13 ways social networks empower teachers


Teaching | Monday, January 27, 2014

13 ways social networks empower teachers

13 ways social networks empower teachers

When teachers gather in online spaces, many things happen. They share. They work together. They create change. In the end, they’re empowered. Here’s how.

Social media is so much bigger than its stigmas.

It’s not just the place where teenagers go to post selfies and talk about their crushes.

It’s not just for telling your followers what you had for breakfast.

It’s not just for fawning over your children or your dogs or your latest renovation project.

Social media has become a serious tool for teacher improvement and changing education for the better. Some of the best and brightest teachers — as well as strongest voices for education reform — are connecting and sharing online.

And they are stronger together. As the saying goes, the smartest person in the room is the room. In this case, the smartest person in the social network is the network itself.

I’ll be presenting about one of my favorite topics — Social Networks for Teachers — at the Indiana Conference on Learning tomorrow, and I created this video (which inspired this blog post) to kick it off:

Whether your choice is Twitter, Google Plus, Pinterest or even Sanderling — the new kid on the block — here’s what you’ll find in social networks:

Inspiration — Ideas abound in online spaces for educators, and if you’re looking for inspiration to try something different, there’s plenty of it. You’ll find new ways to do what you’re doing and the encouragement to get it started.

Motivation — I’ve found that teachers, by nature, love to motivate. That doesn’t stop when they walk out of the classroom. Educators on social networks can give you the push you need.

Challenge — A little pushback against your ideas is a good thing. And when there are so many philosophies and opinions on education-related issues, there’s bound to be a little disagreement. It’s a good thing. It opens your eyes to new possibilities. You’ll find it — especially if you look for it — on social networks.

Innovation — The best and brightest educators, as I mentioned earlier, are sharing online. Social networks are a great hub for finding everything from new teaching ideas to new educational paradigms.

Camaraderie — Ever feel alone as a teacher? I certainly do as the only teacher in my content area in my building. Social networks mean you don’t have to feel lonely anymore. There are hundreds — thousands! — of teachers like you waiting to connect, to share in successes and struggles.

People — I’ve met educators from all corners of the globe (virtually as well as in person) thanks to my connections through social networks. Finding new viewpoints from other cultures will open your mind.

Apps — If there’s a task at hand, there’s probably an app for it, be it a web app, an iOS app, an Android app … and there are teachers that have used it in class. And if you want to see lots of them, there are …

Lists — … lots of lists of apps. And teaching practices. And reasons to try something. And reasons not to try something. They’re quick, easy reads that are very to scan. You’ll find them all over social networks.

Tips — Ever wondered what to do in a certain teaching situation? You’re not the first one. Educators who have been there before are out there sharing tips from their successes — or failures — in the same situations.

Expertise — Some of the top thinkers, writers, researchers and doers in education are active on social media. You can tap into their expertise by reading their posts, sending them messages and engaging them in dialogue.

Humor — We see the funny side of teaching in a way our students don’t, and it’s nice to share in our frustrations and joys. Plus, if you can’t laugh at your situation sometimes, you just might cry.

Collaboration — You can work with virtually anyone all over the world via social networks. I’ve just started teaching Skype-based lessons with a teacher in Spain, allowing our students to share their language learning with kids in another country. It never could exist without social media.

Sarcasm — Sometimes, the struggles of being a teacher can build up and we need to vent. Sarcasm is an entertaining way to do it. Even though we try to keep our communication in a positive light, the sarcasm can creep through at times.

How do social networks empower you? Is there anything you would add to the list, or is there one that resonates most with you? Leave it in a comment below!

(For notifications of new Ditch That Textbook content and helpful links, “like” Ditch That Textbook on Facebook and follow @jmattmiller on Twitter!)

Matt is scheduled to present at the following conferences this school year:

Interested in having Matt present at your event or school? Contact him by e-mail!

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