In what ways has social media been used to support your engagement in professional development?
Social media is useful for expanding horizons – “the need to raise one’s head over the parapet is vital if teachers are to experience the cognitive dissonance needed to reflect on their practice,” (Melhuish, 2013, p.43).
I learn things from my personal Facebook account due to the posts I follow, and also through Twitter and Google Plus which I use solely for professional purposes. I follow people or groups that I rate as innovative and use these to find other like-minded educators. This helps to broaden the boundaries of my professional knowledge. I have engaged in formal online learning with forums, webinars and learning conversations in real time and these have been genuinely collaborative. I have also kept a professional blog for four years and a You Tube channel for about six years.
Melhuish describes intended outcomes of social networking to include, “resource development, enhanced knowledge development in formal studies, professional reflection through peer mentorship and application of learning in face-to-face educational contexts,” (2013, p.39). I particularly engaged in this type of intentional development when I was researching Google Apps for Education (GAFE) when our school was first moving into this system and it was a really good way of finding out how educators were addressing technical and roll-out issues.
I find most of the social network learning is only partially purposeful. There is purpose in the sense of who you follow, what you search and where you interact but often finding something challenging is just luck. Also after a while, the same ideas seem to go round and round and it is hard to find genuinely new perspectives, so I am not as engaged as I used to be.
One of the benefits of social networking is being able to communicate asynchronously. This means it is often done at unsociable hours when one is only partially committed to deep thinking and personal challenge. Synchronous, more socially acceptable, timings often conflict with other professional commitments and so social networking for learning gets a more superficial engagement. Melhuish writes, “Rarely did the activities of the educators critique teachers’ theories-in-use, create dissonance or challenge like-minded network members,” (2013, p.39). I think this sort of practice requires deep trust and commitment and can be misread in a text-only space.
Social media can be am inhibitor of change. Some collaborative sites may be great resource banks but teachers can pick up fancy-looking resources thinking they’re finding something new and innovative but are actually only rehashing traditional teacher-driven practice. “Just because one is sharing information in a social network site does not mean that the comments one provides are theory-driven or particularly formative in ways that impact on practice.” (McLoughlin & Lee, 2010, cited in Melhuish, 2013, p.39). I think there is truth in this and sometimes for me the function of social media has been to reveal new ideas or trends that I want to follow up further but will follow up by finding more academic, trustworthy sources or discussing with colleagues.
How are you going to address the challenges?
Social networking is a sampling of what is “out there” and what you might need to be aware of in order to continue to grow your practice and meet every-changing educational needs. I think there’s a place for social networking for professional development. It can be the impetus that leads to deep change, but I don’t believe it’s a medium for deep challenge and change in itself.
Melhuish, K.(2013). Online social networking and its impact on New Zealand educators’ professional learning. Master Thesis. The University of Waikato. Retrieved on 05 May, 2015 from http://researchcommons.waikato.ac.nz/bitstream/han...