There are so many articles out there right now discussing social media and teacher growth, and I agree with most of them. However, many only focus on the aspects of growing a Professional Learning Network (PLN), obtaining fresh ideas and resources, or promoting individual work such as a published book or blog. Today, I would like to look at social media from a different vantage point, analyzing the pros and cons, and where the growth really lies for me as an educator.
The Cons of Social Media (Twitter. Facebook, Pinterest) as a PLN
First, as a wife and mom of three young children, my time is valuable. Often, the task of sifting through the endless streams of articles, quotes, and video to develop a stronger PLN overwhelms me beyond belief. There is so much out there–great stuff–but also a lot of noise. That noise can be dangerous.
The danger lies in—
- Losing Our Own Voice: As educators, we all have a voice–a reason why we became teachers. That voice holds strength, character, passion, but all of these can fade, if we spend too much time listening to others’ ideas. Why? Because, all those ideas, although well intentioned, must be sifted through and processed in the mind of the reader. This takes up brain power and time, a vital resource for many educators. The result can lead to increased anxiety, loss of focus, and achievement.
- It Isn’t a Popularity Contest: Twitter and Facebook hold great dangers for the ego. It’s easy to get caught up in the thought of , “Oh, I must be pretty special if this person is following me, because they have thousands of followers.” This is dangerous territory. Of course, it’s great if someone appreciates your work, but let’s get real, in the end, it’s all really meaningless.
- What Am I Actually Learning?: I think this is a great question to ask for developing any type of PLN. What speaks to you, and how is it truly making you grow as an educator? For me, I still internalize books much more deeply than tweets or blog posts. On a spectrum, where should I be spending most of my time to keep a strong PLN? I created the graph below.
Am I separating myself from the team?: If you are having trouble connecting with the teachers around you, Twitter can be a nice escape. It’s easy to think, “Yes, there are people who think like I do, and are like minded!” That feels good for a time, but we must also keep it in perspective, and make sure we don’t create a deeper divide between the teachers we work with day to day. Real growth lies in talking and working hands on with fellow teachers that are in the trenches right next to us everyday. This is what makes a contributing difference.
It’s OK to be a show off!: There is a quote from the book, The One Minute Manager, that states, “If you don’t blow your own horn, someone else will use it as a spittoon.” Don’t let others dictate your own worth. By posting pictures, writing blogs, and tweeting the happenings in the classroom, you create evidence of the awesome things that are happening everyday with your students. This will resonate not only with administrators, but more importantly, with the children and parents we serve everyday in the classroom.
Develops Deeper Accountability: I love sharing what the students and I are creating in the classroom. But, I don’t want to share boring stuff like students completing worksheets! I want parents, students, and fellow educators to see passionate students who enjoy learning! My Facebook community page, twitter account, and blogs keep me on my toes, and always asking the question, “How can I make this lesson better than the last? How can I make greatness happen?”
- It brings the outside world into the classroom.: There are endless opportunities for collaboration around the world. Twitter helps me to see how other teachers are doing this with great success. It also introduced me to Skype in the classroom. The students love meeting and talking with anyone outside of the school. This year, my students visited with a middle grades author, but before the year ends, my goal is to connect with a school in Europe, and co-teach a lesson. There are endless possibilities! How awesome is that!
- We are all in this together!: Remember the song from High School Musical? http://youtu.be/NDHYZtwjFTs My Social Media PLN helps me to remember that as educators across the globe, we are all in this together. Enough said.