Last week, the Gates Foundation blog Impatient Optimists shared a post about educators that use social media as a professional learning network. Author Vicki Phillips, the Gates Foundation's director of College-Ready Education, wrote:
One of my strongly held beliefs is that teachers’ professional learning should be owned by teachers. Time and again, we see teachers across the country doing just that—innovating in their classrooms, sharing their expertise, reaching out to colleagues with questions, taking on teacher leadership roles and more.
Teachers are challenging stereotypes about who is using social media, how and why. This past fall, Melinda Gates and I met with a group of teachers who individually—and on their own accord—are using social media to engage large numbers of their colleagues in thinking about and problem solving around teaching and learning.
The results surprised Phillips. Each teacher she met with had more than a decade of classroom experience. They taught in a variety of subject areas and in all different kinds of schools all over the United States. And they used a variety of social media platforms - from Twitter and Facebook to Pinterest and Instagram, and beyond.
When I talk to Facing History teachers and to our own staff about the power of social media, especially Twitter, I try to reinforce that the purpose of joining a social network is to make us better educators, to help us connect to colleagues around the world, and discover resources that will help us do our jobs. I like to share this quote from @alicekeeler, a California-based teacher who is passionate about technology:
Twitter is your best PLN (Personal Learning Network). I use it to connect with educators outside of my school so I can glean new ideas. I also have an entourage of people for when I have a question or need help. I put out on Twitter when I need a lesson plan or idea and someone almost always is willing to share what they made. Why recreate the wheel when it is already out there? When I do a Google search I do not know which resources are the best and I do not want to waste my time reading or searching through things I do not need. With Twitter, if I find resources, I know they are good and worth my time. If I ask for suggestions they are from people I trust who will save me time and give me new ideas. The genius of twitter is you can only have 140 characters, so you have to be clever. But also it is quick and easy to scroll through 500 tweets really quick to find a few things that will make you better.
Do you use social media to network with other colleagues? Have you found inspiration in 140 characters or less? We'd love to hear from you: What are your favorite social networks? Which users or hashtags do you follow on Twitter? How has social media impacted your experience as an educator? Post your comments below!