About Social Media and PD

Recently, I wrote a series of posts about Professional Learning with Social Media.  It was inspired by comments from @tk1ng about conversations that he had with young teachers during a summer Additional Qualifications course.  I’m going to use this post to put them all together.  I’m hoping that the totality of the comments makes sense and that, perhaps, at least one of Tim’s co-learners stumbles on this blog post and reconsiders.

Don’t Hurt Yourself with Social Media

I absolutely read every comment that’s posted to this blog.  Often, it allows me to extend the conversation.  With any luck, I make sense but there are times when I’m wrong and get corrected.  Both are valuable experiences for me.  So, when Tim Kingcommented on my “This Week in Ontario Edublogs“, I read it with interest.  Then, I read it again.  I couldn’t determine if he was agreeing with me or taking me to task with my post.

But, one of the quotes in his reply made me think during my morning dog walk.

At my recent AQ, the new teachers all said that they actively avoid web2.0 because it loses them credibility with the old-school admins hiring them, and they are terrified of one of their 20-something friends posting pictures that would get them fired.

Two things leapt out at me.  

First of all, Tim and a bunch of teachers are taking Additional Qualification courses during the summer.  That is so impressive.  I hope that it’s in an air conditioned setting given the brutal weather this summer.  The additional certifications should make them more valuable to their schools and their employers and open additional teaching discipline possibilities for them.  Great resume fodder.

But, the second part bothers me.  It’s the concept of avoiding Web 2.0 things because of concerns about their employer’s perceptions of it.  That’s really bothersome.  It directly counters some of the great reading that I’ve done today.

The concerns are not isolated to the education profession.  Ontario jail guards warned about social media use

I think back to the OTF Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century series and @osstfbob’s comment “Don’t Do Stupid Things”.  That’s great advice but does it mean living isolated from society?  I sure hope not.  

I do think that it’s a call to using things wisely.  In fact, the smarter you use it, the better you can leverage it.  Instead of lying awake worrying about what they might find, why not be proactive about things.  Post some of the great things you’re doing, blog about your progressive thoughts, tweet about excellent professional reading.  And, show that you’re a real person.  

I dug into Facebook to see if I’m walking the walk.

Here’s a picture of me showing off at a Minds on Media event with three great leaders that I have nothing but the utmost respect for – @brendasherry@peterskillen, and @kellmoor.  People should be saying “Wow, you know …”!

I also share things about “me”, if you’re interested.  Here’s my dog sleeping on a cedar chest.

My son gave me a gift once of driving some exotic cars.  Here’s me checking out the Lamborgini.  (I really looked forward to the Ferrari and the Viper was cool too!)

Of course, pictures are but one part of the story.  Blog posts, essays, comments, engagement, and thoughts are the things that illustrated deeper thinking and reflection.  You never dig as deeply as when you reflect and write about something.  Or podcast.  Or videocast.  In fact, there are so many ways that Web 2.0 can be used so positively.  

What about those that would post pictures about you?  There are ways to be pre-emptive starting with letting your friends know who you are and who you want to be.  If that works, then there are things that you can do to protect your identity.

What Does Twitter For PD Mean?

Twitter for PD?  What does this mean?  (Old radio listeners from Detroit will recognize Dick the Bruiser format)

I referenced a couple of blog posts yesterday in my post about hurting yourself with social media.  There doesn’t pass a day when I see reference to using Twitter (or other social media for that matter) for professional development.

I often wonder about this.  I agree with some of the assumptions made but not all of the examples given actually work for me.  I think the joy of it is that it can work at so many levels.  Here are some thoughts about mine.

Twitter Chats
Inevitabily, any discussion about Twitter for Professional Development includes reference to Twitter Chats.  I’ve bookmarked a number of references to my Diigo account and probably the reference to start with is this one. I know that people swear by these online sessions.  For me, I tried and gave up.  I find the time commitment for active participation too much and, if we’re looking for examples of echo chambers, the ones that I’ve participated in just seemed that way.

But that doesn’t mean hashtags are to be ignored.  Put together after the fact using something likeStorify can be a terrific way to quickly scan the thoughts and sharing from a focused event.

140 Characters at a time
Anything Meaty?  I got taken to task yesterday for sharing the post about Twitter and Facebook replacing Traditional Teacher Professional Development.

From the title of the article, it was probably justified.  Just getting a Twitter account and doing a couple of Twitter messages and reading a bunch certainly doesn’t cut it.  It’s a modern equivalent of going to the library and skimming the card catalogue and calling yourself informed.  Even if you do use “texting talk” to imply more than 140 characters, it can still be lacking.

Getting a PLN
Creating your own Professional Learning Network is easy.  Just log on to Twitter on any Friday and look for #FollowFriday or #FF links and follow those people.  Put together more than one and you’ve got yourself a network.  If that’s all that you’re doing, it’s the equivalent of hanging around with a group of strangers outside a movie theatre.  It’s nice to be there and associate but that’s as far as it goes.

So, now that I’ve started this post off in a negative fashion – which quite frankly isn’t something I like to do – how can it be productive and why does Doug spend so much time with it?

Lose the Development
I’m not a fan of the term “Professional Development”.  In my mind, it reinforces the concept that someone or something else is doing something to, or for you, to help you improve…just like everyone else at the session.  There was a time and place when this was valuable.  At a Teachers’ College, for example, there are a certain set of skills that should be part of any future educator’s toolkit.  Well all know, though, that once you get into your classroom and close the door, it’s you and your students.

Gain the Learning
If you’ve graduated from that Teachers’ College, your professional needs don’t stop.  In fact, they should probably grow exponentially.  The more you know, the more you need to know.  Have you ever taught the exact same class two years in a row?  Heck, have you ever taught the same class exactly the same way two days in a row?  In a lock stepped curriculum, perhaps a standardized development approach would do the trick.  For all others, learning as you go, on the fly, as needed, is a necessity.

You just know that there had to be some sort of edu-babble introduced into a discussion like this.  Remember those needs?  They now become YOUR needs.  At any quality conference, you are enabled by allowing you to select just what you need during any time slot.  Learning online should work the same way.  Track down and engage in the discussions that feed your present needs.

Build a Critical Mass
I was showing off my RebelMouse page to a friend recently as a way to show how we might accumulate stories for a totally different reason.  Her comments were “You have over 5000 followers?”  Yes, but more importantly, I follow over 3000.  The folks that I follow have been chosen for a purpose.  I can count on them to engage, inspire, and challenge me daily.  It really helps to grow my thinking.  I recall when I did follow 20 or so people.  My impression then was that this whole exercise was a waste of time.  Not now.

Twitter as a LaunchPad
The best learning for me happens when the conversation takes off and doesn’t necessarily stay in the social media.  I like following the links – take me to news reports, research, forums, wikis, and blogs where the meaty stuff resides.  You don’t get the full monty 140 characters at a time but like the library card catalogue, it should be there to tease and inform you about where the good stuff is.

Give Back
It’s one thing to be there and suck it all in.  Anyone who has ever put together a child’s toy where “some assembly is required” knows that there’s much more to the job that simply reading the instructions.  You’ve got to roll up your sleeves, find those tools in the toolbox and then get to the job of doing it.  The same thing happens with social media.  Find and share.  You can do this 140 characters at a time.  While you’ve differentiated for your own needs a set or sub-set of yours will undoubtedly have an appeal to someone else.

Don’t keep your best learning to yourself
You can’t get in shape by watching other people work out at the gym.  You can learn the techniques of the exercise but you don’t get the benefit until you do it yourself.  Ditto for social media.  Did you learn something inspiring, out of the ordinary, or just something that got your through to morning recess?  If it worked for you, it just might be of value to someone else somewhere.  Blog about it; add it to your wiki.  Education isn’t about the person who wins by hoarding the most; the winner will be the one who influences by filtering and sharing or creating the best of the best.

When you look at Twitter and what it can really do, I think you’ll see that it can be an incredibly powerful tool.  Unlike Professional Development where you show up for a coffee and muffin and sit back, Professional Learning with Twitter is work.  It requires engagement, active interactions, creating and sharing your learning.  Isn’t that what we expect from our students?  Should we expect no less from ourselves?

What Does Facebook for PD Mean?

This topic may be a little more difficult to sell.

First, not all boards are like the Waterloo board and have Facebook unblocked for access at school.  That’s a shame because this is a powerful learning environment.

Secondly, for all its power, the social media news is full of stories of things gone wrong.  But, you’re a sophisticated learner; you’d never do them!

I think I started with Facebook like most people.  My kids were connected there and complained that I didn’t share photos that I had taken quickly enough. Daaaaad.  They did make sense; after all Facebook is the world’s most popular photo sharing service.  Their recent purchase of Instagram only serves to add to the numbers.  So, I joined thinking that this would appease them.  What it turned to instead was another powerful learning place for me.

For the new user, it can be intimidating.  There’s a timeline, news ticker, groups, stories, pictures, jokes, recommendations, pokes, and advertising.  I find it amazing how quickly I was able to block out the things I’m not interested in and to focus on the good stuff.  Two other things are paramount for using this service – how to turn off noisy applications and how tocontrol your privacy.  Details, to be sure, but well worth the read as you get started.

The other thing that I noticed quickly was that many of the people that I had valued learning with on Twitter had moved to Facebook.  Over a coffee once, I learned that a good friend of mine made the decision in the efforts of time.  She just wanted one place to go to learn and to do social things.  She missed me.  (at least that’s what she said)

So, I wondered…is there a way to share the great things that I share on Twitter on Facebook?  Without too much effort?  I’m all about automation.  Doing a little discovery, I found a myriad of ways.  Two stood out – there’s a way to share Facebook posts on Twitter or a way to shareTwitter posts to Facebook.  I opted for the latter.  The same premise works for Facebook as it does for Twitter.  As I noted yesterday, you need to work at it.  Learning should never be a passive activity.  If you’re sharing something you’ve created or learned in one place, why not both?

Similar to Twitter, the more people in your learning environment, the more powerful it can be.

But, Facebook offers another level of learning.  It comes in the form of groups.  Add this to the regular conversations and you’ve got some great potential learning areas.  Currently, I’m subscribed to the following:  (you’ll need to have a Facebook account and be logged in to follow these links…)

Good stuff.  If you’ve ever used online forums before, you’ll adapt to the concepts very easily.  The only problem is that you’ll want to know what else is available and that can always be a challenge.  However, a public post requesting information is bound to lead to suggestions from others.  There’s so much that’s available.

Facebook offers a nice blend of personal and professional opportunities.  It’s important to remember just what you’re doing and who your audience is or could be.  The personal could go on forever and isn’t the goal of this post.  It’s the professional aspect that’s so valuable and what makes it worth the time to learn.

Perhaps there will come a time when the paranoia will subside and we realize that students and teachers are already in this environment and it’s time to turn on the educational potential universally.

Concerned about privacy? – check out this document from Angela Alcorn.
The (Very) Unofficial Facebook Privacy Manual

What Does Google+ for PD Mean?

This is the third in a series of my thoughts about the use of social media for Professional Learning.  Earlier, I had talked about Twitter and Facebook.  The inspiration for this came as a result of a reply from @tk1ng about his observations of the hesitancy of younger teachers to use social media.  I really find this disappointing given that there is so much to be gained by being connected.

The people, the immediacy, the relevancy, the direct-to-lesson plan potential, the diversity of opinion, …  I shudder when I think of the alternatives because I lived them before connectivity…you wait for the once a month professional journal (or two once you work yourself up the grid…), you put a hold on a journal in the school library, gosh even typing this seems so archaic.

Today, I’d like to offer my thoughts on a relatively new entry to the social learning arena –Google+.  I would suggest that the lack of uptake is entirely because of its late entry.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that if this service had been earlier to the party, it would have made the other services redundant.  Google+ potentially has it all.

For now though, it does have its own special place in my professional learning.

Twitter is wide open.  Anything posted there potentially goes anywhere.  The power and popularity lies in its simplicity.  Facebook has certain controls where you can control where your content is potentially read.  It is a nice hybrid of everything for the world to learn/share and those private this that you may wish to keep among family and friends.  Of course, you have to worry about friends of friends and others “tagging” you in pictures and their friends seeing it.  Through a menu of choices, you can control who sees what.  You just hope that you get it right.  Google+ had controls built in from the start.  Things are very intuitive through its use of circles.  Just define your own circle and add people to the appropriate circle.  When you post, you just make sure that you post to the right one.

My set of circles look like the above.  To be honest, when I’m reading, I typically am either following what’s trending and go to the “Following” group.  There is a group that I’ve added to the end and my apologies go to my next door neighbour from our jobs a few years ago.  I distinctly remember her thoughts about DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) in the classroom.  However, the concept caught with me and there are currently 8 people in that smallish circle.  Of all my circles, it’s the most volatile.  When someone posts something good, I’ll add them to that circle with the hope that there will be more forthcoming.

Like Twitter and Facebook, you only get from Google+ what you put into it.  You don’t get hit over the head with inspiration, you need to work to find it.  Many people are using Google+ as their blogging platform; others are using it to share links and resources.  I tried the former but went back to WordPress.  I tend to be in the latter part.  I think that I would share more if Google opened up posting ability to more services.  Right now, I use things like Shareaholic, DLVR.IT, IFTTT, Zite, and homemade scripting to post once and have things go many places.  At this point, Google+ appears to like to have things done automatically.

The result is a little more work.  However, I will say that my Following and DEAR groups provide a seemingly endless form of research and information for the Google+ user.  Probably the most impressive thing, at this point, is that everyone seems to stay on topic.  There isn’t the friendly banter and interchange that one finds on other services.  I head here for on-topic resources.

By itself, that would be enough to recommend Google+.  But it’s just the tip of the iceberg.  With other services, you might use Skype for online face to face meetings.  Or copy/paste something from your email to share and pass along.  Or use a third party resource to find new people in your area.  Or nip over to any of the online services to build and share documents with team members.  Guess what?

With your humble Google ID, you’ve got it all in Google+.  There’s no leaving the service to do this and flipping over there to do that.

All of the goodness that your Google account has provided over the years is just a menu away.  There is no simplified menu, to be sure.  But if you’re a user of Gmail or Google Drive or Google Maps or Google …, you know the routine.  It’s all there and waiting in Google+.  Need a quick conference?  Join a Google Hangout!  Looking to chat with others?  Open your own Google Hangout.  Options abound across the top of the screen and along the left side.  Unlike Twitter where you never really know if your audience is currently online, with Google+ their availability shows on the right side of your screen.

Add to all this, there is a dynamite Google+ application for iPad users.  Of course, if you’re an Android user, you’re at home already.  There just isn’t a shortage of ways to make this your favourite learning environment.  Need to blog?  How about Blogger?

It’s sad but Google+ was late getting to a party dominated by Facebook and Twitter.  It’s not too late for you though.  Digging around, creating the best of circles, incorporate all the Google things that you’ve used for years and you’ve got a very powerful learning environment.

What Does Learnist for PD Mean?

I’ve been keeping a lot of resources for a long time.  I felt the need to do so when I had a computer at home and a computer at work.  It was then that I realized that bookmarking a link on my computer was a pretty limiting activity.  Even more limiting was bookmarking different resources on different computers and then trying to remember where the heck I left it.  Surveying the online landscape, I realized that there were a number of better solutions.  I chose to use a service called Backflip.  It served me well.  I could bookmark things as I found them and then it didn’t matter at all what computer I used to access them.  This was good, very good.  The process was exceptionally good when I realized that I could share the resources with people who weren’t me!  All that I had to do was give them the public address to my resources.

Sadly, Backflip went out of business.  So, I went looking for a replacement and foundDelicious.  This had the same good features as Backflip and continued to add more to it.  I think that it was Delicious that first impressed upon me the importance of tagging things so that they could be accessed later in a quick and meaning manner.  Before that, I would organize resources by subject.  That made cross-subject or them categorization difficult.

Delicious also allowed me to post links that I’d found automatically to this blog.  That was even better.  I’m really all about automation when I can swing it.  Not too long ago, Delicious was cut loose by Yahoo! and it looked like the end was near.  Fortunately, I’d been playing around with Diigo not only because of its bookmarking abilities but because of the classroom feature built into it.  Diigo posts nicely to my blog, it can post automatically to Delicious so that I have an automated backup.  This is very nice.

During presentations, I can create a group to share with participants if I have a bunch of links to support my talk.  It’s also a great way to make documents available for the same sort of activity.

Recently, along comes a new service called Pinterest.  This is very intriguing.  Rather than just a link to a resource, you’re asked to select an image on the page being pinned.  Within Pinterest, there’s a huge activity of sharing pins and resources.  Couple that with following others and you have a rather dynamic and attractive environment.  Pinterest, in fact, has  exploded in popularity.  I have experimented with a number of ways of using it and really like what I’m finding.  On the other hand, Pinterest is so popular for way more than education.  By following pins, it’s easy to get very, very lost!

Then, recently a service called Learnist comes along.  It’s still in its infancy; you need to ask for an invitation or get invited to join.  You log in with your Facebook account once you’re granted access.  But, once in, it seems at this point to be the best of all the worlds for education.  Devoted strictly to education, there are far fewer random detractors in its operation.

While you’re waiting for your account, you can explore most of what Learnist has to offer.  Just select a category from the ribbon at the top of the page.  You can go directly to “Education” from here, for example.  Explore the results and you’ll see bookmarks, you’ll see the ability to “like” a resource, you’ll have the ability to follow people; and you’ll have the ability to add your own comments to the entry.  Once you have your own account, Learnist provides you with a bookmark button to easily tuck away a bookmark while you’re browsing the web.


From what I’m seeing, Learnist has “it all” – or at least whatever “all” means as of this writing.  The highly attractive and feature filled environment pack a great deal of educational potential.  One of the best professional learning activities that one can do for oneself is to read and reflect.  Reading is easy; reflecting when you’re reading on the web means revisiting resources when necessary.  By bookmarking it on Learnist, you have that functionality.  But, it goes further.  For professional learning, you can create your own “board” of selected resources to share with your audience.  And, if your audience is students, share it with students!

Learnist is the newest of all the resources I’ve look at in this genre.  In my world, it hasn’t replaced anything yet.  I still like my Delicious and Diigo accounts and all that they generate.  I see Learnist as another level for another application of bookmarking for professional learning.  It’s interesting to note that even the term “bookmarking” is starting to sound dated in favour of the newer term “curating”.

I think this service is one to keep your eye on.  It definitely has a smaller target audience that the whole computer using web – us!


8 thoughts on “About Social Media and PD

  1. I’ve been ruminating about it too: http://temkblog.blogspot.ca/2012/08/digital-footprint-20.html

    The breadth of your post only reinforces what I think is true about an online presence. It’s is disingenuous, fabricated, or limited to your professional self, you’ll find trying to manage that many strands of social media exhausting. If it’s self expression, then it feel cathartic.

    In my mind this is still a public persona issue, not an issue of privacy. If your teacher self is radically different from your actual personality, I suspect the job will tear you in half; that’s too much friction.

    Good how to, I’m going to steal it for the UGDSB learning fair! (with credit of course)


  2. You’re welcome to use the contents, Tim. Everything on the blog is licensed under a Creative Commons sharing license. I hope that you find some of it helpful. I’d really like to know more about the UGDSB learning fair. I’ve seen another reference to it recently.


  3. Pingback: PLNs | Pearltrees

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