Sunday, February 17, 2013

Social Networking for Educators - A Beginner's Guide

I was a Facebook late-comer. I was teaching, I had a family and a life, and if I wanted to “connect” with friends and family, I would pick up the phone or email them. I eventually gave in, joined and it’s moderately useful for me, but the ways I’ve seen it used by other teachers is amazing to me. So, if you’re hesitant about joining a social network, let me break it down for you.

You don’t have to join a social network to leverage its power in the classroom. Try usingFakebook and ask students to create fake Facebook accounts for historical people, authors or fictional characters, complete with “friends”, “life events” and photos, like the following:

But Fakebook isn’t the only way to use Facebook in the classroom. Try creating a page specifically for your classes that provides all of those great extra resources that you just don’t have time to get to in class!

There’s also a social networking tool that is, by far, the most robust in terms of connecting with educators worldwide in meaningful conversations. If it weren’t for this particular social network, I might not have ever known about the job posting that landed me the job of my dreams. Yes, Twitter. Here’s an easy three step way of finding the right people for you to follow and gain resources from:
  • Follow one trusted person that you know is active on Twitter. Then, ask for recommendations from your trusted source for others to follow.
  • Go to CybraryMan’s Educational Hashtags website and search for hashtag(s) (hashtags are number signs, i.e. #, that is followed by a topic that allows anyone to search for common interests) that is of interest to you. If you’re interested in educational technology, search for #edtech and see the great conversation happening.
  • When you find a great website, share it on Twitter with a hashtag to help other educators find it. When it gets retweeted or “favorited”, you’ve just helped another educator learn a little bit more!
Lastly, here is a quick list of awesome educators to follow on Twitter:@web20classroom @coolcatteacher @willrich45 @nmhs_principal @elemenousand some great organizations: @educationweek @discoveryed @smithsonian@weareteachers @hgse
Of course, don't forget to follow the Sony Education Ambassadors, too! 
If you are brand new to all the social networks and you just want to dip your toe gently into the shallow end, try LinkedInLinkedIn allows users to create online resumes with as much, or as little, information as the user chooses. Power users will have their entire work and educational history, recommendations written from those who have worked with them, an on-going Twitter feed along the side of their profile, belong to dozens of groups and be “endorsed” for dozens of skills.
Or, if you’re more interested in getting quick, visual snapshots of other resources, givePinterest a try. Look at the Category, “Education”, or any topic of interest and you will find oodles upon oodles of websites to curate for yourself. Many educational organizations have Pinterest pages, as well. Be warned: it can be addicting.

But for the average user, all of these social networks are ways to create a digital footprint of YOUR choosing. Ultimately, social networking can best be used to control your digital footprint and what is posted about you online. If you are the one who is posting valuable resources on Twitter, or Facebook Group class information, then you begin to manage your own information.

  • This post was cross-posted from the resource-building that I do with Sony, Inc., located at - please visit there for more information and great suggestions from other ambassadors across the United States.