Embracing Social Media in Education

imagesWhenever I tell people that they can find me on Facebook or Twitter, I always get the same incredulous and horrified response: YOU have a Facebook and you’re a teacher?!

Yes, I have a Facebook AND a Twitter account, and, yes, I am a teacher. In fact, because of these social media sites, I have become a better teacher. To some, this might sound absurd, but it is nothing short of the truth. Social media serves as one of the best forms of professional development, and through these sites, I am able to connect with educators from all parts of the world to share ideas and pedagogy, and to enhance my lessons and instruction.

For years, there has been a negative stigma attached to social media. At times, those sites were abhorred, and schools were incessantly preaching about the dangers of social media to their students. In fact, during my student teaching seminar, I was told to completely delete all social media accounts and avoid situations in which I could be photographed and uploaded to the web because it would prevent career opportunities and could even destroy a career. At the time, my naive college self adhered to the advice of my professors and mentors and eradicated all traces of Internet presence. For my first full year of teaching, I was completely disconnected from the social media world, and it wasn’t until a former teacher of mine encouraged me to create a Twitter account that I began to frequently use social media.

Within the past few years, I have discovered that social media can be extremely beneficial when used in appropriate ways. Evidently, I would never upload inappropriate or personal photographs on my Twitter account, nor would I share personal information for my students to access, but I have made myself visible through various social media sites, and, contrary to my professors’ beliefs, that presence has actually led to several job opportunities.

The best part of social media is sharing ideas with other educators. Whenever I need ideas for lessons or am searching for new texts to teach, all I have to do is post a Tweet using the proper hastags or post a comment in one of my teacher Facebook groups, and within a few minutes, I have tons of excellent responses. For instance, just last week I posted in the “Notice & Note Book Club” Facbeook group, asking if any teachers could think of stories similar to Shirley Jackson’s “Charles” (the only story my students admit to enjoying) that I could use with my 7th grade students in the after-school reading program at the middle school. Within a few hours, my post had garnered over 40 responses! I looked up all the recommended short stories and put together an extensive list to share with my colleagues. Because of that post, my colleagues and I have not had to search for good texts to use each week–we’re set for the rest of the school year!

social-media-in-education1Twitter, on the hand, is an excellent form of professional development. I truly enjoy some of the weekly Twitter chats, and I have been introduced to some of the best resources through those chats. My personal favorite Twitter chats for educators are #TLAP, #TotallyRossome #LitLead, #EngChat, and #ELAChat. These chats attract teachers of all ages, and there is always something new to learn.

If you are new to Twitter, I strongly encourage you to join a chat one night. If you are shy or you do not know how the chats work, just “sit in” on one and read everyone’s tweets. You can be a silent participant as you absorb all the information. As you become more comfortable with Twitter, introduce yourself in the chats and try to participate in some of the discussions. Before you know it, you’ll be a Twitter pro! Everyone is extremely welcoming in the Twitter community, so you will never feel out of place!

Other than connecting with educators, Twitter is also great for communicating with professional companies and software programs. For instance, one day I was trying to use Padlet for an activity with one of my morning classes, but I noticed that the site was not functioning properly. Just before class began, I sent a tweet to @Padlet informing them of this issue, and within a few minutes, the problem was resolved and I was able to complete the activity with my students. As a funny anecdote, I informed my students of the tweet to Padelt at the start of class, and they all laughed, believing that my tweet was futile. Needless to say, they were surprised when Padlet responded to my tweet and apologized for the inconvenience!

So as I end this post, I hope that you will reconsider the use of social media, and if you do not have a Twitter or Facebook account, I strongly encourage you to get one! Don’t waste any more time! Join the largest community of educators and start sharing and learning!

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