While social media sites can become a deep abyss, they can also be a helpful tool. For teachers, between September and May there are so many demands on our time, and we are often stretched so thin that we have little time for much else. Because of this, until recently I had shied away from using social media sites due to the fear of becoming addicted and losing precious time. However, I have now found that using social media efficiently can help me in more ways that I had previously thought, and it has become an important resource to which I often turn.
When I started teaching in a new district, I found I had a problem I hadn’t encountered before. Working in a low-income area, my students had no supplies. It became obvious it was going to be impossible to successfully teach math to students without a place for them to take notes, a pencil to complete their work, or even a folder to keep their work in. So I sat down and thought about my problem in the most simplest of terms. My students had no supplies, and when they did have them, they lost them. I realized my solution would need to self-contain all necessary supplies needed for class within my classroom. And to my surprise, social media helped create my solution!
As an occasional “pinner” on Pinterest, I had previously “pinned” a few sites about interactive math notebooks. Once I finally took the time to review these sites, I realized that this could be my solution. My students would create math notebooks that would house all of their notes and work, along with interactive features that would make it more engaging, hands-on and fun. I began pinning everything I could about math notebooks and specific elements that related to my curriculum. With help from other sites, such Donors Choose and Facebook, I turned my idea into a reality. Building on this success, social media continues to help me refine and improve my classroom. When I was concerned about the number of pencils I was losing, I saw a pin about how to keep pencils with the math notebook!
As someone who saw social media sites as something I had no time for, I have now seen the usefulness it can provide to my teaching. However, I have also fallen victim to the endless stream of links and sidetracks that have consumed my evening. To ensure efficiency, I have created a few guidelines that I try to follow to help me stay most productive.
1. Use social media for a specific, targeted goal. Once I identify what I need to accomplish, I can identify the social media tool to help me be successful. This also gives me concrete criteria to know when I’m finished (which is key!).
2. Be specific and selective. The more focused I am with my goal, the less time I spend diverted into other areas.
3. Set concrete goals for implementing ideas. I’ve seen friends “pin” tons of ideas, or “tweet” tons of articles, with very little actually implemented in the classroom. I force myself to try one new idea each month, and then delete it or refile it once I no longer need the pin. This helps keep me from feeling too overwhelmed, and motivates me to implement and innovate new ideas.
Pauline Zdonek (@PaulineZd) is a middle-school math teacher in the Chicagoland area. She has her master’s degree in elementary and special education, and has taught in both urban and suburban school districts.