Social media is such a powerful tool. It can provide up to the second news from around the globe, keep you connected with your favorite athlete/actor/musician, or let you know what Carol had for lunch…every. single. day. It’s amazing how it has changed how humans interact. I cannot remember the last time I saw a handwritten note passed in class and is there any real reason to go to class reunions anymore? I see all of my high school peers on Facebook.
Education has found some wonderful uses for social media, too. I’m writing this post to discuss some of the ways social media (in particular, Twitter) is changing the landscape of professional learning and why teachers need to be in this space. Now, if you’re reading this, you probably know some or all of these reasons…so, feel free to pass this along to any teachers or administrators you know who are reluctant to join in or question the validity of social media’s impact. Also, if you can think of another benefit that I haven’t listed, please leave a comment.
Instant PD (professional development or professional learning)
I’ve also seen it called ‘pocket PD’ on twitter. If you’ve got anytime at all, you can simply scroll through your feed and read articles on a plethora of topics, assist a fellow teacher by answering a question, pose your own question to your followers, or check out the latest posts from your favorite hashtags. I have heard of some school districts actually providing professional learning hours for time spent participating in edchats. While I do see value in the traditional face-to-face schoolwide or departmental meetings, this ability to access information is quite the paradigm shift.
Instant connection with other teachers, researchers, authors, and students
Although I touched on this a little in the previous paragraph, I want to expound on its value. Yes, you can connect with teachers from around the world, but you can also connect with your favorite educational authors. If you’ve got a question or comment about a text, in many cases, you can just tweet directly to them. Amazing. Imagine trying to do anything like that a decade or more ago…it was simply not possible. You can also keep up with your students, answer questions, or host review chats before tests. I definitely have some reservations with this point, but it works for some.
Access to journal articles and books
So many of the wonderful teachers and researchers I follow frequently tweet links to interesting articles and books. You don’t have access to that journal and can’t get around the paywall? Email the author(s). I have never been told no when I’ve asked an author for his/her paper. They are always happy to share.
Connections with voices in education that are similar and different from your own
I believe it is important to follow those you agree and disagree with on twitter. Be careful not to create an echo chamber…you don’t want your twitter feed to be so like-minded that biases develop with respect to others’ opinions. Please also follow those you come to respect in the field but don’t always agree with. They will be the ones to ‘keep you honest’. Often times, discussions/debates with these educators force me to really know my stuff…know what I believe and why. And, outside of social media, how many prescribed whole-school PD sessions provide the ability to have in depth conversations about education (philosophy, pedagogy, curriculum)? At least, for me, not too many at all.
Opportunities for growth
Social media is a great place to really stretch yourself. When I began on twitter, I never thought I’d be blogging or writing for different educational outfits. But I was given the opportunity (thanks, Yana) and it’s grown into something that has rejuvenated my professional fervor and connected me with people in just wonderful ways. If you are stagnant and simply feel like you’re not growing as a teacher, social media can cure that really quickly.
Really, all of the purposes listed above relate to my last point:
Stay ‘in tune’ with the professional aspects of teaching
Before I began using twitter approximately four years ago, I was a teacher who loved the profession, but was not learning anything. I graduated with my Master’s degree in 2006 and I wanted to put all of that learning to good use…and there’s nothing wrong with that. But, after graduation, I didn’t actively seek out new information on the profession; pedagogical advances and/or educational myths, for example. I believed the PD provided by my administrators was enough to develop. I was just treading water and surviving…blissfully ignorant that I could continue to learn and improve my classroom practices for my students. Social media helped me to combat this feeling. Once I was plugged in, there was no looking back.
What did I forget? Please feel free to comment with another reason teachers should use social media