What if early learning professionals considered social media as a form of making learning visible, for leaving traces?
Heeding Malaguzzi advice that “teachers must leave behind an isolated, silent mode of working, which leaves no traces” (1998, p. 68), many have turned to social media to make learning visible through electronic documentation. No longer isolated or silent, teachers have become on-line collaborators. Documentation through social media leaves traces and provides teachers with the opportunity to step out of the isolated, silent mode, bringing to light the capacity of children and teachers. These traces make learning visible and give us the opportunity to, “stand aside for a while and leave room for learning, observe carefully what children do, and then if you have understood well, perhaps teaching will be different from before” (1998, p. 82).
We invited a group of early learning professionals to join us on what has become a grand adventure; collaborative learning through social media. Acorn School and Richland Academy have been wonderful traveling companions as we explored the potential of professional learning through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and blogging. We look forward to continuing and building these collaborative professional relationships. We are learning from each other. I am happy not to be the presenter in front of a room delivering presenter focused content because we have realized that through social media there are so many others we can connect to that will broaden our opportunities to learn from others and to leave our own traces.
Not far from our own geographical location we have found a group of kindergarten teachers collaborating on social media in a way that illustrates the learning children are capable of doing when given teachers who are inspired by Reggio. Beyond our borders we have found amazing professionals worldwide that share the same passions as we do. Social media has provided an extraordinary opportunity for professional learning.
We invite you to join us. We hope the following information will help you on your own journey of professional learning through social media. We look forward to the privilege of seeing your professionalism made visible as you leave traces.
We acknowledge that many travellers will begin their journeys at different junctures but we will provide guidance by starting at the beginning of our journey. By retracing our steps on our journey we can tell you how we began, as both of us were novices in the land of social media. You might enter the social media landscape to begin exploring professional learning at different points of entrance. We started with Facebook. Others have found Pinterest to be a good starting point. The exciting thing about the journey is that you get to make your own road.
Facebook can be used productively for purposes other than socializing and electronic gaming. I have enjoyed the multiple benefits of being part of many Facebook groups. In addition, I have “liked” ECE related pages and now read my news feeds as sources of potential professional learning. Often, I get very excited by what we read and then share it on one of our two pages that I manage.
It is important to remember that when you have a social media presence it is your chance to project a professional image and to think about your digital footprint. It is important to remember that like the early learning professionals that we have had the privilege to work with at Acorn and Richland, you must always protect children by not naming or tagging them in published images and ensure that nothing gets posted that is not accompanied by the parents’ informed consent. We recommend that as you begin your journey that you focus only on sharing images that are focused on educational environments rather than images of children’s faces.
We thought we could show how you can take a professional topic of interest as your compass to guide your journey. Louise has taught art for many years to our students in the BCD program and I have loved hearing about how she has shared the inspirational work of Andy Goldsworthy, an artist that uses nature as inspiration. With that topic in mind here are some suggestions of who to like on Facebook:
Twitter, works in a similar way to Facebook but there is a limit on the length of your tweets. To begin I recommend that you find inspiring people to follow. Once you are comfortable in the twitterverse I recommend that you become active and tweet and retweet. At the start, you may just want to make certain tweets “favourites” and this will give you an archive of professional resources. Searching hash tags (#) will take you to either tweets connected to that topic or to a twitter chat. I recommend that you follow #kinderchat as it is a lively engagement of kindergarten teachers from all over the world who love to talk about early learning.
With a focus on nature, art, and children, I recommend that you follow these people on twitter:
Pinterest, is a virtual bulletin or “pin” board. It lets you organize or curate your own professional learning topic and share it with others. There is an active group of early learning professionals and I encourage you to seek out those with similar interests by searching by your topic of interest. With a focus on children, nature and art I recommend:
You can connect your Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest boards as well. My strongest piece of advice is to let yourself be taken to the original source. When you are in Pinterest or any social media challenge yourself to find the source of the information you are reading. On Pinterest you can just click on a pin and it should take you to an article, report, blog, website or video. You now have this source as part of your professional library. When you share or use the ideas to become inspired to practice what you have learned you will have demonstrated your own professionalism by making it visible. You will have left traces.
Malaguzzi, L. (1998). History, ideas, and basic philosophy. In C. Edwards, L. Gandini, & G. Forman (Eds.), The hundred languages of children: The Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education (pp. 49 – 77). Norwood, NJ: Albex
I wish to extend a special thank you to Lisa and Jane, the PK and JK teachers at Richland Academy who provided the inspiring images of children holding their Nature Compositions.