Bridging the Digital Divide
The following is a conversation between Dr. David Probst, a senior administrator who is trying to encourage his senior staff to integrate technology into the classroom, and Dr. Jesus Fidelio Garza, a young technology coordinator who uses technology daily.
Dr. Probst: Dr. Garza, thank you for taking time with me today to discuss ways to encourage our senior staff to utilize technology in their daily work especially with students in the classroom. You had mentioned that you just completed your dissertation and have been researching ways to get all faculty comfortable with the use of technology in the classroom. One of the areas that has been a major stepping stone for senior faculty has been the use of Twitter.
Dr. Garza: Thank you for reaching out to me. Twitter has revolutionized professional learning and how educators can acquire new knowledge about best practices (Ross, C. R., Maninger, R. M., LaPrairie, K. N., Sullivan, S., 2015). With the ongoing learning that takes place via Twitter and the use of creative hashtags, educators are able to share their expertise and best practices to people in their school and beyond.
Dr. Probst: I hate to admit it but I know very little about Twitter. I know that Twitter was created as a social media that is limited to 140 characters or less. However, I really do not understand the whole concept of hashtags and tweets. However, the President of the United States seems to think that Twitter is an excellent tool to get a message out. However, a study conducted by Ryan at Pear analytics in 2009 reported that 40 percent of all tweets examined were pointless babel and only 9 percent had any pass-along value. What have you witnessed in your own district?
Dr. Garza: A lot has happened since this study. One principal at Los Fresnos United, a 9th and 10th grade campus in Los Fresnos, Texas, embarked on a journey that would spark much interest in how Twitter can promote constant learning. Jenny Stumbaugh, the high school principal, had gone to a regional conference and the use of a hashtag was implemented to database pictures and tweets on Twitter. Continual learning took place long after the conference was over because the presenters and attendees shared the same hashtag. Educational conferences are now implementing Twitter hashtags to allow for teacher-to-teacher collaboration before, during, and long after the conference is over (Kimmons, R., Veletsianos, G., 2016).
In my district the first idea was to create a Twitter account for every campus in the district. Los Fresnos United would be the example school for principals that may have experienced hesitation. The next phase would be to create a campus principal Twitter account. Twitter trainings would follow with principals and the person in charge of the campus Twitter account. Teacher trainings based on scholarly research took place. Some teachers were hesitant, but the goal was to gain acceptance with veteran teachers who had a stronger presence on their campus.
Dr. Probst: How can you conduct training based on the use of 140 characters. Can you provide me with some example of those trainings?
Dr. Garza: Much research has illuminated how teachers can continue scholarly conversations long after educational conferences and workshops via Twitter (Kimmons & Veletsianos, 2016). Teachers are asked four questions during the #FalconEdChat. Each month was thematic to the goals that teachers expressed they wanted to cover. During the 2016-2017 academic year, a total of nine chats were conducted via Twitter. The district has covered topics such as “Setting Realistic & Measurable Goals” to “Celebrating Student Success.” The #FalconEdChat has had teachers and educational leaders from across the nation to across the world. Participants have ranged from educators in New Jersey to educators from Malaysia.
Dr. Probst: Your FalconEdChat sounds like an excellent way to get staff involve on a consistent basis. As with most technologies, once you get over the fear factor, you realize that you can experiment with some trial and error. I am thinking that maybe the best way to find out about the uses of Twitter is to join some chats and just experience Twitter from the hands-on level. Thank you for sharing this valuable information and I will send you a tweet!
Dr. David Probst has over 38 years of educational administrative and teaching experience. He has served as dean of student affairs, dean of general education, and dean of business. Currently, Probst is an online professor, dissertation chair as well as an educational and management consultant serving as a hearing examiner and consultant to school districts and colleges.
Dr. Jesus Fidelio Garza is a K-12 digital learning specialist for the Los Fresnos Consolidated Independent School District in Texas. Garza is a published author, poet, and avid photographer.