The term “new normal” is the lingo used to describe drastic change in doing something or life after a major event. The change is usually
quick and immediate. It alters one’s approach to something or way of life. In the educational world a slower transition is happening that will create a new normal. That change agent is social media. Social media has been around for some time but its practical use is relatively new to edu
cators. As I engage more and more educators in the use of social media for educational purposes I hear a lot of the same questions. Here are some of the most common questions with my responses.
Why has it taken so long for educators to find value in social media? Well, we are practitioners who have used chalk and slate for over one hundred years! The reality is that change comes slowly in the world of education and cost is always a major factor. A positive for social media is it is relatively low or no cost. The other issue is that finding value for educators is on a case by case basis. Every educator needs to find his/her own value in using social media. For some this happens quickly. For others it will take some time. But no matter what the pace is in finding value I believe it is the responsibility of those of us engaging in it to help those who are not to find that value.
Isn’t this a flash in the pan? NO, No, no! This is not a dot com industry issue. Using social media in the educational world is not a fad. It is still evolving and growing. How can something be a fad when it connects so many people, provides so many resources, and its use continues to expand? Educators have clamored for years about the need to expand their abilities to reach other professionals, their students, parents and the community. They have also asked for choice in their own professional development. Social media is providing these opportunities and the ability to do these things and others are ever expanding. It was just a few years ago that we could simply send text messages, then pictures, followed by video, and now live feed from events. This has resulted in what I call “a window into our students’ world” that parents, stakeholders, and other educators have never had before. To me this is a huge benefit for our profession.
Facebook has over 1,590 million active user and Twitter boasts 320 million active users (smartinsights.com). Statistics like this indicate there will be a long lasting relationship between social media use and people.
How do you have the time for all of this? I don’t see using social media as a burden or waste of time. I believe it has added to my knowledge base and ability as an educator. It has opened opportunities to learn from and help other educators. Yes, I probably am on more than is necessary, but the reality is you can engage as much or as little as you wish. It is a personal choice how much time you dedicate to using social media in your educational life. I’ve also found that the more I use it the more efficient I become in its use which actually takes up less of my time.
Isn’t social media personal and not professional? It depends on the application you are using and the purpose you have for it. I use Facebook for friends and family.Twitter, Voxer (on a limited basis), Google+, Edmodo, Slack, etc for professional activities. You need to find a balance and draw the line between personal and professional uses of social media. I’m not tweeting pictures of my family on Twitter and I’m not posting this blog on Facebook. I have drawn a clear line between personal and professional use. If you have difficulty between the two, pick a personal or professional use and stick with it a while until you find your comfort zone.
Do you really learn anything using social media? Absolutely! I have engaged in more professional collaboration, read more educational articles, asked for assistance from other educators, and provided information and support when requested. The educational environment produced in the social media world is filled with valuable knowledge and people. Yes, it is true you need to figure out who to follow, what to read and who to engage, but the time it takes to do this is minimal. Once you get the basics your eyes will open to this fantastic world. I spend time every single day reading something educational on my social media feeds and I hope I am a better educator for the time I spend. However, I do also realize I would not do as much reading or gain as much knowledge in the traditional methods of magazine articles or educational books. I also share what I find and read with my staff through a monthly newsletter in an effort to expose them to the great learning out in the social media world.
The new normal in our profession is using social media to learn, connect and collaborate. Our ranks are growing but misconceptions still exist. For those engaging in this world, help those still trying to figure it out. For those still trying to figure it out, I hope the answers to these questions help in the process.
*I originally wrote this post on November 10, 2012 for EdSocial Media and added to it for 2016 as its content is more relevant today than it was 4 years ago. Hope you find the same, and if you do please pass on so we can connect more educators.