Sunday, June 28, 2015

#teachagtech -> Social Media and Ag Education

^Image from EWebDesign

Social Media and Education.  To Snapchat or not to Snapchat, that is the question???  The image above is just a glimpse of the many options we have to engage with other people today.  As educators, I believe we are most closely connected to witnessing how young people interact.  We are the neutral zone - we're not quite parents, yet as agriculture educators we connect with our students in learning and activities outside the the classroom, so students engage us on a higher level than most.  According to one survey, teenagers are beginning to migrate away from Facebook simply due to the increasing adult presence - the "grandma effect".  So how do we develop relevant educational learning opportunities that meet our students where they are?  First, we must learn where they are (other than witnessing all the duck and fishy faces - and we can't forget #selfiesfordays - that end up on Snapchat).  This article from the Pew Research Center outlines where our youth are engaged in social media.  It does a great job of outlining motives as well as social-economic trends.  

Over the last few years, I have explored how others interact on social media and the learning opportunities that are out there.  From the usage of hashtags to learning different platforms, one thing remains the same - we all want to be recognized and validated, while meaningfully learning.  What was historically a local community festival is now a Facebook feed, so how can we make the best of it?   One of the platforms I truly struggled to see the educational value in is Snapchat.  (I believe it was the never-ending fishy faces on van rides to conventions with students.)  So, I challenged myself to see how this could be used.  I became inspired by a Snapchat feed from a Veterinarian - Dr. Cody Creelman.  I first found him on Instagram (vetpracticevahs) as I was trying to find feeds to supplement my Veterinary Science class.  I actually encouraged my Honors and CP Veterinary Science class to follow him and others so they could hear industry lingo and see real life.  One day in class, we were actually talking about the disorders of the musculature of the heart and in his IG feed, he had a posting about the same thing - perfect real world application without leaving the classroom.  As it turns out, he also has a Snapchat (creelmancody).  On both social media platforms he shows day-to-day happenings in his veterinary practice.  Everything from interstitial pneumonia, acidosis to problems with the eye; however, he does this in a fun and engaging manner.  After connecting with him on Snapchat, he referred me to the Ontario Vet College (Snapchat & Instagram: ontvetcollege) and Ms. Jane Dawkins, Marketing Communications Officer at Ontario Vet College.  After contacting Ms. Dawkins, she recommend I check out their snap stories on YouTube.   What a great idea!  Ms. Dawkins along with current students and alumni capture their work and produce videos to show the world.  I have been inspired by this creativity and willingness to share.  As we move forward in the Open Source and free education movements, I believe we must be willing to adapt and find new ways to "educate". 

What if we as agriculture educators produced professional Snapchats and began sharing what we know?  To engage with our students and the world on another level and create fun materials that show our students and others we care enough to keep expanding our communication skills, while showing them what they are doing is important.   

^A screenshot of a Snapchat while doing a SAE visit weighing animals #saesnaps (sorry for the chunk out of the emblem - it's on our scales, so it works hard!)

Wouldn't it be cool to Snapchat our SAE visits and than combine them for the end of the year banquet?  The sky is the limit if we are willing to venture out.  I've already begun a fun little project of #saesnaps.....we'll see how it goes.  In the end, we may not all be able or want to adopt all forms of social media or learning systems, but in the end, we can always be inspired by others to constantly transform our educational approach.  {I would like to thank Dr. Cody Creelman and Ms. Jane Dawkins for allowing me to use their information and story for this post.  Your endeavors to educate have inspired others to act.}