By Mariah Belber, The College of New Jersey
Throughout the years, my involvement with NJSEA has given me the opportunities to travel with a delegation of passionate NJSEA leaders to Denver, Colorado, Orlando, Florida, and Washington D.C., but going to the National Education Association Student Program Summer Leadership Conference this year was one of the most inspirational NEA-SP/NJSEA experiences I have had, especially considering the ways in which social media has grown and how preservice teachers in particular are utilizing it.
As the years have progressed, the role Social Media has played in these conferences, and many others, has exponentially increased. Originally, it was considered offensive to sit at a conference on your phone, but now presenters are asking us to engage with them on social media. During their presentations, they ask questions and want the audience to answer to promote discussion and share photos and videos of presentations via Twitter or Facebook. This year, the conference hashtags #neaslc16 and #edpowered ended up trending during Keynote Speaker David Johns’ “The White House’s Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans” presentation that discussed institutional racism. For a group of 400+ pre-service educators to make that happen is truly astonishing. NJSEA also was retweeted by many prodigious people, such as the NEA Student Program, Chelsey Jo Herrig, the Outgoing NEA-SP Chairperson, the presenter, David Johns, Lilly Eskelsen Garcia, the NEA Chair, and NJEA – just to name a few.The ability to use social media as part of professional development is changing the game for education. It allows conferences, such as the one in Washington D.C., to be more inclusive by allowing anyone with Internet access to listen to the conference and provides great networking opportunities. Not only did this conference let preservice members learn about the union’s opportunities, benefits, and supports, but also allowed us to meet dedicated, passionate leaders from all over the country. This year, thirty-six states were represented at the Summer Leadership Conference, and because we had social media, we were able to connect in a way we never could before. It allowed us to share ideas for our state and local chapters and for our future classrooms. As the incoming Social Media Chair, I cannot wait to see how the use of social media is going to evolve our professional development and connect the entire preservice program!