Monday, January 30, 2012

Collaboration on Social Media

Recently, I had to privilege of working with Mark, the senior English teacher.  His class had just finished Huck Finn, and he was developing a culminating project.  He came up with the premise that the School Board was going to ban Huck Finn and the students would need to develop a presentation to convince the Board to keep the book on the shelves.   He asked me if I had any other ideas for this project, and I almost jumped up and down, thankful that he wanted to collaborate with me.  I added the idea of creating a social media campaign to save the book.  Our students are using social media, but often do not see how it can be used for school; teachers can be the same way.  This project opens up the door for conversations about digital citizenship. Students then wrote a reflection comparing and contrasting the different techniques and tone used in a formal (board presentation) and informal (social media) situation. 

Mark does not use any social media, either personally or professionally.  He relied on me to develop the parameters and find resources for the social media campaigns. I also ran workshops for the students on how to use the social media tools for the project.  Students were given several choices of sites to use to create their campaigns.  The two most popular choices were:

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Create a Twitter campaign to gain support by sending out information tweets, links to supportive sights, and responding to those who send criticism tweets.  Most students chose to use to set up a room where they could control the environment for the project.  They set up a room and then invited their classmates to join in the conversation. They also created hashtags to simulate what happens on

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Create a Facebook page to give information and promote discussion about the novel.  Students developed discussions about the merits of the novel, and created page information about the background of their campaign. Most students chose to create a public Facebook page, but some made a page to control the environment. 

Other options included staging a flashmob, creating a digital story of a protest, and creating a blog.  Students were also allowed to chose any book that had ever been challenge, and weren’t limited to Huck Finn.
We ran into some problems.  Due to timing Mark and I were not able to come up with a truly authentic audience for the students.  However, the students were motivated and had fun crafting various replies in the simulated environments.  Also, the school network blocks access to Facebook, but not Twitter.  Many students automatically discounted Facebook as an option because they would not have access at school and would have very limited access at home.   

Overall, this was a successful project.  In the future, I would like to have the groups interact more.  For example, I would have some students take the position that the novels should be banned.  Most of the arguments and discussion generated was fictitious.  While relevant, it could develop into more critical thinking and collaboration. 

This project was a great first step in collaborating with a teacher and capitalizing on the power of social media.  Now that Mark saw what we could throw together in a couple days, hopefully, we can do more in the future.  

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