Education World recently chatted with educator Erik Bean, author of the new book Social Media Writing Lessons for YouTube, Facebook, NaNoWriMo, and CreateSpace. We’re grateful to have Erik as an Education World blogger. When he's not writing for us, presenting or teaching, he’s been keeping busy writing this new book with coauthor Emily Waszak. If you’ve ever wondered about incorporating social media into your classroom, take a look at Dr. Bean's latest work.
Why did you decide to write a book on social media lesson plans?
One of my first and foremost teaching philosophies is to engage students, connect with them. I wouldn’t want to be in a class where I did not feel engaged or excited about the lessons. As a teacher myself, I know how important it is to “reach” my students. Learning can be fun and at the same time, students can walk away with the appropriate learning outcomes.
Last year, Emily Waszak who also is passionate about engaging students, and I first wrote a book entitled, WordPress for Student Writing Projects. While that book was selling well, readers told us they wanted more plans for a variety of different social networks. We inherently knew this. We had much experience testing our lessons using WordPress, but needed more time to test several of the lessons, particularly those for YouTube and Blogger.
We knew a more comprehensive book would complement our earlier effort. In addition to getting teacher and student buy in, however, we were fortunate to present several of the new book lessons at major educational conferences in 2014 such as:
Beatnik YouTube Poetry Lesson
Selected among more than 2,000 proposals for presentation at the 2014 Annual Convention of the National Council of Teachers of English, Nov. 23, 2014, Washington, D.C.
Using Blogger for Writing Projects Aligned to Common Core
Presented at the 3rd Annual MACUL Michigan Summit Featuring Google for Education, Nov. 4, 2014, Brighton, MI
YouTube for Argumentative Writing: Controversial Issue Summary & Rebuttal
Presented at 7th Annual Emerging Technologies for Online Learning International Symposium (formerly Sloan Consortium), April 10th, 2014, Dallas, TX.
WordPress for Student Writing Projects Aligned to Common Core
Presented at e-Cornucopia 2014, Oakland University, June 13, 2014, Rochester Hills, MI.
What do you enjoy most about WordPress?
WordPress offers teachers and students alike so much flexibility. It is open source and newcomers can point and click to set up free class Website for student blogging, poetry analysis, or essay writing, for example. In addition, WordPress like Google’s Blogger, offers teachers a variety of apps to adorn the class site that can keep track of the number of hits a particular draft has received, student polling options, and the latest assignments read. Using social networks like WordPress and Blogger, for example, allow teachers to create online collaborative forums that can be private and allow students to hone their draft writing as well as constructive feedback skills.
What is the biggest misconception related to social media for educational use?
The biggest misconception about using social media for writing lessons is that the process to set up a classroom site is complicated. Setting up a private YouTube or Facebook class site takes no more time than many instructors spend perusing through their own social networks. For novice and social network savvy instructors, a typical class site can be set up in about an hour or two, no more than the time investing in any lesson plan instructions, putting it to good classroom use.
Do you see a trend of a particular social media platform being used more frequently in the classroom? What are your projections for 2015-2016?
The fascination over YouTube will continue to make it one of the most popular networks to use in the classroom. YouTube is owned by Google and is the second largest Internet search engine. While students learn in a variety of ways, visual is among the most popular. While any class can post a video in any online platform such as Blackboard, Edmodo, or Sakai, for example, students identify with brands. Analyzing videos in YouTube as well as having students post their own as described in our new book, brings much satisfaction to the learning process.
YouTube offers a “safe” classroom content channel that can be set up with your school’s IT department. Following YouTube, Facebook will continue to be popular since it is most widely accessed by students and teachers alike and teachers can set up closed Facebook classroom sites. Finally, WordPress will remain popular for the reasons discussed earlier including open source code and the variety of apps teachers can use to engage students.
What do educators have to be cautious about when it comes to social media in the classroom?
Some faculty are reluctant to use social media in the classroom either because their district may not allow it or they do not understand how to best incorporate it. Our new book features several teacher-tested lessons using social networks like YouTube and Blogger. These classroom sites can be designed so they are not indexed in search engines and where student collaborative contributions can be screened. While no social network is 100 percent safe, our own experience as well as other teacher examples verify that using social media for lessons can increase student attention, improve writing, and critical thinking skills.
Where do you get your inspiration for book topics and content?
When I think of great assignments, the teachers who enable them in the classroom first inspire me. I think of characters in films like To Sir with Love (“Sir” played by Sidney Poitier) and Mr. Holland’s Opus (played by Richard Dreyfuss). In the case of incorporating technology in the classroom, my passion began more than 15 years ago when I built my first Website and began teaching at a variety of local Detroit area colleges. It would be sometime before the social networks would appear, but as soon as they did, I began thinking of ways to include them in my own English composition classrooms. In 2010 I was fortunate to have a video produced dubbed, Detroit’s Future is Back! with the help of Christopher Coppola about four English composition students who traveled back into time to learn how to best defend a college essay thesis. That six-minute video lesson was presented at the 2010 Michigan Council of Teachers of English Annual Conference. It wasn’t long before I realized YouTube, for example, could be used as a device to reinforce writing skills. I knew I could tie the learning outcomes of most any writing assignment such as thesis writing and defense, poetry and figurative language analysis, and essay draft editing into almost any type of social media lesson plan.
When will your book be out?
After nearly two years in the making our new book, Social Media Writing Lessons for YouTube, Facebook, NaNoWriMo, and CreateSpace has been released via Westphalia Press, an Imprint of the Policy Studies Organization, Washington, D.C. Readers can visit www.socialmedialessonplans.com for updates.
Editor, Education World