it allows you to share what you are going to post on multiple social media sites such as Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook. I think this feature alone makes it pretty handy when you have multiple outlets to share to.
I believe Instagram is a great way to share pictures of what’s going on in your library or classroom, share students’ creations and information about upcoming events while also giving you, as a professional in the education world, helpful links, sites and ideas too.
Feel free to follow me on IG @the_mrshargrove.
Questions and comments are always welcome!
Kastrenakes, J. (2018, February 8). Twitter says people are tweeting more, but not longer, with 280- character limit. Retrieved from https://www.theverge.com/2018/2/8/16990308/twitter-280-character-tweet-length