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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

"By bringing together people who share interests, no matter their location or time zone, social media has the potential to transform the workplace into an environment where learning is as natural as it is powerful." - Marcia Conner

Recently, I presented an online webinar with education colleagues from different parts of the U.S. The webinar, Social Media Savvy for Educators, was well received. Our purpose in sharing was to:

  • Support educators who were new to using social media
  • Support them to seek out a few resources
  • Support them to launch into those spaces

In this webinar, we shared ways to tap into the power of social media to increase professional effectiveness, student engagement and parent participation. K-12 educators and leaders attended and participated to learn about integrating Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, blogs, Google Hangout and more into their everyday work. An interesting issue emerged as we stepped through the webinar -- we observed that many participants did not know how to "get started" using social media tools.

As I think about this and with summer here, let me make a suggestion. Take some time to think about how you can use social media to support you, and what it can do to support your growth. After you test drive these tools, think about how they can support you in your classroom.

Here are four suggestions on how you might start to dip your toe into social media:

1. Find a Mentor

I can't say enough about how important this is. As we were receiving questions in the webinar, one that came up the most was, "How do I get started with trying all this stuff?" Comments like, "I'm overwhelmed! How am I going to remember it all?" kept coming in loud and clear. My immediate response to that was, "Don't go it alone." Team up with a friend who's comfortable with social media tools and ask for a personal training session. It will make such a difference in lowering your panic filter and will be a fun learning time in the process.

2. Get Comfortable with One Tool

As you get enthused (I hope) about the idea of using supportive social media tools, you may feel that you need to tackle a bunch of them at once. STOP! This is exactly why educators give up on the idea of using social media to support their practice. Their initial attempts to wrangle too many tools ultimately causes many to give up. My remedy for that is to pick one tool that you think you’d like to master, such as Twitter, Google Plus or Pinterest. Use it frequently, and check in with your mentor to get tips and tricks.

3. Seek Out Free Online PD

Did you know that on almost any given day, there is professional development on the net, just for educators, free for the taking? Yep, there is -- and what an amazing resource! Gone are the days when we would wait months for the chance to go to a conference, only to find that the session we'd hoped to attend was completely booked. The beauty of the net is that it can connect you to 24/7 free PD with the click of your mouse and a tap on your keyboard. You can begin to grow in your ability to use social media tools at nearly any time of day (or night) and access the knowledge of those educators who are experts in using them. Frequently you'll find these education gurus (as I like to call them) sharing their expertise in a free webinar or blog post, or on their YouTube channel. When you happen to see that one is taking place, or hear about it from your mentor, take the opportunity to catch the session. In addition, you'll find that many of these free webinars are archived for viewing at a later, more convenient time. So, no excuses -- seek out the learning and develop your skills.

4. Collaborate and Share Resources

Social media is a two-way street that gives you the ability to take in information, respond, communicate and collaborate. It's an online technology practice that lets us share, have conversations and then discuss ideas we care about. Take advantage of this developing phenomenon and put it to good use. As you begin to feel comfortable with using that one tool you're going to master, don't be shy. Reach out to others, grab their resources, use them in your work and share them with others. Then, when you're ready, consider collaborating with those you've connected with and add your own great ideas to the process.

As we wrap up, I want to share two links that may support you to get started:

Well, there you go -- four tips to get you thinking about doing something intentional every day to further your social media savvy. And I'm sure you have some tips of your own. Give us a shout out and share yours!

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