An Administrator Perspective: Social Media as a Professional Development Tool
In my last blog post, I reviewed several lessons that I have learned about maximizing traditional professional development for teachers and administrators. Today, I would like to discuss Lesson 3: Ways in which social media plays a role in expanding access to and opportunities for professional learning.
Lesson 3: Becoming a connected educator, teacher or administrator, is an invaluable professional development strategy that should be encouraged.
Let’s be honest for a minute here, for most of us, moving toward technology rich environments in our schools is new territory. There may be only a handful of educators in our professional learning community who have knowledge or experience in this burgeoning territory. Additionally, our formal education may have consisted of little more than one class that barely touched on 21st century teaching and learning. So what should we do to bring ourselves up to speed?
Fortunately, there are teachers and administrators who have forged ahead in building 21st century learning environments. And more often than not, they are very willing to share the lessons that they have learned along the way. You simply need to follow or reach out to these pioneers on the social media platform of your choice. If you have not considered becoming a connected administrator or instructional leader, now is the time. There are a variety of ways that you can accomplish this depending upon your comfort level (and what may be blocked by your district’s filtering system). My two preferences are Twitter and Linkedin; however, there are a variety of social media sites and Nings designed for educators.
These communication and information sharing tools provide educators unprecedented opportunities for ongoing, just-in-time, personalized learning opportunities never before possible, whether about the use of technology in our teaching or about any other instructional, curriculum or classroom management issue. The days of teacher isolation in the classroom and waiting for that summer program for answers are over.
Becoming a connected educator may seem overwhelming. I began slowly with Twitter. At first, I would scan for posts that were relevant to the problem of practice that I wanted to begin to address. After a while, I felt comfortable asking questions and posting links and resources that I found useful. Now, I consider Twitter an extension of my professional learning network where I can participate in online chats and forums, read relevant articles, and discover valuable resources. In what other time in our history have we been able to ask experts such as Grant Wiggins, Doug Reeves, or Viki Davis a question in 140 characters or less and have an almost instantaneous response from the comfort of our office, home, or school?
Unlike Twitter, I have not fully utilized Linkedin. I am only beginning to scratch the surface of that tool. For the most part, I use Linkedin to stay connected to and to form new connections with educators and leaders in the field. Additionally, I have joined a few Linkedin groups to access articles and posts about current issues in education. Although I have not contributed significantly on Linkedin to date, I do appreciate the resources and connections it offers.
Even though more and more administrators are becoming connected educators, there appears to be a void of administrators on many of the professional learning networks. Teachers frequently post that they wish their administrators were participating and learning alongside them on Twitter. The online professional learning network you select is not what is important. What matters is that you explore these phenomenal resources that are available at your fingertips. Even more importantly, build relationships with the administrators, teachers and experts with whom you connect who can help you move your district’s strategic goals…and be willing to do the same for them.
I hope that you find my thoughts and ideas useful in your role. I look forward to connecting with you on Twitter or Linkedin in the future. If you have a question, don’t hesitate to ask. If you have suggestions, don’t hesitate to offer. I believe that transformational change is possible when educators work together to create a network committed to learning and collaboration. What we cannot accomplish alone, we can accomplish together.
Paula Dillon is an Assistant Superintendent in Rhode Island
Photo: "Open Teaching - Network Sherpa" by Alec Couros is licensed under CC BY 2.0.