A few years ago, when Angie Miller, middle school ELA teacher, was invited to join Twitter, she refused. “I was anti-social media,” remembers Miller, who was concerned about safety. After some convincing, Miller created a Twitter account that, says Miller, “has become my greatest professional development resource, period.” Miller is not alone. Thousands of teachers are using social media as teacher PD for idea sharing, professional development, and even to make extra money.
Whether you’re new to using social media as a professional development tool or you’re looking for more places to plug in, here’s everything you need to know about connecting with other educators online.
Twitter is tops
Despite the short, snappy micro-blog format, Twitter has become a must for educators. “Nobody ever expected teachers to adopt Twitter as the backbone of the professional learning network. But it happened,” says Thomas Whitby, founder of the EducatorPLN and avid Tweeter.
Joining Twitter can feel like opening the nozzle on a firehose, says Jessie Arora, founder of TeacherSquare. The trick is to build a core list of educators that you want to follow. (We’ve rounded up our favorite teachers on Twitter here.)
Even if you don’t feel like you have a lot to say, there is power in retweeting. “If we all retweet good things,” says Vicki Davis (@CoolCatTeacher), “that’s going to spread.”
Once you’ve mastered the tweet and want to expand, you can try joining some Twitter chats. Twitter chats are big group discussions that occur online. You can see what education chats are happening on any given day here and learn more about how to participate in a Twitter chat in this blog post.
Social media just for teachers
If you’re looking to get really educator-specific here are four other must-know sites just for teachers:
- Classroom 2.0 is a community of more than 80,000 educators who engage through web casts, conversations, online forums, and posts on topics from the future of education to digital storytelling. When teachers connect, their awareness increases and they reengage as learners.
- Joining an education-focused network, says Lisa Schmucki, Founder and CEO of EdWeb, eliminates the static that you’ll find on mainstream sites. At EdWeb you’ll connect with thousands of members and engage in chats and webinars on topics from the Common Core to school gardens.
- Since its start in 2008, Edmodo has grown to more than 20 million users around the world. Edmodo is focused on connecting, not only teachers, but students and parents. Teachers post and monitor student work, engage students in conversation and discussion. The benefit of Edmodo is its expansive reach and the differentiated platforms for students, teachers, and parents.
- The WeAreTeachers HELPLINE! group on Facebook is a closed group just for teachers where you can idea share, ask for help, vent, or have a laugh.
The best social sites for teachers to …
Do you ever find yourself wondering which social media tool you should use for what purpose? So do we! That’s why we’ve gathered this handy list for meeting many of your professional goals.
- Best for Fundraising: Whether it’s a student in need of help or a class project about awareness, Facebook is the site where social initiatives gain momentum and raise funds.
- Best for Finding New Teachers: Also Facebook, so many of us are already on there it’s no wonder our New Teacher Facebook group is a great place to connect.
- Best for Finding Ideas: Pinterest Pinterest is a great source for project ideas big and small, and classroom management ideas too. Here’s a list of our favorite Pinterest pages to follow.
- Best for Inspiration and a Laugh: Instagram is like a rabbit-hole of great ideas and funny teacher memes to get you through tough days. You can search by hashtags like #teacherorganization or #teacherfail, or follow specific individuals and brands (here is our list of favorites to follow).
- Best for Connecting With Parents: Kids are leaving, but parents are still using Facebook, making it the stalwart social networking site for teachers that want to set up class pages.
- Best for Direct Instruction: Teachers on Edmodo have created accounts for historical figures and used that avatar to discuss and post about discussions about historical events so students can “talk” with the avatar during the unit.
- Best for Asking Questions: Angie Miller, middle school English teacher, connects with other teachers and experts who can help her solve a problem by putting out a question on Twitter. A recent Twitter collaboration involved getting help revising the school’s research policies.
- Best for Distilling Information: The 140-character format of Twitter is good for crystallizing ideas. Have students write the main idea about what they learned and send it out on a classroom Twitter account. The added bonus: parents can check it.
- Best for Flipping Your Classroom: Miller flipped her grammar unit by putting resources, video podcasts, and quizzes on Edmodo. The students reviewed for homework and practiced during the day, which freed Miller’s time to reteach and reinforce skills. It also makes the grammar unit into a student favorite.
Social media teacher PD
What do you think, teachers? What are your favorite social media tools? How do you use the various tools in different aspects of your teaching life? Please share in the comments!