How Social Media is Helping Me Become a Better Teacher

One of the things I love most about being in education field is the ever-changing landscape of the profession. There are always new ideas, theories, resources and lessons being thought up and shared around the world. Two months into my final year of education I decided it was time to start digging deeper into my growth as a professional and move beyond what I was being taught in my academic classes. And so started my journey into the world of educators connecting online.

As I look back on the past few months here is the how the process all began and continues to unfold in my life.

1. Reading blogs by fellow educators.

I did not know the world of education blogs existed until one day a friend in my class mentioned reading a fascinating blog by a teacher. My curiosity was peaked and I could not help but start looking into this online world created by fellow educators. Topics ranged from personal reflections, technology in the classroom and even to a blog about funny moments in the classroom. If you can think of it, there is probably an education blog out there on that topic!

As time passed I collected all the blogs into my Google reader and made an effort to read a few posts a day. Not every post you read is life changing but every now and then one comes across that challenges your thinking as an educator and perhaps makes you stop and question why you do what you do in the . Many posts provide inspiration for new things to do in the classroom (Hour of Wonder Project).

2. Twitter as a Professional Development Tool.

When you tell people you use Twitter on a regular basis, they instantly assume that you are just another one of those people who feels the need to constantly share the inane details of ones life with complete strangers. OH but that version of Twitter couldn’t be farther from the truth when you embrace its power as a professional development tool.

As one would imagine when I first started I was a bit apprehensive  about the very public nature of Twitter. I began read blogs which dispensed  simple starter guidelines for the do’s and don’ts of using the service as an educator and  I took the plunge and joined the social network.

It  was a slow process at first, I chose my Twitter handle then I followed a few people, watched what they said and how they interacted. I learned about the role of #hashtags and started to search them. A hashtag allows anyone to share information related to a  specific topic and to be sure that people who have an interest in that topic are able to read what they have shared. E.g. If I have a math resource to share I may send out a tweet with link and end it with #mathchat to make sure educators in that interest area have access to it. All thanks to Twitter, in a matter of minutes I have been able to gather resources that would have taken me hours if not weeks to gather on my own!

A lightbulb moment was my discovery that there was a hashtag for my first ever SAGE day  this year and that there are other Manitoban educators using the service! I now follow a list by the MTS  which allows me to connect and share with fellow Manitoban educators .

After I realized that there was order to some of the chaos of Twitter I learned that there were weekly discussions based interest group! (Amazing!) My first ever Twitter chat was on #ntchat, a group dedicated to supporting new teachers as they start out in the profession. I have been able to gain insights into matters that I would have otherwise probably never thought about.

I have also been given the opportunity to have a mock interview with a very kind Principal from Saskatchewan (@PrincipalNorth). In the next week or so I will be doing a guest post on a new teacher blog, all thanks to the world of Twitter! As a way to grow my knowledge I have  enrolled in a free online course on the Creative Commons that was tweeted out a few weeks ago! Creative Commons has to do with online copyright culture,  something I am particularly interested in and want to learn more about.  (If you want to join the course for free: Open content licensing for educators, it runs January 23 – 27 2012). 

My exploration into the world of Twitter continues and I look forward to the enjoying spirit of collaboration and support that exists between educators from across the globe.

3. Blogging for Reflection.

Before starting my first practicum block of the 2011 – 2012 school year,  my faculty advisor suggest I try to find a medium where I could reflect on my experiences as an educator. My first reaction was literally “ACK…I can’t do that!”.  But as I thought about it and began reading what other educators were writing on their blogs, I realized that really I could do that!

Writing a first blog post is nerve-wracking and difficult to do. You wonder if you will be judged by what you write, how you write or if people will even read what you write! I write this blog not to change the world, but rather as a means to think about what I am doing as a teacher and what I am thinking about.  It is a medium for me to articulate my thoughts and put the pieces together. The fact that it is open to the world is something I am getting used to but feel is important if I want to give back to fellow educators in some way. As I look back through the list of posts the past few months have produced, it is quite liberating to see my very own learning process in progress!

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So if you are an educator thinking about entering the world of social media, know that although it can be used for evil, the possibilities for it to introduce amazing things into your life are endless!

There are resources and ideas that you would likely have never have found on your own being shared everyday from all corners of the globe. And perhaps best of all there are amazing people  out there who will support you and challenge your thinking on a daily basis!

C.C 70AS3109 By Hawk Takahashi

If you want to read more:

Here’s my earlier blog post about : Twitter for Teachers

Two very topical blog posts that I found on Twitter earlier today:

“Writing a Good Twitter Tweet “ http://jamesmcconville.blogspot.com/2012/01/writing-good-twitter-tweet.html

“Education and Social Media in British Columbia”

http://cultureofyes.ca/2012/01/15/education-and-social-media-in-british-columbia/