Early in my teaching career, developing a lesson plan or museum program could be a lonely experience. For most of my five years in the classroom I was on my own — and it wasn’t pretty. Planning usually involved binders of lessons and lots of trial and error. Thankfully, social media and web-based, shared documents have made this a much more collaborative experience. The challenge is staying focused on what you are looking for, and not getting overwhelmed in the process.
The following strategies will help you target and find the resources and expertise you are seeking (although I can’t promise that you won’t end up finding—and following—other inspiring educators along the way).
Step 1: Make a shared document to gather resources and collaborate
Start a new Google Doc and add specific information about the education standard or topic that you are seeking to address. Context and constraints are critical to help focus the resources to fit your needs. Whenever possible, include the grade, curricular/unit context, student needs, and any technological limitations. Here is an example:
- Seeking resources for a middle school lesson that will address Next Generation Science Standard (NGSS) ESS2.D, Weather and Climate. Specifically, helping students describe temperature and precipitation patterns of specific/local regions. Students have access to computers for one-to-one use or in small groups. Would especially like any curated data sets or weather maps that are designed for middle school student use. Adaptations and resources for English learners needed.
Once your document is ready, create a shareable link so you can include it along with your inquiry on one of the social media outlets (see Step 2). Configure the sharing link so that other educators can “view and comment,” which will enable collaborators to add and comment on resources and recommendations. You can always invite colleagues or specific people to edit the document for deeper collaborations, but I have learned the hard way that sharing an editable document broadly online makes it possible—even probable—that you could lose your content. This process of collaborative compiling and editing was how a Teacher Toolkit for the 2017 Solar Eclipse Across America was developed and refined. Once the Toolkit was finalized, the shareable link to the document was set to “view only” for broad distribution.
Step 2: Connect with educators around your planning
There are two targeted approaches that I have found useful when seeking resources and collaborative planning: joining a group or browsing a page on Facebook that is specifically for science educators, or engaging in a conversation on Twitter. Which one you choose depends on the platform that you are on or are most comfortable with (I do both). These approaches offer different results, so let’s explore both.
Facebook groups and pages are often private and moderated, which comes with some level of protection and expectation for helpful discussion. But the number of educators who respond to your inquiry could also be limited. Here are some Facebook groups and pages to consider when seeking collaborative planning:
- NGSS Educators: With over 5,500 members, someone is always quick to respond with existing lessons or resources. There are many variations to this group, targeted to different topics and grades (e.g., NGSS biology teachers, NGSS physics teachers).
- National and local science education organizations: These groups are a great source of newly released resources, in addition to being very responsive to science content questions you might have (“Is ice a mineral?!”). I have even seen teachers get help relocating a favorite “lost lesson”! Examples of these different kinds of groups include National Earth Science Teachers Association, Informal Science Education Association of Texas, American Association of Chemistry Teachers, and the California Science Teachers Association. Be sure to search for permutations with different topics and states that are specific to your needs, and don’t forget the National Science Teaching Association Facebook group!
Twitter offers a more dynamic collection of conversations and themes that you can tap into using hashtags (a tag or word that starts with a # symbol). Put your question into a succinct statement (or tweet), and then add one or more of the hashtags below to get the attention of others who follow this topic/conversation:
- Science education hashtags: #SciEd, #SciChat, #STEMchat, #scienceteacher
- NGSS-specific hashtags: #NGSSchat, #NGSS (also consider following and posting your question to the @NGSS_tweeps group).
- The hashtag #lessonplan is also used, often in combination with other descriptor hashtags, such as #science, #[grade], #edtech, #bilingual, or #blendedlearning.
Once you put your inquiry out into the “Twitterverse,” be sure to engage with other educators as they respond with resources and recommendations. “Like” or reply to their comments, and compile what they share in your online document so others can benefit from the collaborative effort that you have sparked.
I hope you have found a few new strategies for tapping into the wealth of educator expertise that is available to you on social media platforms. Keep it targeted and stay engaged, and the help you need is often only a post or tweet away.