Maximizing Teaching and Learning Environments With Social Media and Science

Teaching methodologies continue to morph into ways by which we design instructional modules for teaching and learning, colleges and universities who offer Teacher Education Programs, so too, must continue to model, design, and effectively refine teacher instructional programs and strategies that will foster the development of highly qualified teachers and learners. In the early 2000, several Colleges and Universities struggled to stay afloat. This was largely because of a weak economy due to the housing crisis according to most analysts. The economy, however; got better over time and yet still, there continues to be a large call to recruit and retain the brightest minds in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics or STEM Education. Simply put, there aren't enough talented pre-service teachers to teach students in critical areas of science and math.

Designing a quality Teacher Education Programs, which delivered a cohesive sense of community, served all of its stakeholders and constituents well. The study examined emerging research and the significance of using social media as a collaboration tool to rethink, reshape, and recreate, teaching and learning environments between pre-service and post-service math and science teachers. Pre-service teachers came from one of the Historically Black College and Universities located in the Southeast. Post-service or veteran teachers taught middle grades students from a rural agricultural community. An interactive social media platform was used to help both groups collaborate, teach, and learn instructional strategies from each other. As a backdrop, each focused their instructional content using common core standards from math and science. Posts contained articles for discussion, interactive projects, pictures, images, and videos. Learners began to create, think, and share alike. Both groups surpassed a learning curve that produced positive outcomes for themselves and most importantly their students.

The Conceptual Framework for this Teacher Education Program take into account the knowledge, skills, and dispositions required for student candidates to possess before entering the real world of Teacher Education. Teacher candidates aspired to be among those proficient educators that already exists in schools all over the world. Colleges of Education affirms the importance of aligning its programs of study with each particular state's professional standards. The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, which is the profession's mechanism to help establish high quality teacher preparation acerts the following goals for proficient status:

Five goals for the "Proficient Educator"

1. Demonstrates competence in content knowledge;

2. Uses effective pedagogical skills;

3. Uses technology appropriately to enhance learning;

4. Evidences a caring disposition; and

5. Has an understanding of and appreciation for diversity.

Although, many skills and technological divides were evident for many, the pedagogical skills of post-service teachers bridged the gaps of age and experience. Whereas skill in this digital divide narrowed, knowledge of the latest technology with post-service teachers was abundant due to time and protocol of recent program needs. By closing gaps and entrusting skillsets both groups were able to reach all students. With the use of social media knowledge gained by both groups made a lasting impression on students, parents, and administration.

Researchers suggest that it is important to look at social networks from more than simple communication or information-flow perspective. The interventions have more to do with helping groups know what the others know and ensuring safety and access among people. Cross, Parker, and Borghetti, 2002, suggested that we should began to focus less on communication and more on the knowledge-based dimensions of relationships that make them useful in sharing and creating knowledge.

The Digital Era

The Digital Era has allowed us to cross space and time, engage with people in a far-off time zone as though they were just next door, do business with people around the world, and develop information systems that potentially network us all closer and closer every day. Yet, people don't live in a global world - they are more concerned with the cultures in which they participate Boyd, 2006. As to date, social media has evolved to become a powerful tool for education. Social Network sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Ning and tools such as Skype and Eliminate are connecting students to learning opportunities in ways that are engaging and exciting. Whether you teach in an elementary, middle, or high school class, or a traditional face-to-face or online college or university, social media can have a direct impact on student learning.

Smith 2011 posted that in 2011, 63.7 percent of US internet users used social networks on a regular basis, amounting to nearly 148 million people. Although the pace of growth will be less dramatic in the next few years than it was in 2009 and 2010, usage will remain strong and shows no sign of declining. People learn through observing others' behavior, attitudes, and outcomes of those behaviors. Most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others, one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action. Social learning theory explains human behavior in terms of continuous reciprocal interaction between cognitive, behavioral, and environmental influences Bandura, 1977.

Necessary conditions for Effective Modeling

Attention - various factors increase or decrease the amount of attention paid. Includes distinctiveness, affective valence, prevalence, complexity, functional value. One's characteristics such as sensory capacities, arousal level, perceptual set, past reinforcement, affect, and attention.

Retention - remembering what you paid attention to. Includes symbolic coding, mental images, cognitive organization, symbolic rehearsal, motor rehearsal.

Reproduction - reproducing the image. Including physical capabilities, and self-observation of reproduction.

Motivation - having a good reason to imitate. Includes motives such as a past such as traditional behaviorism, promised imagined incentives, and vicarious seeing and recalling the reinforced model.

Middle grade learners tend to learn, yet communicate differently than any other level in the educational arena. Based on the social media method that was implemented for the project, criterion reference comprehensive test scores increased in both math and science content areas. In math there was a 2.4 percent increase and 9.6 percent increase in science. Researchers continuously try to find ways that are challenging, engaging, and relevant to middle level learners while ensuring that both students and teachers are constantly engaged in active learning.

In today's culture a student's learning environment is infused with lots of old and new technologies. Even the technological aspects and mechanics of a pencil has changed since it's inception with the discovery of graphite in the 1500's. Whether that technology involves the latest gaming systems, the coolest gadgets, or invitations to social media, students live in a culture that want to be engaged with those "things" that will motivate them and bring gratification to them instantaneously.

The learning environments for students both in school and at home should be seamless enough that when technology is a method of integrated learning, it should operate on a level in which both continue to grow. It should become a tool that students become more accustom to. It is advantageous and well worth the educational journey throughout teacher preparation. The students are already there; why not meet them on their playing field.

References

Bandura, A. Social Learning Theory, 1977;( http://psychology.about.com/od/developmentalpsychology/a/sociallearning.htm; retrieved on 7/1/12.

Boyd, D., (March, 2006). G/localization: When global information and local interaction collide.". O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference; San Diego, CA.

Cross, R., Parker, A., & Borghetti, S. (2002). A bird's-eye view: Using social network analysis to improve knowledge creation and sharing. IBM Institute for Business Value, 1-19.

Smith, Anise. "Social Network Usage Growing Strong." My Amplify. 18 March 2011.

Sherry Crocker, EdD

Professional Educator
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