Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Why I Love Having a Class Facebook Page

Last August, I was at my local Barnes & Noble doing some work. Ok, you've got me. I was SUPPOSED to be doing some work, but in truth, like so many of my students, I was Facebooking instead. For some reason, I started messing around with the "pages" option, and I decided to make a page for my class. I wasn't quite sure what would happen with it, but I thought if nothing else, I could spend the next hour fiddling around with that rather than writing lesson plans. 

I ended up with my class Facebook page. I think I uploaded a photo of my classroom, wrote a silly status message about how no one would "like" it, finished my grande skinny decaf caramel macchiato, and went home.

One hundred and seventy Two hundred twenty-seven "likes" later, I have to say that the class page was the best thing I could have done last year. As the year progressed, I realized that what had started out as a way to procrastinate had somehow transformed my classroom. It became a way for students to communicate with me in a way that they enjoy. I chuckled this past June when I was still getting one or two student posts on my wall every much for summer vacation!

Here are just a few of the ways I have come to utilize a Facebook class page.

Develop relationships with students
It is called SOCIAL media, after all. Even though I'm not comfortable with "friending" current students on Facebook, the class page enables me to talk to them and get to know them better than I normally would. The public nature of the posts/comments engages a variety of students and gives me a chance to communicate with them in a different way.

Post links that relate to class
I love to post links for my students, from SAT tips to book reviews to news articles about my favorite authors. These links do not necessarily have to relate directly to class. I share links with news about the upcoming Hunger Games films (I can't wait!), funny comics that I think the kids will like, music videos, and other things that I happen to find interesting. 

Inspired by FridayReads, I decided to post a status on my page every Friday and ask students what they're reading. Sometimes I get 20 or more comments. Sometimes I get zero. Either way, I think it's an easy way to get kids fired up about what they're reading and share their latest literary conquests with their friends. 

Answer questions from students
I don't know why I was so surprised when kids started posting homework questions on my wall. I guess it's because I just saw the class page as a fun thing rather than a work thing. Eventually, students started using FB to reach me instead of the email system that our school provides to all staff and students. A couple of students remarked on my course eval this year that they liked when others asked questions because they often were wondering the same thing but were too afraid or lazy (their words, not mine) to ask.

Get feedback from students
I sometimes make surveys in Google Docs if I'm looking for feedback from kids. For instance, this summer I moved my homework blog over to a wiki. I was having trouble deciding how to organize the homework assignments for students, so I made a quick survey and posted it on my page. I got about fifteen responses (ironically enough, mostly from kids who I'm not even teaching next year) with great feedback and suggestions. This was on August 15. I'm pretty confident when I say that if I had sent the survey to students via email, I would have been lucky to get even one response.

Allow students to share what they find
Students have started posting things to my class page, and I especially (selfishly) love this because it's enabling me to gather lots and lots of supplemental resources to use for years to come. I mean really, how cool is it when a kid posts a link to a web comic about Pride and Prejudice at 2am on a Saturday night? If that's not taking learning beyond the classroom walls, I don't know what is.

I know that social media in the classroom can be scary. I'm a huge techie, and it even took me a couple of years to feel comfortable communicating with my kids in this way. However, this is their world, and even if Facebook goes to the wayside like MySpace did (hello, G+), social media is here to stay. If we don't teach our students appropriate, professional, and educational ways to use the media, who will?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

First Post

I don't really know where this blog will go, but I've been wanting to start one for a long time. Last year inspired me and reignited my love of reading, writing, teaching, and technology. I want to write about these things. While I hope that people eventually read what I have to say, the point for me is really to help myself reflect and organize my thoughts in one place. I also think it will be fun to read old posts in a few years...hopefully this will be a way to watch myself grow as a teacher and maybe even as a writer. 

I thought a good place to start would be with reflecting about last year's goals and setting new goals for this year. 

Reflections about 2010-11 school goals: 
  • Keep a positive attitude. -hmmm...I'd say I was able to do that about 70% of the time. Not bad!
  • Mind my own business. -I'm getting there
  • Don't take on more than I can handle. -March was rough, but otherwise, any overflow was due to my own procrastination.
  • Grade most written assignments on (be green!).-success!!
  • Go to the gym three days after school per week. -overall I give myself an A for this, but there were some times where I didn't stick to this. We can't win 'em all.
  • Keep my iPhone in the car when I go into the building. -not even a little bit, but I decided after writing these goals that this one really shouldn't be here anyway.
  • Find a fun and fair way to use udemy as a valuable part of class. -success!
  • Listen to student feedback about udemy and adjust accordingly. -success! Still tweaking to get it to be where I want it to be, but the online component transformed our class. 
  • Create more detailed discussion guides to focus discussion more. -I get a B- on this...I did improve, but I need to be more consistent.
  • Start giving lit quizzes again. -I got better. Still needs work.
  • Get a normal bedtime. -I was doing so well with this, but I fell off the wagon a lot toward the end of the year. It is a priority again this year.
  • Drink enough water. -Usually. 
  • Don't bite nails. -This didn't happen during the school year, but I'm optimistic now that I have the color gels.
  • Don't do schoolwork on Saturdays. -I actually came to enjoy my Saturday B&N time, so I can't complain that I didn't stick to this.
  • Wear makeup more often. -Still not nearly enough. I should probably go to the MAC store and get some new eye shadow. You know, for motivational purposes only.
  • Be at school by 7:15 (leave the house by 6:45). -I stuck with this until winter break and then fell apart in January. Maybe this year I can keep it up until Feb!
  • Stay at school till 4:00 three days per week; use the time productively so I don't have to bring work home. -While I did manage my time better, I didn't quite stick to this. 
  • Start watching Jeopardy! again. -I did well with this in the fall and winter, but once spring hit, I let myself get too far behind. The Watson week was awesome, though.
  • Keep blog updated. -this is referring to my homework blog, not this one (obviously). I'd say I had it updated 90% of the time. Not bad.
  • Make lesson plans more detailed. -let's try this again now that I'm using GDocs for LPs.
  • No whining! -I'm getting there.
  • Crochet something. -I made at hat but frogged it. I think that still counts.
  • Cook more. -Yes, and I even started taking cooking classes!
  • Keep to-do list updated. -I really, really need to be better at making to-do lists this year.
  • Actually do things on to-do list. -Haha. See above.
  • Don't get complacent. -I didn't! I'm more fired up than ever before.
  • Choose your battles. -I did.
  • Stay funny. -How could I not?
  • And again (because it's most important), stay positive! -Woo hoo!

    New goals for 2011-12 school year:

    • Stay positive!
    • Get a bedtime routine (10-11pm on weeknights; midnight on weekends).
    • Read every night before bed.
    • Put away the tech (except Kindle) by 10pm on school nights.
    • Blog once a week.
    • Tweet blog posts and hope for retweets.
    • When things are nice, pause and say, "Well if this isn't nice, I don't know what is." 
    • Read edtech articles once a week (preferably via Twitter/Tweetdeck).
    • Grade all written work within two weeks.
    • Take risks and have fun with new IB Lang/Lit curriculum.
    • Become comfortable with new IB Lang/Lit curriculum.
    • Take a pottery class.
    • Continue taking cooking classes. 
    • Keep class wiki updated.
    • Curb the sarcasm, especially with the frosh (and my mom).
    • Keep getting the color gels.
    • Make GDocs lesson plans uber detailed.
    • Go on dates.
    • Go to the gym three days after school per week.
    • Add one weekend day to gym schedule.
    • Eat right (ice cream is ok).
    • Complete the half marathon on October 2 (run/walk is ok).
    • Arrive at school by 7:15 every day.
    • Stay organized.
    • Get an apartment.
    • Decorate apartment in a cohesive way. 
    • Wear makeup more often.
    • Continue going to bookstores/coffee shops to grade.
    • No whining!
    • Keep a current to-do list.
    • Be funny.
    • Be assertive but not mean.
    • Co-write an article about NBC process.
    • Post one new poem or prose piece to Figment every month.
    • Learn something new every day.
    • Let the students be the teacher from time to time.
    • Reread the Harry Potter series when it comes out on pottermore.
    • Have fun and laugh every day!