Social media as professional development sounds a bit tricky when you first consider it. We talk a lot in the education space about how to enrich teaching and learning with 21st-century tools, including social media ones. Most of the time, we’re talking about students, but these tools don’t have to be used just for students’ benefit. There are plenty of ways we can sharpen our skills and learn something new, all through online peer communities.
Follow, Follow, Follow
Twitter is brimming with a wide variety of personalities and expertise. And there’s plenty to learn, even if you aren’t ready to start tweeting yourself. The best way to begin? Just start following. Find a handful of education pros, PR experts, writers and leaders, and follow their feeds. Not only will you be tuning in to what they have to say, but because of how Twitter is set up, you’ll quickly see their interactions with others. Your circle will widen to include new voices—and new opportunities for learning. The same can be said of blogs and education RSS feeds (Feedly is what I use).
Chat It Up
If you’re ready to utilize Twitter in a more strategic way, keep an eye out for Twitter chats. These events turn Twitter into a chat room for participants. A date and time is designated for the chat, and all who wish to participate use a hashtag on their tweets, for easy indexing. A simple search for the hashtag allows anyone to read along and watch the tweets scroll in real time. A good platform to utilize during these chats is Tweetchat.
Some good education-related chats to check out include #PTChat, #EdChat, #EdTechChat, #SuptChat.
You can participate in comment dialogue almost anywhere these days. Pinterest posts, online articles, Facebook and blogs all have comment sections that take on lives of their own. Real dialogue can occur—and in the best cases, though not always, it stays respectful and productive. These dialogues are a great way to make connections with like-minded individuals.
Take advantage of distance learning
Webinars, archived presentations and YouTube videos can all be fantastic resources when you want to learn something new or sharpen your skills. It’s amazing how much free, high-quality content is out there for the taking. There’s no need to commit to a full online course (though those are certainly available) to get the benefits of a distance learning scenario.
It can take some sifting through the junk, but there’s a wealth of resources available online for professional development and learning. Social media and 21st-century tools make it easier than ever to broaden your knowledge and networks.