Putting Education Reform To The Test

Social Media Helps Florida Teachers Connect, Inspire And Hone Their Craft

Lutz Elementary School teacher Mike Meiczinger uses Twitter to let people know what's happening in his class.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Lutz Elementary School teacher Mike Meiczinger uses Twitter to let people know what's happening in his class.

Lutz Elementary School teacher Mike Meiczinger noticed some parents weren’t using the class web site to keep track of what their students were doing.

So Meiczinger signed up for Twitter as another way to keep in touch. He still feels like a novice, but Meiczinger sees it as an instant messaging service for parents.

“I always tell my parents the child can never come home and say ‘Oh, we did nothing today,'” Meiczinger said. “That’s why I use it, so the parents know what’s new and fresh with the kids.”

Meiczinger is one of hundreds of teachers who used Twitter and other social media this week to try and combat misconceptions about their job.

Teachers and educators have taken to social media in ways other professionals haven’t. The weekly Twitter #Satchat draws thousands of teachers from all over the country. Teachers are posting lesson plans for colleagues making the switch to Common Core math and language arts standards. The Khan Academy has posted hundreds of short lessons on YouTube. And Pinterest is a great place for teachers to find ideas and materials to work into their lesson plans.

For Lalla Pierce, a teacher at Brown-Barge Middle School in Pensacola, social media helps provide some much-needed training and collaboration.

Pierce compares professional development to leaving the kids with a babysitter for date night. You have to leave detailed instructions on dinner, homework, bed time. Then multiply that by two dozen kids.

Twitter lets her jump in and out with colleagues when it’s convenient.

“So to be able to get a little bit of professional development on the fly, if you will, is a wonderful thing,” Pierce said. “Thirty minutes in the morning before school starts I can be on Twitter, read a couple of blogs and I’ve gotten either the shot in the arm that I need that’s a lift for the day or an idea that I’m going to try the next day with a lesson plan.

“It’s just a great way to catch a little bit of profession development without having to be away from the classroom.”

Teachers have used social media to form Professional Learning Communities, or PLCs, to mentor, encourage and share ideas.

Jaraux Washington is a science teacher at Roland Park K-8 Magnet School in Tampa.

She scours Pinterest for ideas and articles, photos and other materials to use in the classroom. She uses YouTube to see teachers demonstrate lessons in a way she can’t get from her textbooks or curriculum guide.

But most of all, Washington said, social media helps her feel connected.

“I think something about teachers, they feel like they’re isolated a lot, because they’re in their room,” she said. “So to hear what other teachers are doing and other policies it kind of empowers you that ‘I’m not alone. I’m not the only one who feels like this.’

“Twitter is where I can go be in a room of experts everywhere and I can ask them whatever I want. And they can answer.”


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