Social media–facilitated professional development (PD) allows teachers to share ideas and strategies through online personal learning networks (PLNs). Social media bypasses the challenges of traditional PD. It is real-time, cost effective, accessible around the world, and driven by practitioners, not school administrators or consultants.
When talking about using social media for PD, I’m not talking about joining the millions who follow celebrities on Twitter, post selfies on Instagram, or connect with friends on Snapchat, YouTube or Facebook. I want to address the professional use of some popular social networking sites. Here are three that I use regularly.
Yes, I do use Facebook to connect with friends and family, but I also use it to link to causes that I feel strongly about. I follow many organizations who are fighting the excess standardized testing in U.S. schools. I regularly connect with the Facebook Fan pages of
- Elementary Education Interest Section (EEIS)
- TESOL International Association
- Stephen Krashen
- Larry Ferlazzo
- Colorin Colorado
- Teaching Tolerance
- Borderless Learning
- Reclaiming the Language for Social Justice
- Language Policy & Planning
- Network for Public Education
Facebook provides me with lots of information that these organizations have gathered for their membership. I, in turn, post much of what I learn on other sites. I consider these pages an excellent resource for my own PD.
What are the advantages of using Twitter for PD? Many ESL teachers tell me that they do not receive enough PD in their school districts to help them support colleagues who have ELs in their classroom. Pre-K–5 ESL teachers are especially isolated and do not always have ESL colleagues with whom they can communicate in their buildings. Twitter allows teachers to have access to thousands of educators around the world and to connect, collaborate, and share with educators with similar interests.
It is my opinion that ESL teachers need to take the initiative to find PD that is geared to their needs. They need to have venues to ask questions, discuss issues, share resources with colleagues, and support the learning of their students. This is where Twitter comes in. Once teachers have signed up for Twitter, they need to develop a Personal Learning Network, or PLN. ESL teachers can find lots of other educators who have the same interests. Twitter can be a means to transforming your classrooms and changing how you teach. You can find resources, acquire knowledge, network, and share best practices and problems with your PLN.
When I first signed up for Twitter in 2009, I started following general education teachers, supervisors, tech educators, and principals. There were not too many EL educators on Twitter at that time. In 2010, I teamed up with Linda Hahner (@LiteracyNetwork) to establish #ELLCHAT, a Twitter chat for teachers of English learners. #ELLCHAT takes place every Monday night at 9 pm ET and is currently moderated by Karen Nemeth (@KarenNemethEdM ) and myself (@judiehaynes). Chat topics and questions are posted on the #ELLCHAT Facebook page. In addition, there are postings and discussions at the #ELLCHAT hashtag on Twitter every day. Check out the #ELLCHAT feed regularly to see what’s new in teaching ELs.
Since you are reading this on the TESOL Blog page, you already know the value of blogs for getting information. Here are some of the blogs I read, including those geared toward ELs and those on education in general.
- Education Q & A, by Larry Ferlazzo. Larry solicits experts to answer questions submitted by his readers on Education Week.
- Common Core & ELLs, written by Diane Staehr Fenner, on the Colorín Colorado website.
- Edutopia Blogs on ELLs. Edutopia publishes excellent blogs geared toward general education teachers of ELs.
- Diane Ravitch’s Blog. Ravitch is an educational researcher and the leader of opposition to school reform including the Common Core, standardized testing, and teacher evaluation using VAM scores. She is the president of the grassroots movement Network for Public Education.
- Finding Common Ground, written by Peter DeWitt, on a variety of educational issues.
- Living in Dialogue, by Anthony Cody. Cody writes about civil rights, Common Core, and grassroots activism. He is a member of the Network for Public Education Board of Directors.
- My Island View, written by Tom Whitby. Whitby writes about Internet connectivity and education.
It is obvious that I’m a big fan of social networking for teachers. There are so many other ways that teachers share with each other, including LinkedIn , Pinterest, YouTube, Diigo, and Dropbox. I will discuss how teachers can use these applications to further connect with colleagues in my next blog.
Do you have Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, or blogs that you use for PD that I haven’t mentioned here? Please share in the comments below.