Connect, Network, Create, Share, and Be Productive with Social Media Tools

Article excerpt

"There can be infinite uses of the computer and of new age technology, but if the teachers themselves are not able to bring it into the classroom and make it work, then it fails. " - Nancy Kassebaum, U.S. Senator

In the past fifteen years, communication and marketing strategies have changed drastically. Not only are FFA chapters publishing newspaper articles, they are now publishing websites, blog posts, Facebook statuses, tweets on Twitter, and much more! Internet applications and social media sites continue to grow exponentially. Our students are very technologically savvy, therefore in order to communicate and market agriculture programs, we must be present in these realms.

Interactive technologies are becoming more ingrained in our culture each day. The use of technology inside the classroom is critical for learners to better understand and apply their knowledge outside of school. As technology continues to be integrated into our schools, there are many tools that can be beneficial for educators when preparing lessons and working with others. Internet networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Blogger or Wordpress have become important to many educators.

The Social Media Tools

Facebook allows individuals to connect with those they know personally and professionally. In addition, individuals can join groups and business/organization pages to further connect with others of similar interests. Twitter allows users to quickly express a thought or message in 140 characters or less and follow users with similar interests. YouTube acts as an online public library of videos created by users and posted to the Internet. Blogging websites provide a unique opportunity to openly publish thoughts, video, pictures, and information with an unlimited amount of space. Blogger and Wordpress can be used in a variety of ways, educational and otherwise.

Connecting

Connecting with students, parents, community members, and stakeholders is imperative to the success of an agriculture program. Many FFA chapters across the nation have developed chapter websites to share recent activities and achievements as well as upcoming events and deadlines. Internet sites such as Facebook have become another tool for educators to use in the development of a chapter's image. Creating a Facebook page for an agriculture program increases visibility and promotes communication. Additionally, it is very simple to post pictures, video, updates, and chapter reminders. Since Facebook users are connecting with others for a variety of reasons, there is a high amount of visibility when using this site.

Networking

Using Twitter is a great way to network with others personally and professionally. Through use of Twitter, it is easy to build a Professional Learning Network (PLN). This can be accomplished by following other users that have similar interests or by following categorized tweets (messages) through the use of hash tags. Hash tags use the # symbol to mark keywords or topics in a tweet. #AgEdu, for example, is a tag that is used to mark tweets related to agricultural education. This allows a user searching for others users to follow others who are interested agricultural education. Once you find a user or a topic of interest, you can then interact to start building relationships.

Last fall, I (Bender) had 16 students enrolled in my Agricultural Business Management course signup and begin using Twitter. After going over basic instructions, the students had assignments to assist in building their networks with friends and other users. The "wow" moment was when one of the students followed the CASE IH Twitter account (@CASE_IH). The student then sent a reply tweet to the CASE IH account about the new line of combines that would be showcased at an upcoming trade show. This began a conversation back and forth between the student and the CASE IH account that continued through the class period. …