Friday, May 11, 2012

Interview with a teacher making smart use of social media

What always strikes me in contact with teachers is that there is so much difference in their attitude towards social media. One teacher loves social media and widely experiments with various media, another says "it's not for me" and doesn't want to try anything. Younger teachers sometimes have an attitude that they know it because they are on Facebook, but I don't believe they really know how to use it at all levels. Perhaps they do not see the link with learning. I believe that social media is of interest to all professionals and teachers are an important group of professionals, since dealing with education. In the newspaper special last Saturday I read the following quote: "a good teacher must continuously innovate and surprise." Here come's social media full of surprises!. Antoine is such an enthusiastic teacher convinced of the value of social media to a teacher-professional. I interviewed him, below the interview.

Tell us something about yourself as teacher at Varendonck secondary school? 
I work since 2003 as a French teacher at the College Varendonck in Asten. Furthermore, I support colleagues in using our Virtual Learning Environment. This school year we switched from N @ tschool to the ELO of Magister.

You blog about French and ICT (hier), tell us something about your blog, how you started it, who your readers are and what the value is of blogging for you? Do you read many blogs yourself?   
I began my blog in december 2007. My big inspirations are two Dutch professionals: William Karssenberg (@ trendmatcher) and Pierre Gorissen (@ PeterMcAllister). I followed their blogs for a while and it seemed useful and fun to keep a blog. My weblog is read by French teachers and by teachers who are interested in using ICT in the classroom. What has been the benefit for me so far? First, it is an archive upon which I can draw. Often I know that I've blogged about a particular topic and this way I can quickly and easily find the materials. I refer colleagues to some posts on my blog. Furthermore, the interaction with readers helped me with solving some problems. There are always colleagues who want to help you further. Also nice to mention is that I have been approached by Teleac to make a guide (GoAnimate) following screencasts that they have found on my weblog. I follow many blogs themselves and try to make use of Google Reader.

Which social media do you often use yourself?    
I will mention four important social media. To stay up-to-date with information I use Google Reader. With Google Reader you can subscribe to interesting blog without having to visit that blog. Furthermore, I often use Diigo, a social bookmarking site. Previously, I used Delicious, but at one point there were rumors that this service would quit and when I switched. The beauty of social bookmarking is that you have quick access to a website, because you can add tags and notes. You can also see what other teachers bookmark these links and you copy interesting links from other teachers. A third tool that I would mention is Twitter. I use Twitter to share things I find interesting with others. I also use Twitter to ask questions using the hashtag #daretoask. What always strikes me is that so many people are willing to help others. Sometimes there a whole conversation develops which is also very beautiful to observe. Finally I would like to mention Wunder List, an app allowing you to make to-do lists which you can use on multiple devices

How do you stay up-to-date?
I use Google Reader and Twitter, the two most important tools. Dat zijn voor mij de twee meest belangrijke tools.  

How much time does it cost you to read your Google Reader, blog and twitter? Do you have time to do it during school hours?   
At school I do not twitter nor blog. I do that outside of school. It depends also on how busy it is. Sometimes I don't post for a long time on my blog, because I'm just too busy. I had good intention to blog more this year, but I haven't been living up to these intentions yet. During the holidays, I try also to occupy myself with other things, like reading.

What is for you the added value of social media as teacher-professional? 
A blog allows you to think about some things and share your knowledge with others. Why should anyone have to reinvent the wheel? Social bookmarking allows you to quickly locate information and to find new interesting sites to explore. Twitter offers notably the ability to share knowledge and to ask questions.

And during class? 
In class some tools can be useful tools, such as Socrative. With this site, students can vote. I recently used this tool for practicing reading skills. In this way, students (also quieter students) become actively involved in the lesson. Make the use of social media and use equipment the students have. Some have a mobile with internet, others an iPod Touch. Not all students have access to this equipment, but if students work in pairs together, you do not need much equipment. Be creative! Further, Twitter may be used by pupils making a thesis or presentation. They can use the #daretoask (#durftevragen in Dutch) to ask questions and input. I don't use social media in each lesson. Do it only if it is useful and if it adds something.