I’m a cheerleader. Maybe no longer literally, with the pleated skirt and standing back tuck, but my innate desire to encourage and get people excited is definitely still part of my every day life. And maybe this is exactly what education needs more of—a sense of teamwork and the desire to cheer each other on.
All educators know that our field is an especially isolated one, specifically in the cases of collaboration and sharing best practices. Let’s be honest, most of us are stuck in a classroom for eight hours a day with barely enough time to grab that needed cup of coffee, let alone have a thirty-minute conversation with a colleague about a new project we’ve tried. And yet, collaboration is the base of the pyramid for education, and sadly, when it comes to T-E-A-M, we are the “I”s.
Buildings, class schedules, and schools disconnect us. Most of us work alone, and our focus is very narrow, usually restricted to our own discipline or even the grade we teach. This limited focus does not benefit our students—we are preparing them to live in an extraordinarily fast-paced, global world; they need to learn how disciplines interconnect and how to communicate effectively with those whose focus is different from their own. We need to model collaboration and communication for our students–we need to work together as a team.
Social media allows us to communicate, to become that team. We watch others implement new ideas, succeed or fail, and we can learn from their mistakes. A touch of a few buttons and we can find a million new ways to use the iPad in the classroom or Twitter in Social Studies.The possibilities for shared curricula are endless.
What better way for us as educators to share best practices than in an asynchronous environment, a global community of professionals? We are able to make connections while at home, before school, across time zones, and or even during summer vacation.
In the last year, I have learned more from social media websites like Twitter, Edudemic, Edutopia, and edSocialMedia than I have from any professional development meeting I’ve ever attended. Whether it’s following #edchat and #isedchat on Twitter, cruising edSocialMedia for new articles, or reading the Edudemic magazine on my iPad, I’ve spent countless hours, outside of my normal school day, connecting with other teachers—and wanting to do it. Social media is collaboration that works! It’s something that we can cheer about.
The web is filled with places for teachers to share materials. One of my favorite sites is Teachers Pay Teachers. Not only can you sell your lesson plans and activities, making a little extra money on the side, but you can also browse thousands of amazing lessons. Classroom 2.0 is another great social networking site where teachers blog about their subject area and favorite teaching tools. Whether you are looking for activities for an ELL class or wanting book recommendations for your course, Classroom 2.0 probably has an article about it.
For English teachers, Jim Burke’s Ning community is an excellent place to find articles relating to your discipline. There are also Teachers Teaching Teachers, TeachAde, The Apple, NextGenTeachers, TeachersLingo, PBS Teachers Connect, and Tapped In, and if you’re reading this article, you’re probably already familiar with the incredible EdSocialMedia.
As social networking continues to flourish, these sites for teachers will only continue to spring up, allowing for traditional professional development to transcend the classroom, and give us what we want so badly for our students, a school without walls.
I saw a shirt once that said that “all women are created equal and then some become cheerleaders.” Maybe this holds true for education as well— all teachers are created equal and then a few become cheerleaders. I propose that we all join the pep squad. Get out your pom-pons, your megaphone, and your laptop. Let’s lead other educators into and onto the field. Let’s use social media to promote great teaching ideas, to encourage education reform, and to celebrate each others’ successes. Let’s be those cheerleaders, leading education into the twenty-first century.