Using Social Media as a Professional Learning Tool

Using Social Media as a Professional Learning Tool

Whether you’re new to Twitter or have 5,000 LinkedIn connections, one thing’s for sure: social media keeps getting more popular and more powerful. If you haven’t used it for your own professional development, what are you waiting for? Too overwhelming? We get that. To help you start, we gathered advice from some expert users.

“Diigo + Twitter delivers a powerful one-two punch. Diigo is a social bookmarking tool that lets you organize, annotate, and share your bookmarks. One of its most powerful features is the Groups feature. A principal could set up multiple groups within her school. My favorite way to save bookmarks on Diigo is to install a Diigo extension on my browser ( When you bookmark a site you can (and should!) add a description to help those you share it with to understand why you bookmarked it. Next, you can add tags that identify what you bookmarked. Finally, you have the option to share to a group.

“Let’s say you found a blog post about using Google Maps to help teach about the Civil War. You could share it with your social studies group by inviting them on the group management page. Once your teachers set up a Diigo account they can join the groups you invite them to and determine how often they receive the links that are shared in that space. Members can add links to share and comment on bookmarks. It’s a great place for teachers to share how they are using different resources and for administrators to make suggestions about how they see teachers using the resources they’ve shared.

“This is where Twitter comes in. Often, we ‘favorite’ tweets that we intend to read or share later, but it never happens. By linking your Twitter and Diigo accounts together, your favorite tweets will automatically be saved on Diigo ( tweets). This is a huge time saver! All you need to do from here is figure out when you will go back and tag, describe, and share the links. It doesn’t take any more time to do this than it does to share resources through email, but sharing through Diigo helps create a sense of community.”

—Beth Still, Social Studies Teacher, Educational Service Unit 13, Cheyenne, WY

Tools She Uses

• Blogger
• Diigo
• Dropbox
• Edublogs
• Educlipper
• Evernote
• Google Apps for Education
• Hapara
• Moodle
• Twitter

“My PLN is a toolbox of apps that help me connect and collaborate. I’ve used Twitter for about six years and learned that you have to contribute to make it valuable. I follow people in business and IT—as well as in education—to stay current on tech trends. TweetDeck and Twitterific help me streamline and organize key information and pieces I’m looking for. I use LinkedIn to collaborate and Blogger to post my blog. I use Symbaloo as a dashboard that has all of my newsfeeds, edtech sites, and links to my PLN tools. It’s my starting place for everything. This year, our district will offer courses to help our teachers and staff build their own PLNs. We’ll start with Twitter and build on that. The goal is to provide opportunities for teachers to implement their own anytime, anywhere professional learning.”

—John Davidson, Director of Instructional Technology, Naperville (IL) Community Unit School District 203

Tools He Uses

• Adobe Creative Suite
• Camtasia
• Canvas by Instructure
• Easybib
• Infinite Campus
• myON Reader
• netTrekker
• ReLan Pro Cloud-Based
• Turnitin
• Wixie

“My primary source is Twitter. I follow people who share important things I’m interested in, and it’s a highly personalized experience. I have people to call upon when I need something. I also use Pinterest, which is very visual (as opposed to the text-based Twitter). I wasn’t sure about it, but I kept finding teachers who were drawn to it. We started a Pinterest board for edtech, and we pin apps to try out, blogs to check out, and ideas for using QR codes. Several teachers have followed me and they read what I pin. It’s helping me reach into a place where people already are.”

—Sandy Kendell, Education Technology Specialist, Georgetown (TX) ISD

Tools She Uses

• Common Sense Media
• Discovery Education
• Educreations
• Eduphoria
• Office 365 for Education
• Project Share
• Schoolwires
• SchoolTube

“Five years ago, I tried Twitter and didn’t get it at all. Then I attended Leadership for the Digital Learning Age and started tweeting during one of Alan November’s workshops and realized its power. There was no central place for me to connect with Texas educators so I began using a Texas hashtag and started the first official TexEd chat, which in one year grew from 10 people to more than 160. I also use Edublogs. I follow several blogs, comment, and interact. The personal reflections I’ve read have helped me re-evaluate my teaching. When you flesh out a thought (as opposed to a tweet), it connects and informs on a deeper level. The connections you make through social media lead you to a depth of knowledge that will make your job more meaningful. You’re not just drawing from your own brain; you have access to the world’s brain.”

—Carrie Ross, Instructional Technology Specialist and English Language Arts and Reading Curriculum Coordinator, Trinity (TX) ISD

Tools She Uses

• Diigo
• Edmodo
• Edublogs
• EduCreations
• Google Apps for Education
• Haiku Deck
• iPads
• Macbooks
• My Big Campus
• Pinterest
• Prezi
• Promethean boards
• Subtext
• Twitter

“I use Twitter, LinkedIn, and feedly. LinkedIn has grown like crazy in the last year and a half. The groups have expanded and conversations have gotten richer. It’s taken a clue from other social media that it’s beneficial to share stories, articles, and good conversations, and I’ve reached a large audience very quickly through it. Make sure to mix with schools, vendors, and tech groups to get input from different perspectives. You can’t juggle 10 different social media sites without a tool that will bring them all together. Find one you’re comfortable with that will streamline. I use HootSuite to manage all of my social media. When I post to Twitter, I can also post to LinkedIn.”

—Jon Castelhano, Director of Technology for Apache Junction (AZ) USD

Tools He Uses

• Accelerated Reader
• AVerMedia
• Chromebooks
• Dell
• Dibels
• Edublogs
• Education City
• Enterasys
• Epson
• Facebook
• Fast Math
• Follett
• Fraction Nation
• Galileo
• Google Apps
• Hitachi
• iPads
• Lightspeed
• Moodle
• My Big Campus
• Polycom
• Schoolworld
• Synergy
• Tumblebook
• Tumblereadables
• World Book

“Last fall, we took a team of about 14 teachers and administrators to the Learning & Brain Conference in Boston. It’s an enormous conference with neuroscientists from all over the world. None of us could be at the same place, so we had a TweetDeck running the whole time to keep us connected. We were looking for things we could take back for our own learning and this gave us a running commentary. It was a really cool experience. [It was] lots of fun and functional. We’re increasing our Google+ participation and have been able to have a lot of single-topic community chats and vet things through it. I see Google+ becoming a real go-to product for us.”

—Ken Wallace, Superintendent, Maine Township (IL) High School District 207

Tools He Uses

• Aspen
• Cisco Firewalls
• Discovery
• Eduphoria
• Follett Destiny
• Ghost
• Google Apps
• Hapara
• HP Switches
• Mediacast
• Meru Wireless
• Microsoft Office
• Naviance and Parchment
• Netop
• Palo Alto Content Filtering
• PC, Chromebook, Linux, and MAC platforms
• School Messenger
• Quia
• Turnitin
• VMware

“We’ve been using Edmodo for four years. Our teachers use it to understand Common Core and to participate in learning communities inside and outside the district. They take videos of themselves in class and upload them to their learning community as artifacts of learning. I hold Thursday Trainings for administrators at 1:00 every week. They come with their lunch and we focus on a trend. We’ve talked about Google, Evernote, how to be more productive, and they do exercises throughout the week in Edmodo.”

—Rob Dickson, Director of Technology, Andover (KS) USD 385

Tools He Uses

• Adobe
• aimsweb
• BrainPOP
• Cisco
• Edmodo
• Evernote
• Google Apps
• Inspiration
• Kidblog
• Learn21
• Noodletools
• PBWorks
• Picasa
• PowerSchool
• Promethean ActivClassroom
• Renaissance Learning
• SuccessNet
• Vernier
• VMWare