Education Transformation Through Social Media

Part 1 of the Education Transformation Through Collaborative Voices series

ruth cohenson quote

In a recent #Edchat discussion I reflected, “There are more educators than politicians involved in education, yet politicians make the majority of education policy decisions. How do we change this dynamic?” One of the drawbacks of undergoing training as an educator is that we rarely get training in the art of spreading messages. We don’t learn how to connect with an audience, how to make our presentations/workshops memorable, or how to get a message to be viral through various media outlets. Fortunately, I started off in the business field. I went to a magnet school for 4 years that focused on business and weekly I gave presentations to persuade top business leaders to fund our school. I was a part of Toastmasters, marketing clubs/classes, and competed regularly in speech competitions. By the time I had entered college, I had already given presentations to an audience of over 500. In college I graduated with a minor in Communication and spent years studying communication theory and public speaking.

Why Educators Could Do With Some Marketing Training

This training has helped me immensely as an educator who cares about transformation, because the reality is that the media and politicians have a firm grounding in this type of training, therefore, know how to persuade their audiences into their beliefs. They may only be a few compared to educators but clearly this training and their connections provide them with the ability to be heard by audiences worldwide and implement various education policies. They spread their messages about what education reform should be, which include “firing teachers and focusing on standardized tests.” Examples of these messages include the recent Waiting for Superman documentary watched by millions, Michelle Rhee making the cover of Time, and Oprah’s various shows with John Legend and others voicing their opinions about education reform.

The Damage

Educators have seen how these policies harm children and the learning process. The typical child worldwide attends school 180 to 200 days a year. The typical child sits in a desk at least 4 hours a day and is drilled with information as the teacher lectures. Rarely do our children get to move, play, explore their interests, experiment with knowledge, or communicate what they have learned. Drilling, worksheets, and sitting in desks being silent does not motivate children to become lifelong learners. Instead, it kills their creativity and curiosity. Without a voice to question and figure out the meaning of what they have learned, students begin to lose the ability to problem solve and critical think effectively.

So How Do We Begin to Spread Our Message of Education Transformation?

As an educator who cares about transformation I believe we need to collect our voices worldwide and collaborate to impact education policy worldwide. We can do this through social media. With Youtube, Facebook, and Twitter alone we have the ability to spread a message to millions and impact an audience of millions worldwide. We have the ability to impact our world in a positive manner. In a series of posts, we will explore various ways to spread a message through various social networks in order to transform current education systems. I describe this in my Keynote that I gave for the Plymouth E-Learning Conference in April.

5 Tips to Keep in Mind When Crafting Your Message

Although we will explore how to craft our messages in the various social media outlets, there are some tips to keep in mind for spreading any type of message. These include:

  • Remember your audience- We have a tough audience, because parents, students, community leaders, administrators, and other educational stakeholders have experience in the education system. They have formed opinions based on them getting through the traditional style of education and believe often if they did it then our students should be able. Even if they should, why educate this way? When we craft our messages we have to step into their shoes, figure out the arguments and preconceived notions we have to combat.
  • Appeal to the senses- We live in a multimedia world. Our presentations should be visually appealing, drive to the point versus being littered with words, and include effects that reinforce the media. The Shift Happens videos have 20 million views and have had an impact worldwide. You will notice they are professionally done with great music, visuals, and effects.
  • Share stories- Stories and examples of what you do in your class and how students respond are powerful. Often seeing students excited about learning changes many minds.
  • Craft your message according to the medium- Remember that each social media forum has its own language. The way we impact an audience on Facebook is different than the way we send that message on Twitter. On Twitter we have hashtags but this won’t appeal to many Facebook users who do not use Twitter. Knowing the language of the medium helps us understand the best way to craft our messages. This is why I take time to lurk and observe the way people communicate on the medium.
  • Convey Your Passion- The most important tip to remember is to believe in your message and inspire others with your passion. I have seen presenters speak without any of the 4 above but had so much passion their audience was held captive. Passion impacts and transforms opinions. If you lose your passion then move onto the message you are passionate about.

I believe that when enough of the educators in social networks gather and begin to spread their messages of what education transformation looks like to the rest of the world, we will begin to see the transformation take place. We will drown out the voices of the politicians, celebrities, and media who think firing teachers and focusing on standardized tests is education reform.

What tips do you have? What do you believe education transformation should look like? How will you spread that message?

More Resources

Challenge:

Reflect on what messages you spread about education transformation. Do the messages reflect your passion? What can you do to spread your message to a wider audience?

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Shelly Terrell

Shelly Sanchez Terrell is a teacher trainer, author, and international speaker. She is the host of American TESOL’s Free Friday Webinars and the Social Media Community Manager for The Consultants-E. She has co-founded and organized the acclaimed educational projects, Edchat, ELTChat, The Reform Symposium E-Conference and the ELTON nominated Virtual Round Table language and technology conference. Her prolific presence in the educator community through social media has been recognized by several notable entities, such as The New York Times, UNESCO Bangkok, Edweek, Converge Magazine, the United Federation of Teachers, the 140 Conference, Mashable, English Central, Tefl.net, and T/H/E JOURNAL. Her education blog, Teacher Reboot Camp, is ranked as one of the top 10 language teaching and technology blogs and the 50 best blogs for education leaders. In 2012 find her book, The 30 Goals Challenge for Educators published by Eye on Education and participate with over 7000 educators worldwide in this online professional development course that helps educators develop Personal Learning Networks and accomplish social media and teaching goals. Find her on Twitter, @ShellTerrell. Shelly has taught English language learners at various levels since 1998 in the US, Greece, and in Germany. She currently presents and hosts workshops on integrating technology effectively with young learners and adults. Shelly holds an Honours BA in English and a minor in Communication with a specialization in Electronic Media from the University of Texas in San Antonio and an Honours MA in Curriculum Instruction ESL from the University of Phoenix.

6 thoughts on “Education Transformation Through Social Media

  1. Very confused by the assertion that educators “don’t learn how to connect with an audience, how to make … presentations/workshops memorable”. I would strongly disagree. That is EXACTLY what educators do excel at. If they’re not doing that, they shouldn’t be educators!

    1. Hi Jane!

      Thanks for dropping by and adding your thoughts. I think many want to connect but with the traditional model of lecturing many teachers don’t make quality connections. Connection means conversation which is a more than one way conversation. How many educators spend the majority of the time having conversations with students and parents versus the lecture model that still prevails?

  2. I would like to add a minor disclaimer as a prelude to my comments. I work for Pearson Canada and the Canadian educational community has its own cultural realities. Many are similar to American educational realities but many are different. Please do not read different to imply better of worse. My comments below are a reflection of my interpretation of the Canadian educational biosphere.

    I think you are partially correct in your description of the communication challenge. In my opinion, educational change is limited more by systemic inertia, than by a lack of communication. No one group can solve a challenge that is so large and so important. Finding a roadmap through that reality is where I think the effort should focus (in Canada , the United States or anywhere else). Perhaps communication is the path to creating that awareness.

    1. Hi Martin!

      All welcomed! Thanks for dropping by and commenting. I like what you say that “communication is the path to creating that awareness” and I believe this is one area many schools fail to support. Many schools fail to create a culture that supports conversation and rather support one-way dialogues. I believe we need to get in the practice of conversations versus dictation of knowledge. Our students aren’t so much vessels as should be part of the conversation about their learning journey. At least this is my opinion and observations.

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