Now Trending: Social Media as a Tool to Grow Professional Development

Now Trending: Social Media as a Tool to Grow Professional Development

Between the political commentary, the wedding and baby photos, and the latest memes, wading through the social mediasphere can feel quite daunting. But within the endless chatter lies a way for educators and administrators to glean valuable information from their peers, as noted in a recent Education Dive piece spotlighting the best practices that principals have picked up from social media.

Just as the use and value of social media as a classroom tool has trended upward over the past few years, the incorporation of social platforms into professional development is also gaining traction. Despite Twitter having a 280-character limitation, this social network in particular packs quite a punch when it comes to enhancing educators’ professional development.

Keeping good company

With social media playing at least a small role in so many people’s lives, social platforms are perfect to quickly and easily build community, to find others who are encountering similar challenges, and to swap stories and advice in real time (i.e., when you need it most). 

As quoted by Education Dive, middle-school principal Jay Posick pointed out that “school leaders' family members often can't relate to what administrators deal with every day, [which] makes finding and connecting with peers who have shared experiences all the more important. The connections you make via social media can be very powerful and change how you approach your role as an educator.”

Are you an early childhood educator? Join the conversation with #ECEchat. Are you a principal or another type of school administrator? Go ahead and engage with hashtags such as #EdAdmin, #EdLeadership, and more. Whatever your role, if a thought or question is keeping you up at night, feel free to pose it to the education Twitterverse at any time of day.

Where to begin?

If you’re new to social media but are looking to expand your professional development in a time- and cost-effective manner, here are a few places to start:

  • Twitter: On this platform, brevity is the soul of communication. You can easily customize your Twitter experience to suit your needs by posing a question or joining a conversation on nearly any topic you want, and the next thing you know, you'll be on your way to building lasting relationships with educators around the globe. Indeed, according to The Conversation US, “Twitter can be used to combat teaching isolation—a problem for many teachers that can result in burnout and/or teachers leaving the profession.”

  • Facebook: Groups created specifically for teachers have proven invaluable for Facebook-using educators looking to give or get advice, share their learnings, and even just vent. For example, the WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group—which has more than 21,000 members—describes itself as “a place for teachers to share the everyday challenges of classroom teaching, to ask questions and talk about what works … to share advice, sympathy, straight talk, and great ideas.”

  • Voxer: This walkie-talkie messaging app can benefit administrators and teachers by allowing recipients to listen to recorded messages and respond at their convenience, bypassing the need to schedule a call at a time that works for everyone. One vice principal featured in the Education Dive piece recommended using Voxer to leave feedback for an educator after a class observation session.

Lessons learned

In the Education Dive article, three middle-school principals shared some of the most valuable advice they received from their peers on social media, including:

  • Getting students to read: As teachers emphasize the power of reading and encourage students to read more, adding a personal touch can elevate their efforts to another level—for instance, by adding their favorite book or a book they’re currently reading to the personal information displayed on their classroom door. 

  • Rethinking professional development: Pineapple charts are a simple way to send blanket invitations to observe a class, while instating the “rule of 20%” can strengthen professional development by reserving one-fifth of professional learning time for a topic about which the teacher is passionate.

  • Fostering positive interactions: Monthly “Circle of Respect and Power” sessions encourage kindness and bonding by having students, educators, and administrators state one thing they like about the person next to them. As a plus for teachers, these sessions allow them to get better acquainted with students in a fun, laid-back setting.

  • Improving transitions: Middle school is hard. More specifically, this transitional period comes with an abundance of upheaval for students—from relocating to a new school to undergoing physical and emotional changes—that often translates to academic and social struggles. With the goal of facilitating smoother sailing, educators can use platforms like Flipgrid to share welcome videos and other materials packaged in a way that kids and parents can engage with and appreciate.

  • Involving parents: Just like educators, parents' schedules are full! This means that despite their best intentions, they may not be able to make every meeting, watch every school concert, or attend every sporting event. Luckily, streaming tools like Periscope and Facebook Live will give them a front-row seat to the action with just a few taps of a smartphone.

Time to get social

As if educators weren't busy enough during the school day, they must also navigate a barrage of conferences, after-work networking events, and other “old-school” forms of professional development. Given the demands on their time, working social media into professional development makes sense. Although there's nothing quite like an in-person meetup, venturing onto social media can expose educators and administrators to an array of valuable opportunities to which they may not otherwise have access.

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