Professional Development. This is a concept that all educators are very aware of. Most states require a certain number of professional development hours to be completed each year. Though these can be completed in a variety of ways, there is one thing that is for certain: though the hours may be met, the programs that are completed are not always as helpful as one would hope.
If we are required to spend our valuable time participating in these learning opportunities, they should have meaning and the option to use the knowledge gained in the classroom immediately. Though there are some courses (like ours, found here, shameless plug!!) that have that meaning, there is something else at the fingertips of each and every one of us that can change the entire landscape of your teaching: social media.
Unfortunately, the idea of having social media as a teacher can still be considered a taboo subject. Many, if not most, school districts have some type of policy regulating a teacher and his or her personal social media accounts.
Much of this is done to protect our children, and rightfully so.
Every few months we have another story come forth with a teacher behaving inappropriately with a student. We know this is certainly not the norm, but it is a reality and it is important that boundaries are set with the hopes that they are not crossed.
Photo by Marten Bjork on Unsplash
However, what if these social media accounts are not personal, but professional? So much can be learned from these platforms from theories to actual classroom activities. If you are not at least dabbling in them, you are doing yourself a disservice.
The Best Social Media for Teachers: YouTube
Most people are familiar with YouTube at this point in time and can explain what YouTube is. We all know it as a place where people can watch and post videos and every once in a while, one will go “viral” and you will hear about it along with your friends and neighbors.
But what good can YouTube do for educators? Truly, we consider YouTube the #2 best social media for teachers because of the opportunities it presents for both the educators and the students.
The videos found on YouTube can be entertainment, for sure (who doesn’t love a great cat video, right?). However, more often than not, you can find tutorials and how-to videos on anything.
Not sure about how to do something? There’s a YouTube video for that. Need a refresher on a topic? There’s a YouTube video for that. Trying to find out more information about a concept? There’s a YouTube video for that. You get my point.
By utilizing these videos, you can find out anything you need to know, and you also have an easy opportunity to get information for your students in quick snippets (and if you think that’s cheating, news flash: most of them find their information on YouTube anyway).
This is also a great opportunity to flip your classroom, which is another brilliant student-centered method.
Something else to consider is the ability to post videos to YouTube. This is also a great way to pay it forward with your own educational knowledge base on to others. It is also possible to make private channels to use for classroom activities.
The Best Social Media for Teachers: Pinterest
Photo by Charles Deluvio ???? on Unsplash
What is Pinterest? Pinterest is an amazing search tool.
Users are, in essence, able to create digital bulletin boards to “pin-up” things that interest them. Anything digital is game. You are able to follow other people and pin their pins to your board.
Say you’re interested in student-centered learning (which if you’re here, I am guessing you have a vested interest in….if you’re here without any knowledge of what this means, check this out). So if you were to go on to Pinterest and type in “Student-Centered Lesson Ideas”, anything that falls under that category would pop up.
You could then click on the link to follow through to where it stems from or you can pin it to your own board to reference at a later time. The best part is that if you refresh the page, usually new pins will pop up.
The biggest hang-up with Pinterest for some people is the misconception that Pinterest is for women. Though that might be who the main target audience was when Pinterest was first launched, men are becoming the fastest-growing demographic.
Pinterest is evolving and isn’t just about “female interests”.
It is a fantastic tool for all topics but definitely falls under the category of best social media for teachers. Check out Student-Centered World’s Pinterest page…a one-stop-shop for all genres of classroom ideas.
The Best Social Media for Teachers: Twitter
Are you on Twitter? If so, you’re off to the right start. If not, you have no idea what you’re missing.
A few years back, my supervisor suggested that I get on Twitter as an educator. I didn’t know much about it, but I went ahead and signed up. There was a bit of a learning curve to find out how it worked, but it is pretty intuitive. I went through and added people in education that I knew of and others that were recommended to me, Let me tell you something:
Joining Twitter was the best thing I ever did for my teaching career
Now, that might seem a little extreme….but truly, it’s not. On Twitter, I was able to begin to develop my PLN and began to really understand the depths of education outside of the walls of my school district. I started to see the crazy things other people were doing in their classrooms and began to start developing ideas that could work in mine.
I started posting my own activities from class and getting feedback and retweets. It was a great way to connect with like-minded educators that liked to push the envelope of educational theory and try modernized approaches in the classroom.
Then, I discovered Twitter EdChats. Educators will create a hashtag and tell others that the chat will be running at a specific time. Then, you follow that hashtag and different questions will come up by the moderator. If you choose to answer, you write “A” followed by the number of the question, your answer to that question, and then the hashtag. People can then like, comment, retweet, etc. what you wrote.
I have learned SO MUCH MORE from these chats than any single professional development course I have ever taken. These are people in the trenches with you. They understand what you are doing, have the same passion as you, and are willing to virtually link arms and move the educational boat forward.
I have virtually connected with some people I consider to be the driving force behind the shifting pendulum of education and hold them in the highest esteem. The greatest part? They are willing to share their knowledge with you personally and many go out of their way for YOU as a person. It’s wonderful.
So if you’re already on Twitter (and are already part of the best social media for teachers)….or if you’re going to be starting out and want someone to follow…make sure you connect with us: @stucentworld
The Best Social Media for Teachers: Instagram
When I ventured into the social media world of teachers, I honestly knew nothing about Instagram, let alone had any concept of how HUGE it is in the educational realm. Whereas I knew some social media platforms, like Twitter, are huge in educational circles, I really had no idea how big Instagram is for teachers.
The honest reason why? I had no one in my immediate teacher tribe that used a teacher Instagram for teaching. Isn’t that how it works for teachers? Unless you go out of your way to research something, the only way you have any idea of what is out there is by word of mouth. If you have no one telling you about something, how do you even know it’s a thing?
Honestly, we should all be doing whatever we can to reach outside of our classrooms to see what else is out there. So many of our colleagues have such amazing ideas we might never think of ourselves. It is some of the best professional development you can come across.
As the “un-conference” movement gains momentum, it is only fitting that we have the ability to take care of our personal professional development needs in a few minutes here and there as we have the time. Instagram is an easy way to do this. If you are unfamiliar with how the platform works in general, here is a great YouTube tutorial that explains it’s basic functions.
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Instagram for Teachers
So on a whim, I started an Instagram page for Student-Centered World.
WOW. I mean, WOW.
At first, just like any other new platform, it takes a minute to get used to it. I found it helpful to have a step-by-step guide, like this one, to walk me through the process to get everything set up. The nice part is that Instagram suggests people to follow based on how you set up your account, so right away I had teachers popping up. I started following them and many reciprocated.
There’s also “Follow Loops” on Instagram. Multiple people post the same photograph and caption and then you follow those who do the same. I have found SO MANY fantastic educators through these loops. They have a tendency to pop up on the weekends for teachers since that is when most people have some leisure time to scroll through their feeds. Every week I am utterly blown away as I scroll through to see what these other educators are doing in their classrooms. It is the epitome of “Wow, I can TOTALLY do that in my class!”.
This is when the ah-ha moments began. Teachers on Instagram are constantly posting photos of what they do in the classroom. Many also have Teachers Pay Teachers stores and they showcase their products and how they’re actually used in the classroom.
It’s everything you didn’t realize you’re missing.
I LOVE following Ashley Marquez and Amy Lemons. The second something posts on their stories, I get sucked right in. They’re also amazing because even though they have tens of thousands of followers a piece, they take the time to respond to each and every one of them.
Ashley has some of the most amazing posts and sells her products not only on Teachers Pay Teachers, but also has pop-up sales for clothing, mugs, etc. She is highly relatable and is constantly creating things for her classroom that make you wonder how you never came up with that yourself. She is one of those teachers you want to be when you grow up, for sure. You can also check out her TeachCreateMotivate blog here.
Amy is the girl you wish was your next-door neighbor. She also has a flourishing Teachers Pay Teachers store where she creates amazing products, including her programs Rooted in Reading and Magic in Math. Her insta-stories are fabulous, funny, and her family is so relatable. You can check out Amy Lemon’s blog here.
You’ll want to make sure to follow both of them!
Following other teachers is not the only benefit of having a school Instagram. It is also a great way to communicate with your students’ parents. From a very young age, children start clamming up about what happens in school. When the conversation turns into “How was school?” “Good”, it is difficult to judge what is actually going on in the classroom.
Fortunately, Instagram is an easy way to show your parents some highlights of what is happening. You can add to your feed or you can add to your story. The feed is a photo that one has to scroll down the page to find, whereas the story is right up at the top of your screen and is prominent for 24 hours.
My only regret is that I didn’t find Instagram sooner. The benefits of Instagram for teachers is beyond all expectations I had. Did you know you can create your own hashtag for your class? To boot, you can follow certain hashtags that have a connection with you and what you teach. For instance, I always follow #studentcentered and #teachergram. There are SO MANY possibilities though. Check out just a few that I follow:
…and there are SO MANY OTHERS worth following, including those that are grade level or subject area specific. The more you play around on the platform, the more goodness you will find. To connect with so many like-minded educators in one place is such a fantastic way to grow your teaching tribe.
I can’t tell you how many ideas I have gotten from a simple photo or quote that someone has posted. It is well worth the few minutes it may take to get acclimated to the platform. Give Instagram a try….you’ll be shocked at how much it will change what you’re doing in the classroom!
For some more information on how to start up your Instagram to ultimately turn it into a bit of side hustle, you can check out this book (ad) that explains how. This is a bit more complex than having it as a simple professional development tool, but I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention that this is a possibility for you as well!