Social networking and communities of practice

I greatly value the potential that social media presents for both my personal and professional life.  In my professional life, the impact has been surprising.  I received one of my job opportunities through social networking and the community created through social media.  I have used social networking to further my own professional knowledge and skills, demonstrating the enormous value that can be gained from social networking and online communities of practice. However, there are still many teachers who are reluctant to see the value of social media in their professional lives and who do not actively involve themselves in online communities of practice, or physical ones for that matter, because they don’t see the value in doing so.

In my leadership positions with technology, I have encouraged many educators in particularly the secondary and tertiary sectors, to embrace the affordances of social media.  I have typically shown them a YouTube clip, like one below, to serve as a catalyst highlighting the benefits that can be gained from social media and networking.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQ3j6zf9Xms]

My next move would vary and from my experiences, I think a reflection on previous interactions with social media in an open discussion would be valuable, however, I also like to immerse participants who are learning about a new concept or tool, within an activity that makes use of just that.  Something that I would like to try is:

Get teachers to think about the last time they were involved in professional development and think about what they learned about.  Ask them then, to write a few points on what they learned using 140 characters or less.  Following up from that, get them to find links for supporting resources that relate to the points written and get bit.ly URLs for those links. Guide them then, in including those bit.ly URLs in the 140 characters of those points. Twitter is of course the tool I am implying use of in this example.

The aim of this activity outlined above is to demonstrate the ways in which Twitter, and other social media tools can be used, to disseminate professional knowledge and skills.  It provides a purpose for using social media and a way for starting to create social networks.

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