Infographic from www.click.co.uk
It always amazes me when I go into different schools and experience a variety of departments where the teachers are islands - battling against the tide to keep their head above water, making their own resources and plans, with little connection to those delivering the same content or to the same students just down the hall. I advocated in the first part of this blog series that we need to build our own PLNs (Personal Learning Networks) and how to get started on social media, with some suggestions of which platforms to start with and even some good people to follow. In this post, I will address two elements: pros & cons of different types of social media (deeply indebted to Click who designed the infographic above) and dos & don'ts of getting started with your PLN (with my infographic below). In the final post of the series, I will discuss the benefits of a PLN over generic PD and how taking control over your own development is mutually beneficial for you and your school, as well as giving you some profiles of great people to follow.
So...we know which platforms to build a profile on but we need to be aware that there is no perfect platform - each has its own limitations - but (and this is important!) that doesn't mean we should avoid it all costs. It astounds me that young people spend their life on social media yet schools have yet to fully identify the power of this medium as a learning tool.
1. Twitter - hands down, this is the best tool for teachers who need to start their PLN. Short snippets (now not limited to 140 characters as stated in the infographic above), it is easily searchable using hashtags (this is a Godsend if you need to find new ideas - some I like to follow are #edutech #edtech #pedagogy #digitalcitizens #googleedu #classroomideas #creativity #collaboration). However, if you follow too many people, it can lead to feed overload and there is still a limitation with the number of characters for lengthy posts (although there are other platforms which address this). From a visual point of view, it is hard to showcase images or videos which grab people's attention as there is a space limitation. BUT...you must get on Twitter and join the revolution that is edutwitter!
2. Facebook - fewer young people are using this tool with newer platforms emerging but it is still the staple diet for many adults! That's what makes this perfect for developing networks of people around the world. There are groups (closed and open) of ADULTS for almost every demographic, tool, key stage, subject, examination board - the list goes on. Facebook is universally recognised but that creates privacy issues at times if your settings aren't private enough and it can create blurred lines between personal and professional posting. Additionally, lots of material on Facebook is driven by advertising which is frustrating. However, I am a member of lots of groups ranging from Shake Up Learning and Ditch That Textbook to Eduqas A-Level Religious Studies and Save RE! Often, these groups have associated Drives with resources too. Check them out!
3. Instagram - this may well be the least useful in terms of 'following' other educators although this is definitely possible as with the other platforms. However, the beauty in Instagram is its visual nature. Images of student work as a showcase. Visual cues for lesson starters. Sharing part of an image to set off a chain reaction discussion. As one of the fastest growing social networks, I believe the uses will only increase. There are some limitations in terms of no option for clickable links within a post and the format that doesn't really allow for meaningful discussion or dialogue but I just love the visual aspect and this means I can digest information without reading!
4. Pinterest - a pinboard for likes, with all your different hobbies and ideas, Pinterest is a brilliant resource for teachers. Whether you are looking for ideas for your classroom design, how to use a certain tool, learn how to get crafty or find tutorials for almost anything, Pinterest is fast becoming the teacher's go-to resource. The images are hyperlinked to their original source and you only have to follow interests that you have (no spam on other unrelated material). However, it isn't perfect in many ways in terms of its use in a classroom. If you're not arty either, you may find it a little over the top!
5. Google+ - this is Google's own social media platform and thus has lots of support from Google educators and trainers. For those who run websites and are wanting to promote these, links on Google+ are great for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and it is therefore beneficial just at this level (although self-promotion is strictly forbidden). Like Facebook (which has its pros and cons), Google+ is formed into communities and it is easy to share resources and ideas, whilst gaining input from others. I have found that educators respond quicker on this platform than many of the others due to its arrival in the Gmail inbox! However, the audience is limited because it is primarily for Gmail clients and not all educators have seen the light by Going Google!
So, finally, the infographic below highlights some quick Dos and Don'ts of Building a successful PLN. I hope this is useful and that you come back soon for the final instalment.