My assignment this week was to identify community building strategies that I can use in my classroom. You can see my activities here.
I am a member of numerous online communities. The Secondary Math Teacher Community is the community I participate in the most. It is hosted on Facebook, a site I use a lot and am comfortable with. It takes me no extra time, thought, or effort to glance through posts and respond as I see fit. I have posted questions, asked for help, given advice and shared information on a regular basis since the group’s inception a couple years ago. This is my go-to group for almost anything math. I took Edtech 537 last summer, which forced me to start to figure out Twitter, something I had been wanting to learn about but had been putting off. I am now a member of the Math Twitter Blogosphere (MTBoS) and recently participated in a blogging challenge called MTBoSBlaugust. It was a great experience, and I will continue to participate in this community, but I prefer the Facebook group. Twitter is not something that I think to check daily, and I always feel like I am missing things. It is a lot like trying to take a sip of water from a fire hose. Despite my explorations in my blogging class, I still find the platform overwhelming. I also follow several blogs that pertain to my subject area and students. I love to read them and borrow their ideas, but I don’t interact much on them. My absolute favorite blog is Math=Love. I have commented on several posts and read the majority of her posts. Many of her creations are happily hanging in my classroom, and her Interactive Notebook ideas are part of my lessons. Dan Meyer’s blog dy/dan is a must read for any math teacher. I have used many of his three-act materials with my students and have worked to incorporate some of his language, such as asking students what they wonder when I show them something new. I had the pleasure of attending his keynote address and subsequent sessions at the New York state math conference last fall.
For this assignment, I found three Google+ communities involving education and technology and joined them. I am already a member of several Google+ communities for Chromebooks, Classroom, Special Education and Algebra. I have found these communities to be very helpful when I post questions or seek input on something I am doing or would like to try. But checking these sites isn’t something I remember to do often enough to make them useful for me. The sites I joined are Educational Technology and Mobile Learning, Educational Technology, and Technology in Education. I spent some time wandering through all three sites. There seems to be very little interaction on these sites, despite the largest one having over 306,000 members. Most posts have at least one “+1” but there are few comments. I found the Mobile Learning site to be the most interesting. There are lots of great articles and links to peruse, but all of them are posted by the owner of the site. I chose this group because I am not currently a member of a group dedicated to online and mobile learning.
Online communities can have a huge impact on student engagement in an online learning environment. Human beings are social creatures by nature. We need to connect with each other, to find some sense of belonging. Not being in a physical classroom setting means those types of interactions must take place somewhere else. The online communities that I enjoy on a daily basis allow me to collaborate and network with other educators, many with similar populations and classrooms. I am the only special education math teacher in my district. There is no one I can talk to who truly understands my classroom and my students. Luckily, I have found a small group of teachers just like me and we chat, ask questions and bounce ideas off each other all the time. This small group is part of a much larger group of math teachers. Our board is a very busy place, with lots of vibrant conversations and great energy. My best advice for building and participating in online communities is that you get out of it what you put into it. The more I interact, the more people interact with me. And in the end, that is what we are looking for! A place where everybody knows your name…