Many teachers who have been in the field for awhile appreciate the new ways to be inspired to educate their students using the latest technology. The trouble is — how do they find the time to familiarize themselves with the thousands of sites and forms of social media that can take a lesson plan from just “okay” to an “experience” for students? We’re already busy realigning last year’s lesson plans with the new Common Core State Standards, and the Next Generation Science Standards are coming down the pike (not that that’s a bad thing!). But teaching for only 12 years myself, I find things getting stale in the classroom, and so do my students. When was the last time I got excited about teaching scientific notation? Um, never. (Well, this year I used a fantastic lesson with Google Earth, courtesy of RealWorldMath.org, and my 7th graders LOVED it — and so did I.)
I was inspired by a piece written called “How to Monitor Your Social Media Presence in 10 Minutes a Day” by HootSuite and HubSpot. The booklet, available for free online, is more geared toward people trying to make a dent in the social media world with their personal business or brand. However, I found it highly useful for spending time on the Internet as a teacher, learning how to use my time wisely and as efficiently as possible. Part of the problem is, hey, how do I even begin? If you can give up about 1 hour to get yourself set up, then the 10 minutes situation is a big payoff. So, here we go:
(1) Twitter: I can’t stress enough how important it is to have a “professional” twitter account. Having one has brought my awareness of the possibilities for lessons and just plain ol’ classroom ideas to its peak. I’m not talking about a personal account with hashtags like #bored or #deskisamess (those of you unfamiliar with twitter: don’t worry if you haven’t a clue, it’s okay!). I’m encouraging you to create a handle (or the name that you go by on twitter; @STEMSusan is mine), keep it professional sounding (much unlike @BoredTeacher), and start playing around. Search for topics that you are interested in. Let’s say your science curriculum includes teaching habitats this year. Get going in that search box, and have yourself a merry little time. Take it slow, and DON’T follow a million people. It’s not worth it; it’s just going to create an influx of information that you won’t be able to *handle*. (Get it? Sorry, bad joke.)
(2) Create a professional email account for yourself. Once again, email@example.com doesn’t really fly. Try getting your name separated by a period (mine is firstname.lastname@example.org), and whatever you sign up for on a site that you like, use that email account ALL OF THE TIME. That way, any updates you get from those sites will come to one email address. Check that email account twice a day: once really quick in the morning before coffee, and once just before you start cooking for dinner.
(3) Facebook: let it go. Just…let it go. (Some teachers may disagree, but I find it highly distracting if you don’t know who to become friends with. Plus, the annoying e-cards that are made simply to make you laugh just take up too much of that 10 minute time.)
(4) Use your state’s or city’s education sites wisely. For example, engageny.org is a great site to get ideas and simply get informed about what you should be teaching and WHY.
There are so many other sites available, suited to each discipline, so I won’t cite them in this particular STEM blog. But if you can find that 1 hour to get yourself set up on Twitter, create that professional email and sign up for updates on sites you like, and bookmark your city’s education site, you’re golden. Take it slow, maybe just by checking things out once a day for 5 minutes, and promise yourself to learn 1 new thing that you can incorporate into your profession.
This is your mission, if you choose to accept it. Until next time’s posting when I’ll gauge a few websites to keep you on your toes!