Social media allows for the free and open exchange of information and empowers its users to create their own communities. In these communities, ideas, questions, connections, and content are what are drive the user experience. For the educator this means engaging, sharing, and collaborating with other educators to build learning communities around their individual professional learning needs as well as creating authentic learning experiences for their students.
I am an Ed. D. Candidate who is in the dissertation phase of my doctorate. What you may not know is that my research or areas of expertise is in using digital media for professional development, advocacy and teaching and learning. The following advice is for pre-service teachers. I cover the three social networks I feel every educator and aspiring educator should join.
Twitter is a micro-blogging site that supports an open dialogue among its users. Individuals are able to discuss issues, promote their ideas, participate in weekly chats, share links, and collaborate on projects as well as backchannel observations and events as they happen in real time. Twitter is changing how information is distributed on a global scale. And with the ability to post tweets and upload pictures and video from a multitude of devices, Twitter really is the go-to social network.
As a future classroom teacher, you can use Twitter to develop a Personal Learning Network, which is a learning network developed to address your individual professional learning needs. You can also use Twitter to curate (pool) the collective knowledge-base and expertise of other educators, scholars, and practitioners in your field, grade-level or subject-area. Additionally, you can use Twitter to connect with other educators to design and work together on classroom projects. For example, my wife is an elementary gifted education teacher. She has used Twitter to connect with other educators to organize book talks, in which her students and other classes read the same book and had discussions via Skype.
The networking and relationships you will build on Twitter will far exceed the 140 character limit. Personally, I have been able to connect and collaborate with Robin Roffer, Danielle Leslie, Eric Sheninger, and J. T. O’Donnell to name a few.
Google+ is a social networking site developed by, of course, Google. It works by allowing users to set up Circles or different social groups where people can target specific groups to share news and other content. For example, instead of sharing links, pictures, and videos to everyone like Facebook, the circles allows users to share certain posts or videos with family, others with classmates, as well as a different forum for co-workers.
Google+ also allows users to control and edit multimedia. With the photo tab, users can take all of the photos they’ve shared, as well as the ones they’re tagged in and edit them with the image editor, which comes with an Instagram-like photo effects, privacy settings and sharing features.
What I love most about Google+ is the Hangouts. It’s a group chat feature, which allows the user to set up a video chatroom with up to 10 people for free – a feature you have to pay for on Skype. Once in the chatroom, a notice goes out to everyone in that user’s circles letting them know that that individual is “hanging out.” To gain entrance into the video chatroom, a user must be a part of the circle the notice originated from. Via on air Hangouts, the hangout is broadcast live, recorded and uploaded to the user’s individual Youtube Channel. Youtube does not allow Hangouts to be uploaded to a branded site, such as a company, school, or organization.
As a future classroom teacher, not only can you use Google+ to get posts, pictures, and videos from array of individuals, organizations, educators, experts, etc., you can use the Hangouts to bring in guest speakers as well as connect with other educators for the purpose of enhancing your own professional learning needs. And, you can use the Hangouts to work together on projects, same as what teachers are doing with Skype. What makes me all giddy inside is the ability to lead and host discussions. From Ed conferences, like Google’s EduOnAir to interviews, like On The Go with Ed Cabellon to artists and musicians connecting with fans, like Daria Musk’s Google+ Hangout Concert , I have seen some amazing things taking place during Hangouts. I actually host a talk show via an on air Google+ Hangout as part of my duties as the chief social strategist for StrengthsFactors.
LinkedIn is a must for every professional. It is a digital resume and rolodex with a little something extra. In addition to users posting their resumes, users can catalogue their professional contacts, join professional groups, search job listings, and participate in timely discussions. With features such as recommendations and skill endorsement and while not as flashy as Twitter and Google+, LinkedIn offers its users a clean and professional space to highlight one’s accomplishments.
As a future classroom teacher, you can use LinkedIn as your online business card. It is easier to do than creating a blog or a website, and aside from updating your resume when you change jobs/positions or earn a new degree, LinkedIn does not require you to regularly update your profile. Additionally, you can seek out answers to questions or lead discussions via the professional groups you join. I highly recommend LinkedIn for every educator, especially those who wish to be seen, marketed, and respected as a professional.
The digital age isn’t going anywhere. From Netflix to Edmodo from ITunes to Animoto, what educators can do with technology surpasses anything I ever dreamed of. We live in a time in which information can be viewed and shared via of all things a phone… I am old enough to remember when the VCR was the size of a suitcase … If we educators don’t embrace the best of what social media has to offer, then we will be the ones being left behind.