Professional development has always come in all shapes and sizes. From large formal conferences with thousands of attendees, to small book studies, there is PD to match the needs of every educator. Recently, the way educators are accessing professional development looks different. Much like the way that education itself has shifted, so has professional learning. Educators are still responsible for learning and evolving, not just for personal and professional growth, but also for mandatory state licensing requirements. That hasn’t changed. While that can be frustrating, there might just be some pleasant surprises and lessons learned along the way.
The term “PLN” refers to your personal learning network. The members of your PLN are ever-changing, and consist of the colleagues, experts, resources, and mentors that you collaborate with and rely upon. If you are lucky enough to have a grade level team or a department that you work with, that might be a PLN. If you still plan with the teachers you went to college with, or a group of people that you have met at a conference, that is a PLN. Everyone needs someone they can go to for planning, brainstorming, venting, and sharing good news. If you are the lone teacher in your department, or you are in a situation where you want to expand your PLN, what do you do? Who are your people?
Social media might be the answer for you; it is full of teaching ideas and strategies. Teachers have found a way to make every social media platform showcase what’s working for them, in order to help other teachers.
Instagram is mostly focused on photos and videos. This gives educators ideas at-a-glance every time they open the app. The “feed,” which is the grid of images, is composed of photos from accounts you follow. How do you find and follow educator accounts? There are a couple of ways. You can search based on hashtags such as #teachersofinstagram, #teachersfollowteachers, and #teachersofig. There are more specific hashtags to drill down to grade levels and content area. How do you find more hashtags? By browsing the app, and “liking” posts on your feed, the content is automatically curated specifically for you. Then when you click the explore button, which looks like a magnifying glass, you see content applicable to you. It’s like magic!
“Instagrammers” can create stories that show up as circles at the top of your screen. Stories can consist of images or video, but disappear after 24 hours. Reels are videos that are 15 seconds long, often bridged together to create longer videos. Reels do not disappear unless deleted by the creator. Video is a different medium altogether when it comes to learning from someone. It can give you more information about what is being shared. Video also brings more personality to the content. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video must be worth a million words.
Some creators include anecdotal stories about their daily lives. It’s all about creating connections and relationships, even through a tiny little screen on your phone.
Social media is meant to be just that—social. It’s meant for personal connections with one another. If you see a post and have a question, you have the ability to ask. Comments are welcome. If the content creator doesn’t respond, another educator will. There are so many great accounts out there. Don’t be afraid to engage with other teachers on social media. Interaction brings people together, and you can be as involved as you would like to be. You can just scroll and watch, or comment and engage. This brings the personal to your personal learning network!
When schools shut down suddenly, many teachers felt alone. Not only were schools closed, but everything was closed. Isolation is no joke. As usual, educators rose to the occasion and provided support to one another in a way that could not have been expected. Social media has been used for teacher resources for years. With the pandemic, the support among educators was overwhelming as every school created plans for students who were no longer able to attend school in person. This support has become the new normal a year later.