Social Media for Professional Learning

 
 Photo by  ian dooley

Photo by ian dooley

 
 

One of the keys to increasing engagement in learning is using a student's current interests and knowledge base as a spring board to new learning.  A key social media engagement technique is finding out where stakeholders already are engaged, and using that platform to reach them.

Put in these terms, pairing learning with social media seems like a natural fit.  

A valid point raised in Social Media Vital to Professional Development is that many people dismiss the power of social media as being "all junk".  Let's rethink this idea.

LinkedIn for Professional Learning

If you want to be recognized professionally for a certain knowledge base, where do you start demonstrating all that you know?  The answer is where you have the most professional connections. In my case, the easy answer was LinkedIn.

Like many people, years ago when the platform was much younger, I set up an account and started connecting with people that I knew through school and work.  When I was ready for a change in position, I targeted where I wanted to be, then I started writing long form posts about what I know, and posting shorter updates with links, similar to a feed on Facebook or Twitter. What happened next?

People in my targeted industry who I do not personally know started connecting with me, and commenting on my posts, and hence my Personal Learning Network (PLN) grew.  (For a discussion about PLN's see my post from last week on Just-In-Time Support for Instructional Technology).  

By using the updates and long form posts of my connections, it was able to leverage LinkedIn as a PLN and a learning tool.

Twitter for Professional Learning

Once I got the hang of LinkedIn connections, I was intrigued by several articles that I had read (on LinkedIn) and seen in conference presentations on using Twitter as a hub for professional learning.  

I think one of the best talks that I heard on Twitter was titled The Power of the Hashtag and was presented by Tony Fontana and Joanna Crawford of Lewisville ISD, just north of Dallas, Texas.

Fontana talked about how you need to make sure that with your professional Twitter account you follow those who Tweet about what knowledge you would like to gain. If you can do this, a quick professional boost up can be as easy as scanning your Twitter feed when you have a few minutes.

Another tip I got from the people at FledChat was to repost to your own feed any Twitter posts that you would like to save for later.  Doing this turns a Twitter account into a professional journal that is easily accessible from any device.

For using Twitter as a professional learning tool, both Fontana and Crawford, and the people at FledChat, talked about Twitter chats.  Fontana and Crawford give a great guide to Twitter Chats and a calendar of Education Twitter Chats can be found here.

Google+ for Professional Learning

At the 2015 TFLA Conference, Amy Mayer of friEdTechnology inspired me, and so I started blogging.  (Yup, this is the blog that I started!) I also learned about Buffer and FriendsPlusMe,  Chrome extensions that allow for easy sharing of any page to social media.

With this new knowledge, managing another social media account became much more feasible.  Being as enamored with Google Apps for Education as I am, I leveraged a Google+ account for my PLN.  Google+ has an the advantage of focused communities to like minded professionals.

Educational Technology and Mobile Learning suggest 10 Google Plus Communities Every Teacher Should Know About.  Integrating Google+ Communities with other GAfE tools, make this a very powerful communication tool.

Pinterest for Professional Learning

Pinterest can also be leveraged as a professional learning tool.  I really like this platform for organizing and sharing content. Similar to the platforms discussed above, you can follow others and see their posts in your feed.  You can also create boards where you re-post other people's content, or post any web page and organize them in categories for easy reference.

I have had a lot of success with Pinterest by searching for content for courses that I design.  Once I started this blog, I was also impressed with how posting my weekly entries to a Pinterest board nearly doubled the hits that each of my posts got. Absolutely no complaints with that!

A Final Note

My first final note stresses the power of a visual image.  I've read and heard numerous upon numerous times that a social media post with an image attached gets more hits and more engagement.  It's not always easy to find a compelling image to use with your post, and I understand that you very well may not have studied graphic design. (Nope, neither did I.) But there's Canva!

Canva offers free design templates to communicate a visually pleasing message, and you can level up for a small price if you like.

My second final note is that I hope you get social media-ing in your own education using a professional learning network.  It's really made a difference in my knowledge base and my professional career, and I hope it does the same for you!