“Social media allows people to connect. So instead of reading about the Arab Spring, I can have students following along, in real-time, with what is happening.” – Steven Anderson, USA

The role of social media in education is a frequent topic here at Daily Edventures. I recently discussed how the use of social media in education is gaining momentum. In fact, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan declared August Connected Educators Month. Today we are honored to close this special month with a renowned advocate for the power of social media in learning.

Steven Anderson is passionate about the use of social media for the students he serves. He is an educator, speaker, renowned blogger, and avid tweeter. Anderson, who is @web20classroom on Twitter, shares insights about effective use of social media and technology for learning with his over 49,000 followers. In fact, in 2009 and 2011, the Edublog Awards honored Anderson as the Most Influential Tweeter. And let’s not forget that he is #Edchat co-creator, a #140Conf character, and an ASCD Emerging Leader.

“I have had the opportunity to travel the country talking to teachers and districts about social media and social media policy,” says Anderson. “There is a big misconception about how social media and social learning can truly elevate teaching practices. I have seen in my own classrooms – and in the classrooms of teachers from around the world – the impact that social media has on bridging the divide that can exist in the classroom. My goal is to help teachers understand the misconceptions, address them and harness the power of social media, not only for student learning but for professional learning as well.”

And to Anderson, social media is about so much more than just understanding and using technology. It’s about collaboration and communication. “Social media allows people to connect,” he says. “So instead of reading about the Arab Spring, I can have students following along, in real time, with what is happening and talk to people from that region. I can make those connections because I am plugged into a network that is worldwide and far-reaching.”

Today Anderson shares his thoughts on how to best implement social media in classrooms, and the one tool he would give each student if he could.

What changes have you seen as result of your efforts?

I am beginning to see more schools and districts take an open approach to using social media products in the classroom. Instead of blocking it, because they don’t understand it, they are willing to investigate and create guidelines that allow for safety and protection but do not handcuff the teacher’s ability to teach and use the many resources available.

How can others facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned through your work? 

In partnership with Facebook and Edutopia, I have written a guide to creating teacher and student friendly guidelines. This is a result of the work in my own district along with the work I have done around the country.

How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?

Technology is the tool that we use to accomplish our work. For me, it’s more important that we focus on what we can create using the tools available to us, and what memorable experiences we can help create.

What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome to ensure students are receiving a quality education?

Interference from those with too much influence, but little knowledge of how students learn or how we should be providing an education. Everyone has ideas on how teachers should teach, but often those methods come prepackaged and they are to be applied to everyone equally. There are no two classrooms alike, and no two students alike either.
So let’s provide teachers the resources and time to learn about innovative practices or methods and then let them decide how they should be implemented in their classroom with their students.

What is your region doing well currently to support education?

Locally, we are taking a really hard look when it comes to technological professional development and how it should be carried out. We made a huge shift 14 months ago to more of an individualized approached to technology PD, and that has made a big difference in the perception teachers have of technology and how we teach. We aim to provide teachers with the resources and support they need, as they need it. We no longer decide for them.

What conditions must change in your country to better support education?

I really believe it comes down to everyone believing, across the US, that the kids we teach are truly unique and should be taught as such. We need people involved in education who care about kids and not bottom lines. And we need people in education who believe in student voice and allowing for kids to drive their learning and find their passions.

What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?

Collaboration. Allowing kids to work together to solve problems and find solutions. Asking questions that allow kids to find the answer prepares them for looking up information as well. Instead, let’s foster an environment where kids can work together, fail together and learn with and from each other.

What advice would you give a new teacher (or to anyone wanting to make a difference in education)? 

Have fun! I don’t see what I do as a job any more. I see it, every day, as an opportunity to make a difference and have lots of fun. Sure, education is hard work, some of the hardest work anyone can do. But it is also the most rewarding and fun work you can have, too. Savor the little things and moments you have.

What educational “trend” do you think is helping students? Is there a trend that is getting in the way of learning?

I believe the continuation of helping students connect to the world beyond them is having an impact. 21st century learning is about connections: connections to content and connections to the world. We can do that through resources like social media. If we can continue to grow the ability for students to connect with each other and others, we will continue to head down the right path.

If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why? 

Access. It wouldn’t really matter the device. But I want every child to have access to the Internet and access to information.  They can get that on a tablet or a laptop or a phone, it doesn’t really matter. But I want them to all be able to have access to information.

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About Steven Anderson
Follow him on Twitter @web20classroom

Steven W. Anderson is the Director of Instructional Technology for the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools in Winston-Salem, NC. He also regularly travels the country talking to schools and districts about the use of Social Media in the classroom. Steven has been a presenter at several educational technology conferences, including ISTE, ASCD and NCTIES, as well as served as a panelist at the #140 Conference in Los Angeles, New York and was a featured speaker at the first ever #140Edu Conference, focusing on the real-time web in education. He is also responsible in helping create #edchat, a weekly education discussion on Twitter that boasts over 500 weekly participants. Steven has also been recognized with the NOW Award, highlighting the Movers And Shakers in the world of social media and the 2009 and 2011 Edublogs, Twitterer of The Year Award. In 2012 he was named an ASCD Emerging Leader, recognizing young, talented educational leaders in their field.

Birthplace: Fort Bragg, NorthCarolina
Current residence: Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Education: Bachelors of Middle Grades Education, Western Carolina University, Masters of Education in Instructional Technology, East Carolina University
Website I check every day: Lifehacker.com
Person who inspires me most: My mother
Next travel destination (work or pleasure): Maine-Featured Speaker for the Maine Educational Technology Annual Conference
When was the last time you laughed? Why? I have a 3-year-old who gives me plenty of reasons to laugh every day.
Favorite book: Benjamin Franklin, An American Life by Walter Isaacson
Favorite music: 50’s and 60’s
Your favorite quote or motto: Be Awesome Today!

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One Response to “Social media allows people to connect. So instead of reading about the Arab Spring, I can have students following along, in real-time, with what is happening.” – Steven Anderson, USA

  1. Pingback: Education and Technology Thought Leader Interview: Steven W Anderson of Web20Classroom — Emerging Education Technologies

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