What Educators on the Twittersphere Think about Social Media

As community manager for USC Rossier’s online teaching degree, I recently ran a survey to find out more about educators involved in Twitter education chats. We just published the results to the 2014 Technology and Professional Development Survey, which includes interesting trends regarding educators using social media.
While there is an inherent bias in these results as we used social media and email outreach, the results still show insight into how educators use social media for both professional development and as a resource for teaching tools. Here is a snapshot look at the current use of social media by educators, some assumptions according to the results and ideas of how to evolve for a better learning environment for teachers and students.
Educators prefer Twitter for education news
According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, more than 2/3rds of adults use Facebook and of those that do 30% of them get their news from the social network. What’s interesting is that even accounting for a bias towards Twitter, the #techpd14 survey shows a much stronger trend towards educators using Twitter, specifically to stay informed about education. It’s entirely possible they still get news on Facebook, but notable that they report finding education news on Twitter.

Tip 1: Share your education news on Twitter
Whether our survey respondents were simply pro-Twitter users or not is kind of irrelevant–the fact is that there are some educators out there that are finding most of their education news on Twitter–so give it to them. Use hashtags. Tag people. Get into a conversation. PLN building isn’t just a trend, it’s a habit of many educators and in order to be included you have to be a part of the space.

Tip 2: Look for opportunities to share your story
If you want to share a story from your school, organization or institution, start following the reporters that cover that beat on Twitter. Most reporters, education especially, are active on Twitter and often say things like ‘Looking for a high school teacher that uses design thinking in her/his classroom’ or some other query. They want to write stories. You have stories. Reach out to the people that want the story.


Teaching resources should be social media friendly
Most respondents to the #techpd14 survey report using Twitter for teaching resources. They also use Pinterest, Google + and Facebook as well as a variety of other social media. That none of the above included Skype, Feedly, Tumblr, Voxer, Zite and blogs such as Edutopia and GreatGreaterEducation. What exactly does teaching resources mean? That was left up to interpretation, but it would be interesting to find out what it means to different people. I most associate it with lesson plans and tools used specifically for teaching a class or students of some kind.

Tip 1: Talk about what you are looking for
Having a hard time figuring out how to incorporate video to teach a lesson? Looking for a lesson plan on digital citizenship? Ask. Be specific and use those hashtags. If you have a strong enough PLN you’ll get an answer, and possibly start a discussion.

Tip 2: Make your teaching resources visual
Are you trying to promote a teaching resource you produced? An app? A tool for teachers to use in the classroom? Make sure when sharing you include a visual representation so it can be easily shared and pinned on Pinterest. Look for users of Pinterest that have a huge following and reach out to them. Start curating your own resources so you could become a resource yourself.


Social Media will be embraced, not feared
While there are certainly teachers that entirely disagree with this, more than half of the respondents in our #techpd14 survey reported that they are interested in using social media in the classroom and are likely to increase their current use in the next year. Again, personal interpretation of this will certainly vary, but we think it signifies teachers are not scared of social media, but excited about the possibilities of social media and intend to embrace it.

Tip 1: Figure out what social media means to you
Not all social media sites are the same. Not all people need to use social media the same. Figure out what your goals are and assess which social media tools you might want to use in the different parts of your life. Maybe Instagram is your personal space and Twitter is your public space, or maybe you want to be equally active in all places for all people. It doesn’t really matter, as long as you’re conscious of what and how you are using it.

Tip 2: Make a plan
Lots of people say they want to do something, but it’s different than actually doing it. And if you are a teacher interested in increasing social media use in the classroom, you should create a plan that ensures you’ll not only reach your goals, but actually do it.


If you don’t know how, ask another teacher
What was most interesting about this survey was that many respondents reported being that they have a skill or tool they use regularly and could mentor someone else. This is huge! No longer do you have to wait for a special professional development day or training, just ask around and chances are someone else on your staff, in your school, or at your organization knows how to do what you want to do.

Tip 1: Share your knowledge
Are you a whiz at Google+? Do you know how to use Vine? Are you always up on the latest app? Let other people know what you are good at so they can go to you when they need help.

Tip 2: Ask for help
Don’t be afraid to reach out. No one knows everything, and most of us are just making it up as we go along. Don’t limit yourself to asking people you know–ask people you don’t know! They’ll be happy you noticed their talents and probably excited to share.

Want to learn more about our survey? Check out this article on Edsurge and send us a tweet @USCTeacher.

Stephani Echeveste

Stephani Echeveste

Stephanie Echeveste works in community relations for the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education’s online Doctor of Education. She loves #Edchat, cappuccinos and volunteering for 826DC.