How to Use Social Media to Up Your Teaching Game

By Jerry Pettigrew | Posted on 06.17.2016 | 0 comments
How to Use Social Media to Up Your Teaching Game
The Internet can be an overwhelming ocean of information. But if you know where to look, you’ll find people and resources to help you have more impact, find solutions to problems, invigorate your lessons, and keep your passion ignited. 
Tune in below and Tom Whitby, founder of #edchat and author of The Relevant Educator, will tell you how to use social media to share ideas and inspiration with people all over the world who do what you do.

Interview highlights

Personal Learning Network (PLN)

[9:51] Yeah, again, a PLN is very simple. It is a network that you actually develop on your own. You pick and choose the people who you want to connect with. Twitter is usually the backbone for a PLN because it gives you very easy and quick access to your collegial sources, and you're limited in the number of things that…characters that you can use so you have to be very succinct in contacting people. So it cuts out a lot of the usual nonsense that goes along with educators talking to each other. They get wrapped up in more than they have to. So you have to be to the point asking very specific questions and getting very specific answers.

So in using this, you develop colleagues on Twitter that you can go back and forth with. But it's more than just Twitter because what you'll find out is that as you're involved with this network of sources, people will ask you if you can get on a Skype call or if you can do a Google Hangout. These are all things that you begin to learn about that gives you more fact-to-face connections with people. So you're expanding your own knowledge of technology and digital collaboration.

And it's a process to get up here and talk about this. You've got to remember, I've been doing this for several years now, and because I've been doing it for several years, I've been able to accomplish a great deal. And I could talk about that but that kind of scares somebody who hasn‘t done anything at all which is one of the reasons why we wrote the book.

The worst advocates for connected learning are connected learners because they tend to talk about all the wonderful things that they're doing, and it scares the hell out of people who think, "Oh, I'll never be able to do all of that." So you've got to remember that the whole key to this is directing your own learning.

So you use the Personal Learning Network to direct your learning, and you determine what it is you need to know to move on. But the beauty about that is that not only can you direct what you need to know, you also find out that which you don't know. You're being exposed to things that you've never been exposed to before. You're talking to teachers who may be doing the same thing in completely different ways that you're starting to look and get a different opinion about or a different viewpoint. And that helps a great deal in learning your own profession.
Building Up Your Network

[12:33]… a very good way to build up the people that you follow, if you go to the chats for instance that take place on Twitter because there are chats covering every aspect of education. There's the third grade chat, the fourth grade chat, the fifth grade chat. Every state has their own chat for educators. There's the California Educator's Chat, there's the New York Educator's Chat, and also specific subjects, English chat, Social Studies chat.

If you go to these chats, what you have the ability to do is to involve yourself in these chats and then follow the people who are putting in worthwhile comments within the chats, people who are adding value to the chat so you can follow them on Twitter.

Another way to do it is once you find an educator, you go to their Twitter profile and you see who they follow so you can follow more and more people that way. Many people have what are called lists when you go to their profile. For instance, I have a list on my profile called My Twitter Stalwart List. These are about 150 people who I follow on Twitter who I've been following many of them for seven, eight years, and they're the real stable of people that I go to for ideas.

You could simply go to that list and follow everybody on that list. And then what begins to happen is that on your Twitter feed now, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, you start getting education tweets coming through from all of these people. And you can pick and choose those that you want to access.

I follow probably about 3,000 people but I don't read every tweet that comes out. I do have people who I recognize right away, and I'll follow those tweets. And I peruse all of the tweets and pick up on the ones that interest me. That's it. You just keep building your Personal Learning Network through these methods.

Following bloggers is another good thing. Following authors on Twitter is another good thing. You get to access the thought leaders in education, and actually interact with them which is something that we've never been able to do before. I can't begin to tell you all of the people that I've been connected with and had conversations with; real giants in the profession which is astounding to me. And it's something that also got me to write a book to offer those things that I had. I was encouraged by other authors who I had contact with.

The other thing too is once you get yourself involved with this, people…it's not just getting information. It's also giving information. People start to ask you for information and your ideas on things. The best part about Twitter is that people are accepted for their ideas not necessarily their titles.
Get Comfortable With Technology

[19:46] The biggest obstacle to change are comfort zones. People don't like to leave whatever it is they're comfortable with, and most educators today were not necessarily brought up or educated with the use of technology and integrating technology into what it is they do. So it's like another level of thing that they have to learn and that is…it's a problem.

People often say that many teachers are fearful of technology so therefore they're not going to do that. I've really come to believe that it's not a fear of technology because technology isn't going to hurt anybody. It's just a fear of change. Everybody wants change but nobody wants to change which is one of the big problems we have in getting people involved with any kind of digital collaboration because there are things that you have to learn in order to make it effective. I think these things can be learned in a step-by-step basis. As you get involved, you tend to take on more and more.

For instance, if you spent 20 minutes a day just looking at Twitter, you're going to learn a great deal for your own profession, and that's all it takes is 20 minutes a day. The real secret to that though is that you're going to enjoy what you're doing and you will spend more than 20 minutes a day at some point. And it will begin to consume more and more of your time.

But the payoff is great because of the change that you have in your own profession, the way you deal with things, the way you reflect about things, the way you approach lessons. Because you're getting input now not just from the people within your building but you're getting input from people virtually all over the world who can add to what it is you do.
Direct Your Own Learning

[19:09] I think taking things on…directing your own learning is very important. So you take things on as you can handle them, and what will happen is that will begin to grow exponentially as a matter of fact. The more you learn, the more you're going to want to learn and the more time you're going to spend doing this. But you've got to take those first steps. In your mind, you've got to understand that you need a growth mindset. You've got to say that, "I'm going to take the time to learn. I'm going to take the time to expand what it is I'm doing." And the time that you spend will be short to begin with, and that will begin to grow.

But it takes a commitment on the part of anybody to open up and to say, "Look, I'm going to leave my comfort zone. I'm going to start to explore what other people are doing, and I'm going to start applying it to what it is I do. And realize that, again, failure is part of learning which is something that has been drummed out of the heads of educators. They've been programmed completely different. They've been programmed against failure. You don't make a mistake in front of your class. You can't fail. You have to plan everything out so it's all right. This is the way teachers have been programmed to train.

But you have to understand that things that you're going to do, you're going to fail with. The difference though is once you fail, you look at the reasons why you fail. You go back and you make it better. And keep in mind that failure is part of learning. Without failure, we don't learn. So once you accept that and begin to explore things with a more open mind, you begin to develop a completely different philosophy on the way you handle things. You become much more collaborative and much more transparent.

There are so many things in education that we were told this is the only way it can be done, and then we find out through social media that other people are able to do things that we're not able to do. So you start to question things, and you start to see what it is they do that's different that allows them to do things that you have not been allowed to do.

We've never had that kind of transparency before. In education, everybody took for granted that there were administrators telling them exactly what it was that they needed to know and there was no war out there. And quite frankly, there's plenty more out there. It's just a question of being exposed to it, and social media gives us the ability to do that. I hope that answers your question.

More From Tom Whitby

You might also be interested in