The Success (and failure) of Social Media in Education
Let’s face it. With the advent of Facebook, the world got smaller. We made connections with anyone and everyone. This was then increased with Twitter, where 95% of the people I now follow I have never met in person. As humans, we crave interaction, but for many of us, prefer to do this in the comfort of our own homes.
With the ‘Social Media’ organising and integrating itself with our social lives, it is no wonder that people have begun to form personal and professional relationships with others.
Earlier this year I began to separate my personal and professional face online. There were a number of reasons for this, least of all in an attempt to not let my work and home life become too unbalanced. As teachers, we are well aware of the fact that it is almost impossible to ‘switch off’ thinking about our class, our students, or our profession, and anything to help me to do this is a good thing. Having the education world infiltrating my personal twitter account, or clogging up my Facebook feed was hindering such progress.
In all of this, I am a firm believer in using the right tool for the job. Don’t get me wrong – I am also a New Zealander, and so built into my DNA is the innate desire to be creative with the use of certain tools and materials that lends more to a creative mindset. But at the end of the day, while you could play golf with a hammer (you should try it!), the hammer is still going to be best used to knock in nails.
I was reminded of this when viewing a post asking what people thought of Pond, and why people flocked to a Facebook group to share resources and ideas, rather than use this new initiative by Network 4 Learning.
The reasons were neither here nor there, with some being the annoyance of having to log in to yet another website (oh the hardship), but more concerningly, was the fact that they saw it as sterile and empty, with little interaction or use.
Unfortunately, these people have missed the point of Pond. They’ve assumed that it is another social media, and thought ‘Why would I need another social media when Twitter and Facebook suit my needs?’. Well, put simply; Pond is not a social media. It is a database of resources in a central location. Think of it a bit like Pinterest.
The social aspect of Pinterest is no way near as prevalent as Facebook or Twitter. But Pinterest definitely serves a purpose, and many, many teachers use it daily to gather ideas, inspiration, and resources.
So why do I need Pond? Why not just use Pinterest? Well, it comes back to using a tool for its purpose. It also comes back to the sense of ‘New Zealandness’. Pond has been developed by New Zealanders. The resources are supplied by New Zealand teachers, for New Zealand teachers. While the log-in provided a turn off for some users, the reason behind using the Education Sector Login was so that this resource remains only for teachers (you have to admit, there is some comfort in knowing that). In addition, Pinterest includes EVERYTHING, and anything, whereas Pond will be providing teacher and education specific resources that have been tried and tested in the New Zealand classroom. Don’t get me wrong; Pinterest has its place. People can become creative and adapt and change it and use it for different aspects, build Boards for just Education or Teaching resources and more. But I believe that Pond has more to offer the New Zealand teacher in the long run, purely because that’s its core function and focus. That’s what it has been designed for.
I kind of think of it as shopping. At the Warehouse, they have a lot of stock, and a wide variety of every product you probably want. It certainly has its place and is a one stop shop for most people. But if we’re honest, we probably wouldn’t purchase a wedding ring from there. You’d go to a specialist jeweller. Likewise, while Pinterest has everything under the sun and works on the same principles, if its Teacher resources from New Zealand teachers, I believe you’ll get better results (even if you have to pay a bit more for it!)
Making them Separate
So, although the lines are constantly blurred between work and home, especially with teaching, there are a series of steps that you can follow to help keep aspects of it separate.
- Create a different Twitter account for your work. This helps with a range of situations – including having parents or students following you. It limits your feed to other Teaching Professionals, and focuses your tweets on education related things. Managing multiple accounts is the hardest part of it, but with Hootsuite, and Tweetdeck, one can overcome this with relative ease.
Mention your new account to your current education based followers, and then eventually get around to following them all back on your new account. Then gradually remove them so you can keep your personal and work related accounts separate.
- Make a separate category or WordPress Multisite for your teaching posts. I used to include all my posts and thoughts and ideas in my own personal website. But my profession is somewhat unrelated to who I am as a person, and it begins to separate them out. As with twitter, it also helps focus the energy of my posts to a specific topic.
- Facebook has always been for people I actually know, or have met. The only teachers I have on there are those I work with each day, those I trained with, or those that are friends who also happen to be teachers. One way I could see that you could keep things slightly separate would be to either create a separate account, or create a Page for yourself as a Teacher.
Whilst it can seem like a bit of a mission to separate them out, especially if you’ve already started building your online following base, I have found it really refreshing to begin to build a void between these accounts in attempt to leave work and work before I come home. Likewise I don’t have Education and Teaching infiltrating my personal feeds when I’m browsing in my down time.
Twitter vs Facebook
I for one am not going to get involved in a Twitter vs Facebook vs Pinterest vs Instagram vs anything. All have their value, and you can decide for yourself which you like and which you don’t. But for mine, I have a number of reasons I prefer to use (and refer to) Twitter for teaching and education.
Firstly, Facebook was designed to connect people with people. Comments, posts, replies, and likes, all come from people, and go to people. While ideas and resources can get published here, and you can get inspiration from them, it seems to me to be a bit forced. Especially annoying are the notifications which constantly come up from groups that you belong to.Like using a hammer to chisel a notch out of a piece of wood. You can do it, but it’s easier to get a chisel.
Twitter however shares the net with people. You can easily enter links straight away and put it out to EVERYONE, not just your friends or people who are part of a group. Those that wish to follow you (for the most part) can. And you can follow them back. This allows you to connect with people with a common interest. You can seamlessly pass on content, and by mentioning their handle, quickly reply or message them in an open conversation. Its a lot less formal and a lot more open and free to use it for all your purposes.
Following a #hashtag also helps, and there are several “chats” that happen weekly which are open to everyone. All you have to do is search for the hash, and join in!
So that’s my guide to Social Media and Teaching. No doubt, others will have their views, and will use what you use. This is merely my own observations as to what works for me.