Thriving as a Networked Individual in K-12 Education -

According to Rainie and Wellman (2012), a "networked individual" is a person within a social operating system that allows that individual to create, cultivate, and utilize their social network for whatever desire they have in mind. Linda Evans is a great example of how a social network novice grew into earning an online doctoral degree and utilized web 2.0 tools to transform her life.

In 1995 at the age of 42 Linda Evans was a recent divorcee left to raise two teenage girls and an eight-year-old son. The divorcee left Linda, a formally married stay at home mom, in financial hard times with only an associates degree in sign language interpretation. Luckily for Linda, she met a guy through her church social group that worked in IT and engaged her in hours of online interactions that led to them getting married. In the process Linda grew to use the internet and social networking. She began to curate groups of individuals in her physical and social media world to help her make decisions about going back to school to get a bachelors, becoming a teacher and earning a masters to do so, then ultimately getting an Online PhD. Linda found value in web 2.0 in her personal life and figured out how to use it in all aspects of her world, including communicating with friends and family, making financial investments, and running support groups for individuals with chronic illnesses.

Although Linda had a great example, and many of us use web 2.0 tools in many of the same ways, some educators are very reluctant to utilize web 2.0 tools to enhance their instructional environment for student learning. I will share 4 ways one web 2.0 tool, edmodo helped me improve my students' math proficiency by more than 40 points greater than any other teacher in my school. Here are four ways edmodo helped me transform the way I taught:

Extended learning time

My last years as a K-12 teacher were in D.C. at a K-8 public school. The overwhelming majority of the students did not meet state performance expectations. Most had considerable grade level achievement gaps, such as 2-3 years below grade level, by time I got them as a middle school Math teacher. During my years teaching in Virginia, prior to moving to D.C., my mentor taught me a valuable lesson which was my students are my students and their problems are my problems. Its my responsibility to get them to learn what I'm responsible for teaching them. This school district improved upon that model by making 50% of teacher evaluations students' test scores. So my job was clearly tied to student performance and if I wanted to stay employed, I'd have to make sure my students were able to demonstrate what I they learned. There wasn't enough time in a day to meet the needs of the mathematical deficiencies of my students. So I had to improvise. I made my entire class digital with the use of Everything we did in class went online, and then some. Students could get the full class experience online and it was engaging to them because it was like facebook for school as they called it.

More accessible communication opportunities

The use of edmodo allowed me to extend my communication with students beyond the classroom time into the early evenings. I would make myself available until 7pm incase they needed additional help or support. I implemented a 3 before me rule where I could see students communicate with each other about issues with homework. This was very helpful for me as a reflective practitioner because I was able to catch areas where individual students were having trouble or the majority of the class and adjust accordingly for the next day. I would get notifications anytime activity was occurring, so it'd be just like someone was sending a text message. Parents in this community found it beneficial because they were able to keep up with their student's progress just like stories on their facebook pages. They were able to get real time updates of classroom lessons and activities. I was able to provide progress updates on students without having to make phone calls, and parents were able to message me when needed.

Individualized instruction for students

In addition to what we discussed in class, I would always provide additional resources for students around the day's objective. This affored students the opportunity to watch videos, interact with technology enhanced questions, and make sense of something they may have missed or didn't understand in class, during the lesson, while working at home at their own pace.

Increased homework completion

Students had the capability of submitting their homework assignments digitally once they completed it. If it was something they were doing with paper and pencil and they were using a family member or friend's phone they would take an image of it and upload it. A person would be amazed by how many more students submitted homework regularly and even throughout the day before it was due the next day that used to never bring in homework before I implemented the policy.

Now many people may say well I work with an economically disadvantaged population and they don't have access to devices or the internet outside of school. Those are valid issues and I completely understand them. This school was over 93% economically disadvantaged and kids were use to doing nothing all quarter and turning in a homework packet at the end of the 9-weeks that would result in them passing. Unfortunately for my students and their parents, I didn't play that. It's amazing what you can get out of people when you're willing to help them. I would give half of the class time 2 days a week to centers and stations where students had access to devices in class. I would stay after school twice a week for 2 hours a day for students. Lastly edmodo is just like facebook. So for any parent that could get on facebook they could let their child get on edmodo to do their homework.