Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Using social online networks in teaching and professional development

Melhuish (2013) (Sharples, 2016) hypothesizes that educator engagement in the Virtual Learning Network (VLN) provides a system of participation where educationalists are able to be informally involved in professional development.  Such involvement is immediate and contextual to the teaching and leadership of those individuals.  My belief is that this is true across many social media platforms.  I have found that many of the specific twitter chats (e.g. #scichatnz) are an excellent form of both informal professional development and building a personal learning network that is both national and international.  In my own teaching, this had led to my classes’ involvement in many collaborative initiatives.  Examples are ‘The Travelling Rhinos Project,’ both the NZ and Global Read Aloud projects and Maths Pirates. My understanding from reading research on this topic is that sharing of resources, development of both content knowledge and professional reflection are common outcomes of the professional use of social media. Other outcomes, which are unintentional, can include deeper pedagogical understanding, increasing competence with technology and the growth and development of professional leadership, identity and recognition

This diagram summarises my perception of benefits from participating in social media as an educator.

Through being a connected educator, we are modelling to our peers and our students that we are lifelong learners.  Kathy Cassidy (2013) believes classrooms need to reflect the connections happening out of school. Children of today have grown up with internet and are surrounded by devices. Students are often highly connected at home, playing games with multiplayer options and often using Facebook via a parental account.  This can lead to challenges involving the use of social media in the classroom.  Time and effort needs to be spent on teaching internet safety and etiquette. .  Frequently, young children do not think clearly about the information they give out online.  This is a definite teaching point addressing privacy issues and access.  How to be cyber safe, how to respond appropriately and what information is OK to give out needs to be taught and retaught.
In my current class, I use a variety of social media sites.  Most often, I am in control of these and use them to supplement lessons.  Facebook, Twitter, Class Dojo and Skype would fall into this category.  The reason for this is that my Year 3 / 4 students would be vulnerable on these sites combined with the fact that there are age guidelines set for these sites.
To enable collaboration with others, I have used Edmodo.  This platform is safe for children as it is set up to link only to other classrooms around the world.  It enables the students to collaborate with others and to learn the etiquette of interacting on a social networking site.
Within class we are currently learning to use Microsoft Classroom.  Students are able to collaborate with each other and with me.  Also a ‘safe’ environment, it facilitates collaboration and connection with this small group.  Class Dojo is similar but involves whanau and can be used to support positive behaviours. 
Melhuish, K.(2013). Online social networking and its impact on New Zealand educators’ professional learning. Master Thesis. The University of Waikato. Retrived on 6/3/2017, from

Office of Ed Tech. (2013, Sep 18). Connected Educators. [video file]. Retrieved from

Seaman, J., & Tinti-Kane, H. (2013). Social media for teaching and learning. Retrieved from,0

Sharples, M., de Roock , R., Ferguson, R., Gaved, M., Herodotou, C., Koh, E., Kukulska-Hulme, A., Looi,C-K, McAndrew, P., Rienties, B., Weller, M., Wong, L. H. (2016). Innovating Pedagogy 2016: Open University Innovation Report 5. Milton Keynes: The Open University. Retrieved from

1 comment:

  1. Hi Dianne,

    I think modelling this stuff is essential to our learners to make sure they see that we are not a finished product but also learning as we teach. The thing I find hard is carefully selecting which groups and hashtags to follow. There is such an abundance of "stuff" out there.

    We tried Edmodo a few years ago when it was much newer. Unfortunately we had to shut it down as a student in our syndicate was posting inappropriately and we had little experience with the site.