Recently, I was lucky enough to be asked to host #ScotEdChat. This is an hour long Twitter discussion, where teachers and other professionals can share their thoughts and ideas on a given topic. Our topic was the use of blogging and social media in a professional context.
(Click the image to read the ‘Storify’ log of the evening’s tweets).
#ScotEdChat was a brilliant experience with a lively chat. Many people participated by Tweeting about their own experiences with social media and blogs, both personally and professionally.
Following the chat, I’ve been thinking about the value of social media and online digital spaces for the purpose of shared professional practice. The Standards for Registration (GTCS) note the importance of sharing and collaboration. This can be seen in Professional Values and Personal Commitment:
Engaging with all aspects of professional practice and working collegiately with all members of our educational communities with enthusiasm, adaptability and constructive criticality.
Committing to lifelong enquiry, learning, professional development and leadership as core aspects of professionalism and collaborative practice.
and also in 3.4.2. Professional Reflection and Communication:
Adopt an enquiring approach to their professional practice and engage in professional enquiry and professional dialogue.
As a student teacher, I feel that any support, advice, guidance and ideas which I can gather from experienced professionals is invaluable. Of course, these can come from my lecturers and teachers in my placement schools; but why not extend my knowledge even further by discussing pedagogy with teachers and experts around the country or even around the world? That’s where Social Media comes in.
There are numerous different forms of Social Media which a teacher may wish to become involved in:
Facebook is a site where users create a profile and can share statuses, photos, videos, links etc with other users.
Pros: As you probably know, Facebook is hugely popular and widely used. In 2013, 28.9 million UK users accessed the social network (statistica.com) and this number is projected to continue to grow. Facebook includes groups which can be public or private. Some teachers choose to share ideas for activities as well as teaching advice through these groups. Here is a list of some teaching Facebook groups.
Cons: While many people like to use Facebook for personal use. There are concerns about privacy on the site and it is vital that teachers take precautions to protect themselves online.
Pinterest is a site where you can ‘pin’ articles, pictures and information from all over the internet. This creates a virtual ‘pinboard’ with images that link to the original source website.
Pros: Pinterest is a great tool for teachers as you can gather resources and ideas for lessons. It’s also very visual, which appeals to people (like me) who like to browse images.
Cons: Although it is possible to send messages to other users, Pinterest lacks the social element which some other sites possess.
Yammer is accessible to anyone with a glow login. This means that it can be used by teachers, professionals and pupils alike. It is a space where individuals can share posts and links; enabling collaboration as well as discussion.
Pros: ‘Public’ posts are still only viewable by other glow users. This may be appealing to those who are not comfortable sharing with everyone on sites such as Twitter. Yammer also includes groups and hashtags so that posts can be directed to specific audiences. One major advantage of Yammer is that it can be a place for pupils to connect and share.
Cons: Although it is growing, Yammer is still relatively small. This means that there is currently less sharing than on larger sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
Twitter is a place where you can follow other professionals, creating a ‘feed’ of their posts. You can also share short, 140 character, updates including text, links or media.
This is my personal favourite social media site to use on a professional basis. As an Early Years Practitioner, I have engaged with thousands of like minded individuals and have found twitter to be an invaluable resource. As a student teacher, I am continually discovering useful articles which others have shared.
Pros: Twitter is a popular website for teaching professionals to connect and share. Hashtags are used to collect ‘tweets’ together (for example: all tweets with the hashtag #uodedu appear in one search/ list) and this is the way in which twitter chats are organised. With millions of users, Twitter allows individuals to easily connect with practitioners all around the globe.
Cons: Twitter can be a little hard to get into – with chats being fast paced, as well as many people using short-hand (due to the 140 character limit) and specific lingo. It can appear daunting for new users.
If you’re interested in Twitter but haven’t signed up, you might be interested in my little starting out guide.
Why use social media at all?
One of the wonderful things about social media is the accessibility. Around 76% of adults in the UK own a smartphone (deloitte.co.uk, 2015) which means that they can access the internet (and social media sites) almost 24/7. Whereas in the past, a teacher may have had to wait until the next day to ask the advice of a colleague, they can now post a question onto Twitter/ Yammer/ Facebook etc and often receive an answer very quickly.
Another positive aspect of professional sharing and connecting in this way is the support which teachers can offer each other. It is no secret that teaching is a difficult profession, but having a large support network of like-minded individuals can help to reassure and encourage.
Professionals in the education sector are required to undertake continual professional learning such as attending training courses or professional reading. I have also seen professionals in the Early Years sector using Twitter chats as CPD – keeping records of the conversations using Storify and then recording their own reflections. I feel that this could be a valuable additional resource for teachers.
Finally, becoming involved in social media can allow teachers to keep up to date with current issues, legislation and changes to the curriculum. As students; even if we do not yet feel in a position to comment on these issues/ changes; it is essential that we remain informed while beginning to develop our own professional opinions.
It must be noted that not everyone is convinced about using social media as a tool for professional development. Pregio (2011) writes that “perception and usage of social media varies wildly, and due to the inherently fluid and malleable nature of the platforms themselves we are still in the process of assessing all their possibilities.”
During #scotedchat, it was mentioned that some people do not feel comfortable putting their own opinions and perspectives out there. HERE is a wonderful blog post from Susan Ward, who discusses the fear and unpleasantness associated with negative comments, feedback and even bullying over the internet. This anxiety is an idea that many of my fellow students have explored when discussing feedback on our ePortfolios. I can fully sympathise with this as I often worry about what others think of me, and whether I am ‘good enough’. However, I feel that in order to develop and grow as professionals, it is important that engage with important issues. During another chat, last night, this issue was again raised and the common consensus was that very often there is no RIGHT answer or 100% correct way of doing things.
As teachers, it is our responsibility to prepare pupils for life and the wider world of work. In today’s society, this increasingly involves the use of digital technologies as well as social media. I believe that, In order for us as teachers to be able to engage and support students, it is essential that we have an understanding of the tools ourselves. While I am confident with some aspects of these, I know that there is much more that I can learn. In my next post, I will explore some of the uses of digital and online resources in primary schools. I look forward to discovering more of the Office tools through Glow, while reflecting upon how I may use these resources to further teaching and learning in the classroom.
When using social media, it’s essential that teachers and professionals conduct themselves in an appropriate way. NASWUT (The teachers’ union) provides these guidelines for social networking.