Back in 2006 when I set up my very first blog, I had no idea what social media was, or the impact it would end up having on my personal life, or how it would go on to enhance my professional development later. At the time it turns out it was quite innovative, but I just saw it as a way to share with potential employers evidence of my teaching practice, my philosophies and 21st Century skills; not that I called them that then, I only connected with that term in 2015 as part of a Postgraduate course in Applied Teaching. Over the past 10 years I have developed a few online blogs, webpages and opened a twitter account due to business ventures, and wanting to connect with like minded people. Interestingly, it has only been over the past year that I have started to maximise its potential to enhance my teaching practice.
Having been fortunate enough to work in a multitude of roles before becoming a teacher, I have seen how the use of social media and technology has quickly changed the economy. I was reminded of how quickly things change when I watched an interview where educators spoke about the importance of being “connected” in order to be an effective teachers and leaders (Connected Educators Month). Change goes hand in hand with leadership; to stay the same serves no one. I have been asking myself many questions over the past year, and one of them being: “How can I be an effective leader if I am not using social media in most forms in my practice?” The short answer: I can’t. I have to know what it is I am to teach, and to lead, I must be using the tools of the trade, as well as reviewing my pedagogy that underpins my practice.
People who do not use social media as intended, may find it hard to understand how it has enhanced my professional development; is it not just a time waster? When used properly I have found that it provides me with a place to collaborate with like minded people where I can share my understandings of a given topic to deepen my understanding. King, (2011, p44) highlights that sharing my practice with others using online communities will expand my learning network, and give me first-hand contact with experts and colleagues within my specialty area, and possibly additional areas. I have found this to be true and using social media has also allowed me to mingle with passionate educators from multiple backgrounds giving voice to so many different views and experiences, this view is also supported by those interviewed by Connected Educators. Without a doubt I know that the embedding of social media into my practice is essential because it not only demonstrates I am a 21st Century learner myself, but it keeps me connected with those that can grow my mind beyond the four walls of my school; and then I can share this knowledge with those who wish to develop their 21st Century skill set.
The students I teach are surrounded by social media apps, from Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and so many more. As highlighted by Cassidy (2013), children use social media tools at home, so we need to embrace the same technologies at school as a way to provide a connection between their home and school environments. I was given no formal training on how to behave on social media, but I was raised with morals and values which I display with every picture, video or comment I post. Students today live in an environment where they are constantly stimulated and use online tools, often with no training, which makes my experiences valuable to my students. I am able to help them understand how to build a positive digital footprint online, a view shared by Social Media For Kids®.
I have brought my knowledge of blogging and social media skills to my school. I know the importance of connecting with other people, and I believe that students need to be given the same opportunities under guidance to connect with classrooms in other towns and countries. By integrating social media in my classroom programme, I get to learn alongside my students as we reach out and talk with experts on a topic that my students are interested in. My class this year has already established a connection with an international school in Hong Kong and they love it. Social media brought us together to share our learning experiences, and develop empathy of others with different worldviews. Whether you agree with it or not, our world is becoming more and more connected. Teachers and students need to learn in an environment where they can communicate with others from different cultures and countries. Everyone needs to be taught how to act online safely and responsibly.
Ultimately I see myself as a lifelong learner and already know which learning programme I will head to after my postgraduate certificate is completed. Learning should not stop when we get our teachers registration. My mother is a great example of this, having had 8 children and working full time, she always made time for postgraduate study. Our students need us now, we must consistently and constantly be educating ourselves to keep abreast of educational trends, technology and best practice to help our children develop the 21st Century skills they will need to become contributing members of society.
Connected Educators. Retrieved on 2 March 2016 from:
King, K. P. (2011). Professional Learning in Unlikely Spaces: Social Media and Virtual Communities as Professional Development. International Journal Of Emerging Technologies In Learning, 6(4), 40-46.