SMART Exemplary Educator Boris Berlijn has been teaching geography since 1998 in secondary education in the Netherlands. He currently teaches at a SMART Showcase School called Ashram College in Alphen aan den Rijn. He also received a SMART Certified Trainer license in 2008 and is currently completing the SMART Certified Lesson Developer course.
In 2011, Berlijn became an Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) and attended the ADE institute in London. In the summer of 2011, he was also invited to attend the third annual North American SEE Summit in Calgary, Canada and he was also attending the first annual EMEA SEE Summit as a peer mentor in Hamburg, Germany in the summer of 2012. He presented about the use of social media in the curriculum at the EMEA SEE Summit in Hamburg, Germany and at BETT 2013 in London, UK. Boris is also co-writer of book 2.0-webtools and social media (in education) and has created this book (and iPad app) with 200 other co-writers.
Boris Berlijn presenting at BETT 2013
Besides the fact that Twitter, Facebook and Google+ are being used as professional networks by Boris to get in touch with and collaborate with teachers from around the world, Boris tends to use a lot of web 2.0-tools and especially social media in the geography curriculum at his school. Social media and internet is part of the curriculum now. The presentation at BETT 2013 discussed how to be creative using tools other than the usual text books that we are so used to using in the classroom. There are other, up-to-date ways to get to that same goal, while also engaging students more than ever, such as social media in- and outside the classroom.
At the Ashram College they were interested in using social media during the students’ intern. The school and teachers wanted to know if the students would gain more during intern when working in Facebook groups. Both the students and teachers experienced that. Small amounts of information in a short time schedule is a nice way to work with students. They did get instant feedback from the teachers and their peers and they had the opportunity to like and comment on others' posts and could get inspired by others, while reading their daily reports and looking at the pictures they took at their work during intern.
Working in Facebook groups with students to share and collaborate content could be used in regular subjects as well. For example in geography, where students go outside in small groups and take stills from anything matching the subject. They need to share the photos they took on Facebook in an album and set the privacy settings to public, to make sure that whilst not being a friend, everybody can see and comment on the photo’s in the album. Students as a group and not individually, because there might be students whose parents won’t allow their children on Facebook and that should not withhold the students from good grades. As for the short films the students have created about their own city, such as the #urban100, an assignment about mapping their own environment in 100 stills compiled in a short stop-motion video, should be shared on YouTube and Twitter.
Students using mobile devices and social media on a field trip
For different types of groups and goals Boris has been using different Twitter accounts for the past two years. As a geography teacher one for the lower classes (@ashram_boris) and one for the exams class (@4vmbo_ak) and one especially as a mentor for his own class and their parents (@Boris_3Mb). His students need to follow either one of these proffesional accounts to gain access to information they need. Besides providing tips and tricks concerning their exams Boris also askes questions about the curriculum of the exams program to his students and if answered right they can earn extra points, which they can add to their tests throughout the school year.
If they have closed Twitter accounts, nobody can see their tweets, including Boris, so they will have to set their tweets to public, otherwise they cannot collaborate with the teacher or contribute to the curriculum. Boris finds this especially interesting, because when they are on a field trip the students are far more eager to earn those extra points and will tweet a lot about the topic of that day using the correct hashtag. And as you may have guessed: some are enthusiastic, some are not.
In 2010 Boris and his colleague Barbara Schelberg were worried about the digital footprint of their teenagers and would like to give their students some insight in this matter, because when looking at the things teenagers post in public on the internet, teenagers are less aware of their digital footprint. At secondary education school where Boris works, the students in the first and second class get to choose their subject within certain boundaries (besides the standard subjects such as English, math etc.). If they choose ‘mondo’ (everything concerning global Citizenship) their curriculum is filled with the use of social media. Boris has created the curriculum with this collegue of his, and it contains a wide variety things about social media. For instance, they will have to create a short video (66 sec.) about themselves connected to the internet and at the end of the school year the input of the students is very important in the protocol about the use of mobile devices and the use of social media. They will learn to work with social media and other web 2.0-tools. They will learn how to google and create content online. He thinks it’s really nice, but Boris is just reaching a small group of students. The curriculum of this subject is not available for every class in school.
Boris presenting at SMART Summit
Boris does not follow any of his students on Twitter nor is he friends with them on Facebook. Besides the fact that it’s not ok to be ‘friends’ for a teacher with his students - concerning the informational boundaries to get that close and personal - the information stream on the social media platforms is way too much to follow through and 99% of the time very uninteresting. Boris’ students will have to follow him on the special created Twitter accounts or specially created Facebook groups to get in touch with him and the curriculum whilst he doesn’t need to be ‘friends’ or privatly connected with his students.
Boris tips that if you want to use social media, you should get in touch with the parents and and see how they feel. They do have an opinion and together teachers and parents get learn from eachother to improve the social media skills of the teenagers.
Download the workshop and ideas of social media in the classroom contributed by BETT 2013 attendees here. Download my presentation from the SMART Exchange here.