Sponsored by Facebook I did some work recently for the EUN where we looked at the role of Social Media in Learning and Education (SMILE). One of the outputs of my contribution to the project was a professional development eLearning course for European Teachers and Head Teachers on the use of Social Media in Schools.
As this part of the course has now finished (and we have gone into the community development phase) I am re-posting a version of the materials here so others can benefit from them.
This is part 4 of 6 - Using social media for professional development (CPD)
Using social media for professional development (CPD): The Video
Using social media for professional development (CPD): The Course Notes and Links
Much like the term ‘Social Media’ there has been a lot written about the definition of ‘Personal Learning Networks’ over the years. Some of the pioneering research in this field has been completed by Dr Alec Couros, University of Regina, Canada.
Dr Couros argues that most typical teacher networks are one way and that teachers are delivered information on professional development and professional learning. He also talks about the rise of the ‘networked teacher’ where due to the increase in social media tools available for teachers professional learning and professional learning becomes two-way, driven by dialogue and as a result more open and reflective.
The key thing to remember about any Personal Learning Network is that they are, by definition, personal and depend on the interests and willingness of the individual to engage. When considering the use of social media to develop Personal Learning networks it may be useful to break them down into three component parts.
The first of these is face-to-face, even in the Internet age and with the rise of social media you can’t actually beat sitting down and talking to someone. Trusted professional feedback is also often born as a result of trusted relationships between colleagues.
The second component is one of closed digital communities. These are digital closed communities of practice where people may not know each other but they are connected through interest (examples might include TES Forums, Microsoft Partners in Learning Network and the discussion forums for the SMILE eLearning Lab).
The last components are digital open communities that are often un-moderated and are built around tools that have not been designed for education but have been adopted by educators. Examples of these tools include Blogs, Social Bookmarking and Open Content Repositories.
Some of these tools are services will now be discussed and exemplified below.
2. On-line Communities
On-line communities normally require registration and have been designed for a specific purpose to link people together via interest or for a specific project. The best on-line communities are ones that are allowed to grow organically over time because the users suggest new ideas or topics of discussion to keep the community vibrant and up-to-date.
Examples of on-line communities include:
- Microsoft Partners in Learning Network - a community for teachers and school leaders interested in using technology in education.
- Times Educational Supplement Subject Forums - a place where subject teachers discuss issues, up-load and share resources.
- Promethean Planet - a place to share and discuss Interactive Whiteboard Resources.
- EUN Community - a hub for European Union led projects as well as providing a facility for users to create their own communities of practice.
Reading about other peoples work and their reflections on classroom practice can be hugely valuable to your own professional development. Globally thousands of people are blogging about what is going on in their classrooms every day. The trick is trying to keep track of the blogs that interest you and to be automatically up-dated if someone posts something new or interesting.
Blogs produce an RSS feed (to find out what this is watch this CommonCraft video) but all you really need to know if that this means you can aggregate content from a variety of blogs into one place using an RSS Reader, such as Google Reader.
You will need a Google Account (which is free) to start using Google Reader. This CommonCraft video on Google Reader will tell you everything that you need to know about using this service. By using an RSS reader you can easily follow hundreds of blogs from educators around the world but only have to visit one website (your personal Google Reader page) to check for up-dates.
Social Bookmarking is when you save the URL of a website that you like to another website rather than to your favourites on your web browser. One advantage is that you can see if anyone else who is using the service has also save the website that you have just saved. This is useful because users who have saved the same website as you will have often also save other websites that you will be interested in.
This makes Social Bookmarking another great way to collaborate with people globally, to swap ideas and useful websites that you have found to help aid school improvement.
This CommonCraft video will tell you everything that you need to know about Social Bookmarking using a service called Delicious (although it is worth noting that Delicious has changed since this video was made).
Google Alerts are a way of telling Google a key word of phrase and then if that word of phrase is published on the Internet and is picked up by the GoogleBot you are sent an email link to where the article has been published. You can also create an RSS feed for alert terms (see RSS above). The use of Alerts is an important 3rd Millennium research skill and are already used widely in higher education.
As well as setting up alerts for professional interests eg: “formative assessment,” “outdoor learning,” and “international school links”. It is also useful for schools to have a Google Alert set up around their own school name.
Used in this way Alerts can be used as an early warning system if someone writes about or mentions your school online. Importantly, it’s also a really good way to track wider student achievements. For example, many children take part in activities outside of the school and some of these activities are really impressive. These achievements are often written about in the local media and normally the child’s school is mentioned. As most papers are digitized, Google Alerts gives you an opportunity to receive this information as it is published. This is often before you have a chance to read a paper copy of the local news.
Micro networks such as Twitter are a great way to receive short and concise advice, recommendations and resources from educators around the world. This article from Tony Parkin provides a good oversight of how you can find educators to follow on Twitter.
Hash (#) tags are also used within the Twitter community to bind conversation together. Most conferences now have a Twitter Tag and you can you services like Twazzup.com to search for a #tag and then aggregate all of the tweets and images shared on Twitter from the event.
Other micro networks that are worth exploring for professional development purposes include Slideshare and SlideBoom. These are on-line communities where people share presentation slides and they are very popular with educators.
As the above notes demonstrate there are an awful lot of professional development opportunities that are available on the web and many of these are linked to social media services.
However, just like any social service recommendations about a product are important. This is similar to recommending a product or a seller after you have bought somthing on Amazon - but within this context we are recommending professional development opportunities to others.
CPD Scotland is National Resource that has been developed by Education Scotland. One of its services is CPD Find, this is a national directory of paid for and free CPD opportunities. What is interesting about it is that it is not just a catalogue of courses because some of the courses have been endorsed by peers and you can see what other people think of the course content, delivery and value for money.
Including a system for open peer feedback and recommendations should be an important consideration for anyone who is interested in developing their own CPD portal. It also encourages teacher who attend the courses to become more reflective.
Research into the use of social media for CPD is limited because the tools and service evolve so quickly. However, this report produced by The Pearson Centre for Policy and Learning and NoTosh Ltd in 2011 titled ‘Tweeting for Teachers,’ provides a number of useful case study examples of how social media can support teacher professional development.
Links for you to explore and reflect on:
- Microsoft Partners in Learning Network - www.pil-network.com
- Times Educational Supplement Subject Forums - www.tes.co.uk/forums
- Promethean Planet - http://community.prometheanplanet.com
- EUN Community - http://community.eun.org
Social Media Tools and Services:
- RSS - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RSS
- RSS in Plain English (CommonCraft) - http://goo.gl/v3IE
- Google Reader - www.reader.google.com
- Google Reader in Plain English (CommonCraft Video) - http://goo.gl/2Ia3
- Delicious - www.delicious.com
- Delicious in Plane English (CommonCraft Video) - http://goo.gl/IzBo5
- Google Alerts - www.google.com/alerts
- Twitter - www.twitter.com
- Twitter in Plain English (CommonCraft Video) - http://goo.gl/jD6i2
- Twitter Search in Plain English - http://goo.gl/MGQaK
- Twazzup - www.twazzup.com
- Slideshare - www.slideshare.com
- Slideboom - www.slideboom.com
- CPD Find - http://www.ltscotland.org.uk/cpdfind
Research and Articles:
- Who to follow on Twitter (Tony Parkin) - http://goo.gl/78mUs
- Tweeting for Teachers: how can social media support teacher professional development - http://goo.gl/Dxeis