Want meaningful teacher PD? Try social media.
Admittedly, the idea of professional development via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram may seem a bit odd at first. Sure, social media is a handy way to stay in touch with friends and family, and it’s the ideal medium to share life’s major (and not-so-major) details — so that’s where your vacation shots, gym selfies and dog photos come in.
But many teachers, myself included, have found another way to make social media work — by using Facebook groups, Twitter chats and Instagram posts to share ideas, resources and insight with a vast network of likeminded educators.
While administrators might raise an eyebrow at the inclusion of social media on a professional development log, there are 3 major reasons why social media is actually the ideal medium for teacher PD: it’s teacher-facilitated, convenient and self-directed.
1. It’s teacher-facilitated
Hands down, some of the best PD sessions I’ve been to have been those led by teachers themselves. There’s something inherently powerful about teachers sharing their experiences and expertise with other teachers.
Let’s face it: we’ve all been to PD sessions that we felt were less than productive for one reason or another — and there’s not much worse than that stinging feeling of wasted time. No matter how well-intentioned, a lecture from someone who doesn’t fully understand our needs or classroom dynamics is likely to have little long-term impact on our overall professional growth.
This is precisely why opportunities for teacher-facilitated PD is so important, and exactly what social media enables us to do.
Social media’s most basic function is to share and connect with others, so it’s only natural that teachers — lifelong learners with a passion for helping others — would find a way to harness its collective power for the good of all.
2. It’s convenient
Meaningful professional development is an ongoing process, but it doesn’t have to be a chore. Social media equips teachers with on-demand access to ideas and advice from fellow educators, which makes the learning process much more convenient and accessible.
Curious about a new tech tool or classroom management strategy? Social media’s got your back. No matter what time of day, an Instagram search of #flexibleseating or #classroomlibrary will yield thousands of swoon-worthy visuals, while a quick post in a teacher-focused Facebook group can harness the collective knowledge of teachers across the globe.
For example, earlier this year I did some research (read: googling) on audiobook listening strategies. I posted this inquiry in my favorite secondary language arts Facebook group, and dozens of thoughtful responses arrived within minutes. At the tips of my fingersa growing collection of helpful ideas, resources, photos and website recommendations. The notifications poured in, various conversations ensued, and I learned some great new strategies that I was able to apply in my classroom the following day.
That’s pretty productive for an evening on Facebook.
3. It’s self-directed
Social media allows teachers to connect with teachers who similar interests and goals, which means we’re able to choose what we want to learn and when. Teachers taking ownership over their own learning and professional growth? Sounds like a pretty great idea to me.
Looking to learn more about EdTech tools, engaging writing strategies or breakout rooms? Want to connect with other educators from your state or region? There’s a Facebook group, Twittter chat or Instagram hashtag for that.
A simple Facebook search will reveal teacher groups for every grade level, subject area and specialty imaginable. From there, you can find information using keywords in the group search feature or by opening up a new conversation on the group wall.
You can also hop on a Twitter chat, which are held by various education groups on a regular basis and generally centered around a particular topic. To learn more about Twitter chats, check out my friend Kelsey’s post How to Participate in a Twitter Chat: For Teachers.
If you’re looking to learn more about using Instagram, check out Kelsey’s post The Top 20 Instagram Hashtags: For Teachers
So next time you’re scrolling through your Facebook or Instagram feed past yet another baby photo or engagement shoot, take a minute to check out some teacher groups or hashtags instead. You’ll be surprised at the availability of information, and you might just make a few awesome teacher friends while you’re at it.