Parent Tech & Literacy Coffee Morning: Staying Connected in Times of Crisis

This morning we had a small group of dedicated and enthusiastic parents with us for our monthly Parent Technology and Literacy Coffee Morning. Thank you for joining us!

Adam, Elif, Brian and I had originally planned to focus this session on VoiceThread (another fantastic tool we use here at YIS), but given the recent situation here in Japan we decided to talk about the ways that we use social media (specifically Twitter, Facebook, and Diigo) to stay connected during times of crisis. We hope it was relevant, and that this wrap-up will be useful for parents that were not able to attend today.

We started by introducing Twitter, using the Common Craft video, Twitter in Plain English:

Our discussion about Twitter focused on both the concern that people don’t want to be bombarded with trivial information (from friends or otherwise) all day, as well as finding the time to manage the steady stream of information. Although, at first glance, it seems like Twitter can be both trivial and a waste of time, we have discovered that it is an amazing source of information especially for professional growth, as well as during a disaster or crisis.

The most important step in developing a meaningful Twitter account is in the connection you make. Building a network of contacts that you can trust helps make Twitter extremely useful. For example, over the last year (since I learned we were moving to Japan), I have developed a Twitter list (or group) of people who tweet mostly in English and live here in Japan. This list has been a huge help throughout the past few weeks. Many individuals on my list are reporters or work in the media field and have been translating Japanese press conferences into English in real-time. There are also a number of amazingly helpful individuals that are regularly sharing balanced and informative articles and websites with highly relevant information. In fact, my Twitter list is so useful and effective that I haven’t really watched any TV news regarding Japan since March 11th.

It is important to remember that it does take time to build your own Twitter network. Don’t be afraid to follow someone and then decide to unfollow them later. It’s all part of the process. You may want to start with my Japan Twitter list to find people in this area and then select specific people to follow from that. Often you will see people you follow reply to someone else on Twitter using the @ symbol followed by their username (ex: @mscofino). If the conversation looks interesting, you might want to click on that username and follow them too!

In addition to Twitter, we have all been using Facebook to keep up with the news – it’s not just for friends anymore! Many corporations, news agencies, and governments now have Facebook pages that you can “like” so that their updates appear in your news feed. Here are a few that we have found especially helpful:

Finally, here at YIS, we are using Diigo (a social bookmarking tool) to collate useful links related to the current situation. We created a group specifically for our YIS community. This is a great tool for us because anyone who is a member of the group can add links and anyone can view them. You can search through the list of links using the tags in the lower right. This way, we can ensure that all relevant links for our community are listed in one central place – instead of relying on e-mails back and forth.

We hope today’s session was helpful! Please feel free to share other ideas for using social media to stay connected here in the comments!

Next Meeting: Our next meeting will be Wednesday, May 4, 9:15 – 10:15 in the Cafeteria. We will focus our session on an exciting tool that many of our students and teachers are using regularly, VoiceThread. VT is a very simple to use, web-based, tool that allows students to upload images or videos and then record their voice. What’s so special about VT is that completed Threads can be published online, allowing other students, teachers and parents to watch and listen and leave their own comment! We’ll share some ways that VT is being used here at YIS and help you create your own account so that you can leave comments too!