Tips for Using Social Media and Web-Based Documents for Lesson and Program Planning
Early in my teaching career, developing a lesson plan or museum program could be a lonely experience. For most of my five years in the classroom I was on my own — and it wasn’t pretty. Planning usually involved binders of lessons and lots of trial and error. Thankfully, social media and web-based, shared documents have made this a much more collaborative experience. The challenge is staying focused on what you are looking for, and not getting overwhelmed in the process.
The following strategies will help you target and find the resources and expertise you are seeking (although I can’t promise that you won’t end up finding—and following—other inspiring educators along the way).
Start a new Google Doc and add specific information about the education standard or topic that you are seeking to address. Context and constraints are critical to help focus the resources to fit your needs. Whenever possible, include the grade, curricular/unit context, student needs, and any technological limitations. Here is an example:
Once your document is ready, create a shareable link so you can include it along with your inquiry on one of the social media outlets (see Step 2). Configure the sharing link so that other educators can “view and comment,” which will enable collaborators to add and comment on resources and recommendations. You can always invite colleagues or specific people to edit the document for deeper collaborations, but I have learned the hard way that sharing an editable document broadly online makes it possible—even probable—that you could lose your content. This process of collaborative compiling and editing was how a Teacher Toolkit for the 2017 Solar Eclipse Across America was developed and refined. Once the Toolkit was finalized, the shareable link to the document was set to “view only” for broad distribution.
There are two targeted approaches that I have found useful when seeking resources and collaborative planning: joining a group or browsing a page on Facebook that is specifically for science educators, or engaging in a conversation on Twitter. Which one you choose depends on the platform that you are on or are most comfortable with (I do both). These approaches offer different results, so let’s explore both.
Facebook groups and pages are often private and moderated, which comes with some level of protection and expectation for helpful discussion. But the number of educators who respond to your inquiry could also be limited. Here are some Facebook groups and pages to consider when seeking collaborative planning:
Twitter offers a more dynamic collection of conversations and themes that you can tap into using hashtags (a tag or word that starts with a # symbol). Put your question into a succinct statement (or tweet), and then add one or more of the hashtags below to get the attention of others who follow this topic/conversation:
Once you put your inquiry out into the “Twitterverse,” be sure to engage with other educators as they respond with resources and recommendations. “Like” or reply to their comments, and compile what they share in your online document so others can benefit from the collaborative effort that you have sparked.
I hope you have found a few new strategies for tapping into the wealth of educator expertise that is available to you on social media platforms. Keep it targeted and stay engaged, and the help you need is often only a post or tweet away.
Rachel Connolly (firstname.lastname@example.org) was most recently the director of STEM education at WGBH and the principle investigator for the NASA-funded Bringing the Universe to America’s Classrooms project. She is an instructional designer specializing in digital media and data visualization in Boston, Massachusetts. You can find her on Twitter: @rachelbconnolly.
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