June 15, 2015
Teachers Talk - Social Networking in the Classroom: Not in the Way that You Think
Rob Parker, Teaching Principal, Higher Ground Christian School, Medicine Hat, AB

All of us are aware that Social Networking is now everywhere. I have heard many pitches suggesting using Social Networking in our classrooms. We have all heard of Edublogs, classroom and school websites, classroom Face Book sites, Twitter, etc. This article is not about using Social Networking in that way. I have discovered how social networking can be used as a way to increase professional development time.

When I was at ASDASA I heard a keynote by Dr. Todd Whitaker. He was talking about things that good educators do. He asked if we were are on Twitter. I raised my hand. I had recently started using Twitter regularly. He then asked if we weren’t, why weren’t we? He pointed out that Twitter was the best way to find out what good educators are doing. I’ve noticed that not only can I find good ideas which can be immediately put into practice in my classroom, but I am also staying current on trends in education.
Another place I am finding great information is through FaceBook. FaceBook used to be just about connecting with friends and acquaintances. It is still used for this, but now it is much, much more. I follow quite a number of pages dedicated to teaching. I tried something with my class in February, something I found on FaceBook in an article titled “What Bugs You?”  In this activity, students write on a photocopied bug about what bugs them. On another bug, they write how they bug others. On the back side, I had them write things that they didn’t want anyone to see. I displayed the bugs on the wall in my classroom. What this has done is created a safe way to talk to others about what bugs them, instead of getting mad or just ignoring it. It has positively changed the atmosphere of my classroom. I never would have thought of this if I hadn’t seen the short article on FaceBook.
Another site where I have found a lot of good information is Pinterest. I follow many, and I now have people following me. I flag pages organized for math, technology, science, and general education just to name a few. I do not use every page that I pin, but what I have found is that looking at the pins spurs my own thoughts, and then changes what I do in my classroom.
I have also started my own blog: parkerteach1.wordpress.com (Word Press is a free blogging site). I never thought I would start my own blog. I never thought I had something to share. Since starting it, I now have several people following, and I have also been invited to share on another blog site.
Social media overall has helped my professional development because it helps me take my thoughts and get them written down. The process of doing this is revitalizing what I do. I am thinking about improving my classroom delivery. Also when something goes well, I write about it. If I feel strongly about something, I blog about it. I’m not blogging every day, but I see the benefit it has. It helps me organize my thoughts. It also allows me to help shape education in general by sharing my thoughts with others.
Social Networking is changing. In today’s world, social networking is an important way for people to share information. It has become the new way to stay in touch with what is going on in education. It can help you come up with ideas. Are you stuck trying to figure out how to teach addition and subtraction of unlike fractions? Check out Butterfly Fractions on a social networking site and you’ll have access to ready-made plans. Need an art project to go along with a novel study, check out Pinterest or FaceBook. More importantly, start sharing what you are doing in your classroom. By doing so you will help yourself think more deeply about what is happening in your classroom. You’ll also help others by sparking their own ideas. Social networking is the new professional development: PD that can be done a few minutes at a time, not sitting at a conference or presentation for hours, and hours. PD that can be done when you need it, and when you have the time to do it.