Unit One: Social Networking in the Classroom
The use of social networking and media has increased exponentially over the past fifteen years. Since cooperative learning is at the heart of my classroom, social networking blends right in, although only when absolutely necessary for learning. Social networking can enhance learning in many ways, such as offering more multimodal ways of learning, connecting with a wider and more diverse audience, and having a sense of ownership over learning. However, it is my belief that a blended classroom is more successful with social networking because of the community built in the physical space. Thibaut (2015) did a study in which she documented social networking in a classroom for four months (p. 83). She found that social networking had the ability to extend student learning beyond the classroom, but only with the presence of a great teacher (Thibaut, 2015, p. 91).
I have many concerns about using social networking in learning. One major one is the anonymity of the Internet. This can lead to students feeling as though they can post anything with no sense of responsibility. By the same token, students at my school get a laptop for academic uses only. However, they often use social media for personal reasons and struggle to grasp the acceptable use policy. One issue is that many of my students do not have another device to use. Also, as a staff, we cannot block all social networking because our students need to access it to learn. The overwhelming problem is that students can find ways to get around blocks and it is unmanageable for the teacher to be able to see every screen at all times to ensure students are being responsible users of social media.
This unit’s learning challenge was to create and publish an introduction video. Although it was uncomfortable for me to film myself, the video tour I created of my school turned out visually appealing and creative. I did have a bit of anxiety knowing my video was public on YouTube.com. In the end, however, this was a great challenge because I feel like I know my peers so much better through this format than just through writing.
One question I had during this unit was: Do you think schools will develop separate courses to teach responsible digital citizenship, or do you think standards will be blended into all curriculums for the use of social networking? After completing the unit, I predict that there will be digital citizenship woven into all subject areas and classes.
Unit Two: Conducting and Analyzing Surveys
Although surveys are a great way to collect needed information, there are many concerns about the use of the data that comes from them. From my perspective, measurement errors are the most common type of error in surveys because it takes a lot of time and attention to detail to ask questions properly and avoid bias. Also, I am not sure how a survey administrator ensures the credibility of the data, especially when giving a survey online. You have no way of knowing who is actually taking the survey or if they are providing genuine answers. The hope is that as the survey designer you will follow best practices, but even then you cannot guarantee there will be no errors.
In order to ensure that the data I collect from my community is credible, I make sure I begin with clear survey objectives, sound research design, and the right questions (Phillips, Aaron, and Phillips, 2013, n.p.). From there, it is best to use effective administration strategies, such as only allowing respondents one opportunity to take the survey, to avoid errors. Scheuren (2004) also recommends that all concepts be clearly and simply expressed, that definitions be included for precise or technical words, that it have a strong introduction, indicate why questions are being asked, and that it should have a friendly conclusion (n.p.).
This unit’s learning challenge was to create and administer a survey and then visually represent the results using technology. I used Google Forms to create and conduct the survey and WiseMapping.com to display the results in a mind map. Since I left out some survey best practices, I did not quite get the results I was looking for. I was also frustrated by creating a mind map to display the information when Google Forms did that for me already. Ultimately, though, I thought of ways in which I could use mind maps in the classroom, so the challenge was not in vain.
One of the questions I had during this unit was: How can educators help learners check for credibility of data? Scheuren (2004) suggests pretesting survey administration, following up on non-respondents, and having adequate quality controls (n.p.). As far as students taking in information from surveys, I explicitly teach bias and reliability of data. Now that I have gone through this unit, I would explicitly teach all possible survey errors described above so that students can be on the lookout for false or biased information.
Unit Three: Using Live Data in Lessons
While I do not see any issues arising from the use of live or real-time data from the global community, I do see issues when it comes to analyzing that data. Data is useless unless people are trained to effectively synthesize and make conclusions about it. Oftentimes, I see students draw a beautiful graph to represent the data they have collected, but then fail to explain the inferences they should be able to make based on it. Blagdanic and Chinnappan (2013) also found that students made idiosyncratic judgments about the graphs they had drawn (p. 8). Another observation I have made is when students put a statistic from an article in a paper, but do not know why they chose it. Part of the problem here is that the articles found in library databases are too difficult for many students to read.
There are several things that I do and also teach my students to do to ensure that we are using legitimate data. One important step is to check the URL to determine the reliability of the sponsoring organization. Sites that end in .edu are usually educational organizations and ones that end in .gov are most likely reliable government websites. The tricky site ending is .org because those can either be great or poor sources of information. You want to do some research on each organization’s political bias or agenda. It is also crucial to check the date of publication because you do not want to draw conclusions on very old data. Another step is to investigate the author to see what their expertise or authority is in what they are publishing data about. Finally, any online journal or magazine with repute should offer a reference page with scholarly sources for every research study or data set.
This unit’s learning challenge was to create an activity using a live data source from the Internet. I created an activity in which students would control the NASA telescope in order to view objects in space. It was tough as an English teacher to complete a challenge that was so sciene and math heavy. However, it is valuable to me for teaching research skills.
During this unit, I was wondering how teachers in other subjects teach credibility. I found that it is helpful to check for field-specific professional organizations depending on what information you are seeking out. I can also conclude that it is a best practice to find multiple articles on the same topic or data focus to check the information for reliability.
The Most Valuable Takeaway
By far, credibility has been the underlying thematic concept of these three units. The information you post to social media needs to show you in the best way possible, and the information you find on the Internet needs to be reliable.
Blagdanic, C., & Chinnappan, M. (2013). Supporting students to make judgments using real-life data. Australian Mathematics Teacher, 69(2), 4-12. Retrieved from http://eds.b.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=baac116c-1f0d-40df-92fe-ee754c7dd3b3%40sessionmgr112&vid=1&hid=112.
Phillips, P. P., Aaron, B. C., & Phillips, J. J. (2013). Survey basics. Alexandria, VA: ASTD Press.
Scheuren, F. (2004). What is a survey?. Retrieved from https://www.whatisasurvey.info/chapters/chapter1.htm.
Thibaut, P. (2015). Social network sites with learning purposes: Exploring new spaces for literacy and learning in the primary classroom. Australian Journal Of Language & Literacy, 38(2), 83-94. Retrieved from http://eds.b.ebscohost.com/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=1f14b58a-0390-4ef4-99f4-bad61fb7f11d%40sessionmgr111&vid=18&hid=103.
Excellent online checklist for credibility: