Social Media and a Global Mindset
Homa Sabet Tavangar
Some of the biggest news from the recent U.S. Presidential election was made on Twitter. Celebrity gossip, whether it’s updates on Kardashian babies or the latest antics of Justin Bieber, also finds a huge platform on this social network. Thinking about all this noise and sensationalism, some teachers have told me, “I’d never waste my time on Twitter!” And yet, other educators state unequivocally: “Twitter is the most powerful professional development tool I’ve ever used!”
So, what is it? Is it possible to cut through the noise on Twitter, WeChat, Instagram, Facebook or other social media platforms to become a more thoughtful, relevant, connected, supported educator? The executive team at ISS.edu and I think that it IS possible. I’ll focus on Twitter for this article, and hope to show you how to make the most of this tool – both to enhance your own understanding of your practice as an educator as well as to bring more stimulating materials to your classes.
My Twitter Experience
About three years ago I met my co-author for The Global Education Toolkit on Twitter. I sent an experimental tweet out to the universe, asking about potential collaborators for a small project I was thinking about – much more limited than the book that resulted. Becky Morales (@kidworldcitizen) and I hit it off in a series of 140-character communications, where we realized we shared similar values and visions to bringing global education into classrooms and that our expertise was distinct, but complementary. We never met until our book was 90 percent complete, almost two years later. Thanks to Twitter, we found each other and started a fruitful working relationship — and friendship!
Stories like Becky’s and mine are becoming more common, as educators are finding supportive colleagues regardless of their locations, and building strong Professional Learning Networks (PLNs) to infuse fresh ideas into their teaching practice. With teacher discussions using hashtags like #kinderchat, #5thchat, #edtech, #globaled, #globalmindset and yes, #ISSEdu, and many, many more, relying on a community of active educators isn’t limited to the walls of your building or even the country you’re located in.
At a time when global news is sounding alarms across so many issues, the need to connect, be informed, and deepen our understanding is greater than ever. You can start a global learning journey for your school, club, or classroom on Twitter, and be ready to be amazed by how far 140 characters can take you. Try one or more of these ten ways to tweet your way around the world (or close to home) with your students.
Ten Ways Twitter Can Develop a Global Educator
Set aside just a few minutes in one week to set up a Twitter account, start reaching out to fellow educators, and explore the world in 140 characters or less. If you’ve already started, please share how you have used Twitter in your classroom using #ISSEdu, or tweet me: @growingupglobal!
- Feed Your Educator’s Soul
As I found my co-author by chance on Twitter, by joining various Twitterchats like the ones mentioned above, you can find like-minded educators who care about the issues you care about, whether it’s #kindness and #empathy or who may share in your challenges around #designthinking (and #dtk12chat) or #edtech. You don’t need to feel like you have a lot to say on the topic to get started; begin by “listening” and weigh in when you’re ready. You may be surprised by the patient and supportive community that you’ll meet. After our first two series of Twitterchats with #ISSEdu, I already feel like I’ve expanded my circle of colleagues and have certainly learned from them.
- Go to the Source
Particularly powerful if you feel far-away from newsmakers and thought leaders, you can follow relevant experts and hashtags such as, your (or your students’) favorite author, scientists, or historians. Try to engage them in short conversation by tagging them (@theirname) with a question- you never know who might respond!
- Follow Current Events
What’s trending today? Is there an issue you’d like to learn about, like #refugees, #drought, #UNGA (United Nations General Assembly meeting), #Brexit? See how those you admire have weighed in. Many schools followed the #26Acts hashtag, that urged citizens to do 26 random acts of kindness after the Newtown, Conn., school shooting that took 26 lives. Following a hashtag lets students in on the ground level of important movements.
- Start a Movement
Create your own hashtag. Let other schools know about it, and follow as it grows. Perhaps it’s a call for environmental awareness in your community or education reform in your nation. We are trying this in a small way with #ISSEdu.
- Gauge Public Opinions
Post a question (“What will you do for New Years?” or “What is your weather today?”) and follow the data. Use www.twtpoll.com to ask opinions on an issue. Create a poll and graph responses as they come in from respondents.
- Locate your Followers
If you ask your PLN (Personal Learning Network) for their locations, check them on Google Earth and see who is the farthest and nearest classroom, what their terrain is, where the nearby cities are, etc. Here’s an example of a 4th grade class doing geotweeting.
- Recommend Books
Write short summaries (microblogs) of books read by students in class, and keep them all in one place by tweeting them from a single account. Some classes also live-tweet a book as they read it together. When finished, compile the tweets together to tell the story using Twitterfall. If you have a class blog, you can sync your book reviews and other content using widgets (an application or tool to help users) on most blog platforms to automatically tweet updated blog posts. This way parents and other followers (such as a partner classroom on the other side of the world) are notified when a new post is up.
- Collaborate to Tell a Story
Tweet a story with another school (or group of classes) and take turns adding to the plot. Use Twitterfall.com to put together the coherent story at the end.
- Engage parents
Tweet relevant projects or news from your classroom and allow parents to follow back and instantly comment. (If you’re in China, you might already be doing this on WeChat groups.)
- Build a Global Mindset
Effective use of social media serves as one of the most powerful tools for opening up the world – it’s people, cultures, challenges and possibilities – regardless of the resources you possess. Check in periodically to gain new perspectives, practice communicating ideas, and even get the inspiration to take action to make a difference. All of this can contribute to authentically growing and building your global mindset.