By David Eggert
As we make our way through a school year unlike any other, teachers across the nation are overwhelmed and working more hours than ever before. Our motivation to innovate may be difficult to awaken, but it is an essential component to our “temporary normal” as I like to call it. How can educators collaborate? How can educators learn about the latest apps and websites to use in their digital classrooms?
As a Google-certified trainer and an educator who seeks tools to enhance learning outcomes, I am continuously learning through the digital tools of social media. Hundreds of thousands of educators across the globe are collaborating through social media platforms to enhance their practices and learning outcomes for students. The culture formed among educators through social media is unique, strong, and keeps the field of education alive and well!
Twitter is my personal favorite platform for learning. Educators can develop professional learning networks (PLNs) to foster a sense of community. As an educator who created a professional Twitter to use throughout college, I have had many opportunities to learn and connect with fellow educators. (Follow me @MrEggertsClass!)
I have had opportunities to connect with educators worldwide, and even connected with one principal through Twitter who later ended up being the administrator at the school where I completed my student teaching. Even now, throughout my day, even if I have only a few minutes of free time, I look at Twitter as an opportunity to see what ideas members of my PLN are using in their classrooms, and as an opportunity to continue my goal of being a lifelong learner. Twitter is free professional development at your fingertips! Here are a few simple ways to start using Twitter:
• Follow fellow educators: There are teachers in many school buildings and positions who use Twitter. Follow them with your professional account. They may share their opinions, additional professional development opportunities, and be your cheerleader when you are proud of yourself or need some feedback.
• Twitter chats: This is another fantastic way to use Twitter. There are hundreds of Twitter chats on various educational topics each week.. Simply do a Google search of Twitter chats for educators, and many lists should appear! You can join for a few minutes, stay the whole time, or just scroll through the chat. #SatChat and #tlap are two popular chats to search in your Twitter search bar.
• Freebies: That’s right! Freebies! Who doesn’t love those? Many authors and education professionals host giveaways that you can win free books and subscriptions. I have so far won four free books through Twitter that are expanding my knowledge as an educator.
Scrolling through Facebook? Make your daily social media meaningful to your practice as an educator. Facebook groups exist for any topic, from GSuite to Orton Gillingham to mathematics to business education. On Facebook, many educators share what you would normally spend hours doing on your own. Much of what they share is free! Bitmoji classrooms and other resources are at your disposal to use immediately or save for a later date.
Asking for perspectives is easier than ever. When I scroll through Facebook, educators are asking questions, such as “Nearpod or Pear Deck?” or “How do you teach the magic /e/ rule to first graders?” The list of questions is endless, but within minutes, you gather resources and perspectives from different educators who do what you do. Save the files for later to your computer or right on Facebook.
Instagram is another platform that educators turn to for inspiration, whether it be classroom culture, ideas for classroom design conducive to learning, or strategies to engage your learners. There are teachers in my school who collaborate with other educators through Instagram, and I have gained ideas from there as well.
Regardless of how you learn best, social media is a place to explore. Finding what works best for you is important. Once you immerse yourself into a social media platform, it becomes a truly fun way to explore everything that is out there. Some of the best professional development I’ve had has been through social media networks. Using social media as an educator can save you time, money, and can be done from the comfort of your own home.
David Eggert is a special education teacher in the West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @MrEggertsClass.