You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him find it within himself.
In order for educators to keep up with the latest and most effective classroom practices and technologies ongoing professional learning is essential. Professional development has always played an important role in education. However, professional development has an entirely new look these days. Many educators today are finding that social networking helps them to find within themselves and online the means for continuous, effective professional development. The traditional ‘sit and get’ style of professional development is rapidly being eclipsed by new and exciting forms of professional learning thanks in large part to social networking.
Powered by dedicated educators, professional learning via social networking is happening anytime and anywhere. Tune in to Twitter, Classroom 2.0, or to Facebook for example and what you will see is a new but firmly established practice for professional learning for educators. By all indications this will continue to grow.
The Pew Research Center in a recent Internet and American Life Project study found that Social Networking is on the rise in the adult population. Recent surveys show that 65% of adult internet users now use a social networking site. Pew Research found additionally that mobile access in adults is expanding. They report that 83% of adults now have cell phones and 35% of those have smartphones.
Why is Social Networking for Professional Learning Growing?
1. Time – Teachers can learn what they need when they need it at times convenient to them. They don’t have to wait for the next scheduled workshop for example.
2. Money – Social networks are largely free. Resources are shared openly.
3. Self Direction – Teachers can pursue topics of interest at their own pace.
4. Empowerment – Teachers are empowered to implement new practices in their own schools through support of those in their networks. They can make connections to other educators and professionals who can enhance the learning in their classrooms.
5. Access – Teachers have more access than ever before. Expanding internet access and portable options in computing such as tablets and netbooks make it easier for teachers to connect online.
How Can Educators Learn with Social Networking?
● Share Lessons
● Collaborate on Projects
● Form Professional Learning Communities
● Make Global Connections
● Learn about Emerging Technologies
● Discuss Challenges and Solutions
What Are Educators Saying?
Talk to some educators involved in social networking for professional learning and you’ll notice that they are enthusiastic about the benefits to them as professionals and to their students.
Jim Meredith, Assistant Principal for Academics at Archbishop Ryan High School in Philadelphia Pennsylvania has incorporated Twitter, Facebook, Social Bookmarking and online communities into his daily professional learning for the past several years.
‘Social networking is a vital component to professional growth. If Google, in fact, lets us “stand on the shoulders of giants” then social networking allows us to connect with these giants. In these tough economic times, when districts all over are cutting back, often at the expensive of professional growth and development, Twitter allows educators to enhance their PD portfolio, at no cost. When used effectively, teachers can “follow” each other, learn from each other, and therefore, connect with one another. I have used Twitter to connect with and learn from some of the real thinkers in our field today. They have stretched my thinking and, ultimately, not only does that help me grow, it helps my students grow as well. “ says Meredith.
Gene Carboni, Technology Teacher at Fr. Judge High School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania feels that social networking for professional development has made a real difference in his professional growth and ultimately for the growth of his students.
“I am very passionate about doing whatever I can to make myself better at what I do – teach. Social Networking along with my three year affiliation with the PLP online community our Archdiocesan schools participated in, have provided me the opportunity to expand my skill set and talk to educators and experts from around the world. I have had conversations or commented on Twitter while sitting on the deck during the summer, in my classroom while on break and countless other times too numerous to mention. Best of all, I am better at what I do because of these online conversations in learning communities and Twitter exchanges. If I am better professionally then my students will benefit as well because of the changes I have made in my approach to our profession. “
Professional Learning Standards
As practices change, professional organizations are also acknowledge this emerging trend. Learning Forward, a professional association focused on student achievement and professional learning made up of over 49 entities, recently released new standards. In these standards, released in August of 2011, they recognize the active role of educators in their own learning and the powerful impact of anytime anywhere learning. Support from sources such as this and from school districts can support educators as they explore a new professional learning landscape.
With student engagement being the goal of all professional learning, dedicated educators and striving school districts continue daily to explore many options on behalf of their students. They may likely find that there is much to be discovered through effective professional oriented social networking. It seems as though the ‘sky is the limit’. Explore them for yourself and you are sure to make a connection that opens your classrooms to a world of learning.
Cross Posted on Acer Education Blog