By Marc J. Smith, Principal – Forestdale School
Those that know me might be surprised to find out that both my parents were on Facebook before I was. I also completely missed the My Space craze. My first foray into Social Media was similar to most, a way to connect with family and friends that had moved away and to share the goings on of my family with them.
About two years ago, I started reading about how other people were using Social Media to develop a Personal Learning Network (PLN). As I read more about how PLN’s were helping people to continuously grow as professionals, I decided to keep Facebook for my personal life and wade into the waters of Twitter for expanding myself professionally. Initially, I moved very slowly and cautiously.
As I think about where I am now using Social Media as a professional, I find my usage breaks into 4 areas.
# 1 – Connections
The fundamental word in the term Social Media is “social.” Conceptually it is a platform for people to engage one another in conversation around topics of mutual interest. I use Twitter, and LinkedIn in order to connect with other professionals around topics of education, technology, leadership and curriculum.
I use Twitter’s follow feature to keep up with some of the leading minds in the field of education along with people who have challenged my thinking in Twitter chats I have participated in.
With LinkedIn, I look to connect with people who are not necessarily in the field of education. Using LinkedIn I connect and follow not only educators, but also a wide variety of business leaders and innovators whose perspectives push mine in new directions.
Both platforms offer a way to message directly with individuals; however I do not currently utilize this feature regularly. As I spend more time on Twitter, I have started to develop some online relationships through the Twitter chats I participate in. I can foresee more direct conversations with some of these individuals around specific topics.
# 2 – Learning
This is probably what I use Social Media for the most. Using an app called Pulse, I am able to organize content shared on LinkedIn by categories, read headlines and pursue areas of interest deeply when I see them.
On Twitter, I have recently become engaged in Twitter Chats. Chats are a scheduled time for people to “meet” on Twitter and discuss a common topic. Someone serves as a facilitator and poses questions to the group that are discussed, shared, retweeted and favorited among those participating and their circle of followers. Two of my favorite Twitter Chats are #LeadWithGiants and #SBLChat. I also constantly check in on two other hastags #EdChat and #EdTech. Twitter makes it easy to search hashtags to investigate areas of interest and I am often turned on to new hashtags from the people that I follow.
Both Twitter and LinkedIn often bring me to blog posts. The posts themselves are often excellent at expanding my thinking, but often the conversation that occurs in the comments section can be just as powerful a learning experience.
# 3 – Sharing
While not exclusive to social media platforms, advances in technology and the prevalence of the internet have allowed everyone to be an author. No longer does someone have to get “approval” from a publisher in order to get their ideas to others.
I use a monthly blog post to share my thoughts, beliefs and understandings on education and leadership. For me it is a way to make public my values so that those who engage with me have a deeper understanding of who I am as a professional. Additionally, I use writing as a means for processing my own thinking. For me, putting it in writing forces me to organize my thoughts into a coherent message.
I also use Twitter to share many of the thought provoking articles I come across. While my group of followers is small, sharing serves as a way to hold myself accountable for my own learning and provides me with a bibliography of my online learning.
I have also recently created a Twitter account that is reserved for school news. This account serves to share photos, information and news that parents and community members may find interesting about the Forestdale School.
# 4 – ???
I leave this space for future development. While I do know that I am utilizing Social Media as a powerful professional tool, I also know that there exist many more platforms that I have yet to explore. Perhaps I will delve into Pinterest next.
You can read his blog @ http://marcsmithseci.blogspot.com/