Many educators extol the benefits of Twitter as a tool for developing a professional learning network and engaging in professional development. But Twitter isn’t the only social media platform that educators can use to share with and learn from one another. Facebook and Instagram also offer ample opportunities for PD.
Here’s a look at some of the ways I use all three of these tools develop my professional practice.
Follow organizations, experts and mentors. Numerous nonprofit and government organizations post information and resources on their Facebook pages. You can search for some of the organizations representing areas of interest to see what they offer on Facebook.
For example, the International Literacy Association posts timely and valuable topics daily. Recent topics include incentives for getting children to read, multiliteracies, cell phones in the classroom and reading attitudes. The association also posts information about upcoming conferences and shares success stories. Each post links to a blog post with more detailed information.
The Nation Council of Teachers of Mathematics uses its Facebook page as a repository for links to articles and blogs pertaining to literacy instruction, and ISTE uses its page to share resources from within and outside the organization. Comments made by other followers offer strategies, tips and other resources for learning with technology.
Specialty groups for people with similar interests. These groups draw people with common interests. One example is the Facebook page for fans, users and readers of Jennifer Serravallo’s book Reading Strategies.
Followers of this page frequently share resources, ask questions and encourage each other. A recent poster requested guidance to support a reader struggling to decode. The responses to this question (and similar questions) provided explicit and individualized professional development in the teaching of reading.
Another poster reached out to followers interested in forming a book study, which is yet another form of PD available through social media. With these uses, Facebook group and pages represent a social media version of a professional learning community (PLC) that is available all the time.
Webinars and other online events. Through a tweet, I learned about a free daylong webinar that offered meaningfully was to integrate technology into my courses. Since then, I often check Twitter for the sole purpose of finding webinars or other opportunities that I can tap into to learn and grow as a teacher in particular areas of interest or need. Twitter accounts can also be specific to an organization, interest or specialty. And this individualized PD is available 24 hours a day.
Twitter chats. Twitter chats are a great format for PD. Twitter chats are scheduled for a specific time and each chat covers a specific topic. Those interested in join, show up at the designated time and use a hashtag to follow the conversation.
This format also permits users to ask questions, make comments and share pictures or videos in real time. Many education organizations have regularly scheduled recurring Twitter chats. Some of my favorites are #edchat, #edtechchat, #tlap, #flipclass and #sschat. There are more available and specific to math, literacy and other curriculum areas.
Apps like TweetChat, Twitterfall, Twubs and Hootsuite are available to filter Twitter chats making the dialogue private to participants in the chat. For more information on how to get started with Twitter chats, see this blog.
To motivate my preservice teachers to use Twitter as a professional development tool, I hold chats on a special topic related to my courses. Many college students are experienced Twitter users, and these chats take their Twitter use to a whole new level and hopefully in a direction that will help them continue their learning long after their degree is in hand.
Collaborate around similar interests. By creating private groups, Instagram users can share photos and video with text. Although Facebook and Twitter also allow pictures, Instagram is all about the image or video.
Followers comment, ask questions and “like” an item for later reference. Users can have group conversations in real-time whenever they have something to share with the group. Instagram, as a professional development tool, is a new concept and one that I suspect will grow in popularity and use.
The beauty of using social media to connect with other educators for professional development is that it’s free and accessible anytime and anywhere. If you haven’t experienced professional development while wearing your pajamas, you don’t know what you are missing!
Dr. Teri J. Langlie is an assistant professor of education at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. In addition to teaching elementary math, social studies and advanced reading methods courses, she supervises preservice teachers in their practicum and student teaching clinical experiences.