Whether you favour Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube, Pinterest or any of the other major social networking sites, there’s much to be gained from being involved, especially for teachers. But it’s not all plain sailing. It pays to take a few precautions to ensure that any time spent on social media is productive rather than risky.
First things first
It’s best to work on the assumption that regardless of your privacy settings, whatever you put out there could go viral. Or attract a large audience, at the very least. If you wouldn’t be happy to have what you write published widely, it’s best not to write it. Just be mindful that, when you’re in a professional role, you shouldn’t take any risks. Wouldn’t want your head to see a particular photo? Don’t post it. Wouldn’t want the governors to read your criticisms of your school? Don’t discuss them in a public forum. You might just find that future employers search social media sites to see what they can find out about applicants. If you’re not happy about what they might see, delete it or don’t post it in the first place.
If pupils know you’re on social media they may try to link up with you. Don’t do it! Pupils and their parents can easily contact you during school hours. In addition, never get involved in discussions with your pupils or their parents about school on social media. Such discussions should always be had on a professional basis, in working hours and in accordance with your school’s policy on such matters.
If all of that hasn’t put you off, it’s worth focusing on what you can get out of social media specifically as an educator. One of the most significant benefits are the links you can make with similar teachers and leading experts elsewhere in the world (there are a reported 313 million monthly active users on Twitter alone – a popular site for teachers). This is an easy way to share resources, teaching ideas, research, reading suggestions and generally be heard by others who will understand your situation. And the links to articles, research, free online courses and so on can be excellent professional learning. Social media is also a great way to stay up to date with what Ofsted, the Department for Education, the College of Teaching, the teaching unions, Eteach and others are doing.
Simply choose the social media sites that interest you most (Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter are probably good places to start). It’s worth doing a search of each site to see the extent of which topics that interest you are being discussed.
If you have spent any time following “edu-twitter” at all (the teachers, trainers, consultants and commentators from the world of education that are vocal on Twitter) you will know that debates can rage, for days sometimes, with seemingly no purpose other than to prove or disprove a point, often along the lines of the “progressive versus traditional” debate (think “Chinese School”!). I know several excellent educators who choose to ignore such debates! Facebook can also get quite heated when hot topics are being discussed – so it’s worth being mindful of your time.
5 golden rules
– Choose one or two sites to focus on otherwise you’ll be spread too thinly.
– Spend a little time browsing before diving in at the deep end.
– Regardless of the approach of others, keep it positive and never use social media to trash (rather than critique) the ideas of another.
– Avoid “who to follow” lists – you’ll make your own mind up about who it is worth keeping up with and don’t need to be told what to think!
– Monitor the time you spend on social media. Don’t get dragged into lengthy discussions with no apparent benefit. There are plenty of other things you can do with your time than waste it with someone who simply wants to disrupt.
OK, make that 6…
– Aim to help others where you can. Share what interests you, answer questions posed by others and so on. Set out to keep things positive and you will undoubtedly get more out of the experience. Remember, it’s never about numbers of followers and always about the quality and benefit of the interactions.
Do you have any tips for great resources on social media that you’ve come across? Share your advice and thoughts in the comments below!