Why should new teachers use social media?

I am disappointed, though not altogether surprised, that most of the student teachers or newly-qualified ones I talk to do not use social media for professional purposes. A couple are on linked in, though not very active, and as far as I can discern, one reads blogs. One is thinking of signing up to Twitter. And that’s it. I’ve been encouraging them to create a Twitter account for professional purposes at least. Even better, I think they should have a blog too. But why?

I’ve previous written about why I think teachers and others in the education sphere should have a blog post: 7 Reasons educators should blog, but five of the reasons I gave were somewhat self-serving. That is, they were obviously examples of self-interest, such as “Be the go to person”. However, I think there is a larger issue here, and that is to do with being part of a professional community.

I came across a great quote about this, from Tim Hitchcock, who is an academic Historian:

Between them, twitter and blogging just make good academic sense. And while you need to avoid all the kittens and trolls, click bate and self-promoting gits, these forms of social media are rapidly evolving in to the places where the academic community is embodied. They are doing the job of the seminar, and the letters page. They are where our conversation is happening.

(From: Doing it in public: Impact, blogging, social media and the academy)

When I started teaching, the staffroom was a vibrant, intellectual place. Teachers discussed what they had tried, or what they were thinking of trying, in their lessons. In those pre-National Curriculum, pre-Ofsted and pre-target days, there seemed to be a lot more emphasis on education. I suspect it was because teachers were regarded as professionals who could be trusted to do the job for which they were trained. These days, most people seem to be concerned about jumping through hoops set by politicians – and who can blame them, when their career could be at stake?

I haven’t done any proper research on this, but it seems to me that the sense of belonging to an intellectual community is becoming less apparent in the staffroom, because of the need for schools to deliver on the latest half-baked, ill thought-out “initiative”. If that is indeed the case, then one thing that teachers can do is take back the initiative and belong to, or even create, their own professional communities online. There is plenty of choice: Twitter “chats”, discussion lists, reading, commenting on and writing blogs, Linked-in discussion groups.

When should teachers get involved in such things? As soon as they start teacher training, if not before.

Or now.

cross-posted at www.ictineducation.org

Terry Freedman is an independent educational ICT consultant with over 35 years of experience in education. He publishes the ICT in Education website and the newsletter “Digital Education."