Social Media for Educators: Strategies and Best Practices

Book Cover - Social Media for Educators: Strategies and Best PracticesI was really excited to learn nearly a year ago that Tanya Joosten was working on a new book on social media for educators. When the book availability was announced, I went out that same day and purchased it on Kindle but had to put off reading it until I finished a few other pressing projects. While on my flight to BbWorld 2012 I finally read through the entire book and must admit it is the book I wish I would’ve written on the topic.

The author does a fantastic job in the book of laying a rationale and foundation for incorporating social media into teaching and learning, then shares best practices for selecting the right tool for an intended learning outcome. Strategies for assessing and documenting the effectiveness of using these tools are also shared.

Even though the book is focused on higher education, the tools and techniques can be easily generalized for K–12 classrooms or organizational learn­ing. The best practices and faculty development tips can be informative for individuals involved in any kind of professional development or network-building.

This book is a must-read for any educator who is considering incorporating social media into their teaching. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about the educational opportunities that social media affords.

For those who teach education or social media courses, you should take a closer look at Tanya’s book as a possible course text. You can request an evaluation copy or purchase a copy on Amazon.

To connect with Tanya, you can find her at tanyajoosten.com or follow on Twitter @tjoosten.

Twitter and Informal Learning

Thanks to the post from Graham Attwell and successive mention by Nancy Rubin I came across the dissertation by Clint Lalond titled, The Twitter experience: The role of Twitter in the formation and maintenance of personal learning networks that at first glance (see the abstract below), is another article in support appears to provide insights into the support of Twitter in professional development.

Abstract

This qualitative phenomenological study involving in-depth interviews with seven educators in K-12 and higher education examines the role that the microblogging service Twitter plays in the formation and development of Personal Learning Networks (PLN) among educators. A double hermeneutic data analysis shows that Twitter plays a role in the formation and development of PLNs by allowing educators to; engage in consistent and sustained dialogue with their PLN, access the collective knowledge of their PLN, amplify and promote more complex thoughts and ideas to a large audience, and expand their PLN using features unique to Twitter. This research also examines the nature of a PLN and shows that participants believe their PLN extends beyond their Twitter network to encompass both face-to-face and other ICT mediated relationships. Secondary research questions examine how Twitter differs from other social networking tools in mediating relationships within a PLN, what motivates an educator to develop a PLN, how trust is established in a PLN, what the expectations of reciprocity are within a PLN, and what is the nature of informal learning within a PLN.

Reflections from my Students on the Value of Twitter Chats

TwitterIn my summer course that I just finished teaching, EDT 6060 – Trends and Future of Technology in Education, I tried for the very first time incorporating a required Twitter chat exercise into the weekly activities. My goal in doing so was to expand the discussion beyond the scope of the typical Blackboard discussion space and to encourage my students to begin engaging in conversations with others within the field. Since we were looking at current events within the field of educational technology, this was the perfect course to incorporate such an activity on Twitter given the plethora of resources and fantastic ongoing conversations that take place on Twitter.

At the conclusion of the course, my students reflected on their learning experiences in the course. Here are a few quotes from my students concerning the Twitter chats that I wanted to share here in support of these sort of social networking activities within the online learning environment:

Even if a teacher/colleague has not yet embraced technology, they should still try to read journal articles either in print or online to stay breadth of the current technologies being offered. Perhaps one of those articles will spark an interest – as it is that spark that will move us into action. I think that people are scared by Twitter or have not experienced it enough to know that it is a way to view up to date information on topics of interest. I would bet that many teacher view Twitter like they view Facebook, as I was one of those in the past. All it takes is one person to force the teachers to use Twitter and they will start to see the benefits. And, I would like to say thank you Dr. J. for forcing me to Twitter, as I love it!

I never thought Twitter could be used in such a professional way for my job! I am so thankful to add this skill to my ways to keep up with new and changing educational advances!

I feel really proud of the progress that I’ve made (using Twitter in this course), but there’s a whole world on Twitter to explore and learn more about edtech. The articles are fascinating!

Twitter is awesome! I will definitely be checking it often and am going to let staff know of its benefits next year.

For anyone interested, below are the instructions for the Twitter chat assignments that I included in my course syllabus. You’re welcome to make use of these instructions or revise for your specific needs. If you find this idea helpful and/or if you plan to try in your own teaching, leave me a comment and let me know!

Twitter Resource Sharing Chat Instructions

In addition to engaging in discussion with classmates via the discussion board in Blackboard, you will share resources and engage with the broader educational community regarding current trends and future of technology in education on Twitter. In doing so, you will continue to expand your perspective beyond the "walls of our course" on the issues we’ll be exploring together.personal learning network and expand your If you haven’t already setup a free Twitter account in a previous class, please do so and be prepared to “tweet” using it throughout the course. For more information on getting started with Twitter, see https://sites.google.com/site/twitterinedu

Each week, you are expected to post a minimum of 5 tweets per week using both hashtags #edt6060 and #edtechtrends (only tweets that include both hashtags will be considered as intended for this class chat via Twitter).

  • At least one tweet must have a link to an online resource regarding current technology trends of future of educational technology that hasn’t already been shared by your instructor or classmates thus far in the course
  • At least one tweet must have a link to an online resource related to the topic(s) from the required reading(s) for the week that hasn’t already been shared by your instructor of classmates thus far in the course.
  • At least one tweet must be a public reply to a fellow classmate (beginning your tweet @username of the Twitter user you are responding to).
  • At least one tweet must be a public reply or mention to someone else not a member of the class (including somewhere in your tweet @username of the Twitter user you are responding to or mentioning).
  • One tweet may be a retweet (RT) of someone else

Using your preferred Twitter client, save searches of hashtags #edt6060 and #edtechtrends and follow the streams for each hashtag throughout the course.

Also, make an effort to follow at least one new educator on Twitter each week. For a directory of educators on Twitter, you may want to search Twitter directories such as wefollow.com, twellow.com, or tweetfind.com

To Tweet Or Not To Tweet

Thanks to a post by Laura Pasquini, I came across this clever video by Marc-André Lalande sharing the benefits for educators to utilize Twitter professionally. I myself have long been a proponent of the use of Twitter by educators and this is yet another great explanation of the benefits. Check it out!

Twitter Basics

I gave this presentation as part of the online session, “Using Twitter for Teaching, Learning and Professional Development in Higher Education” January 28, 2011. More details, including session handout and links to online resources, are available at bit.ly/twitterinedu