Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Getting a “Handle” on Social Media

Week 30 - My sixth post for Applied Practice in Context:  Professional Online Social Networks 

I've written about my involvement with social networks before, especially with Twitter.  This latest post, to meet my post-grad requirements, outlines my use of a range of networks for professional learning, as well as giving you some great reasons to be involved yourself.

It can be tough for some educators in New Zealand.  Many of us live outside of the main cities and it’s a major effort, time-wise and cost-wise, to access the courses and workshops we see advertised on the web or in the Education Gazette. That’s why the online networks I engage with have become my “lifelong learning” lifeline.


I like being @mrs_hyde; she is embraced by a learning community which has similar values about teaching and learning. Literally; hugging and shrieking has become the norm for edutweeps who meet for the first time.  When we meet face to face, chances are we have discussed, assisted, debated, laughed and empathised with each other already.

I follow global educators on Twitter who share their own and others’ ideas and articles.  This provides me with a wealth of education readings about the latest pedagogy.  In addition, I can directly contact the experts who I would never feel I could approach in real life. I’ve had conversations with some of my education heroes like Steve Wheeler, Richard Gerver, Nigel Latta and Grant Lichtman
I’ve been able to engage in webinars, like last week’s discussion between Keri Facer and our Edchatnz star, Danielle Myburgh.  I read some of Keri’s work on futures thinking for my literature review and it was a bonus to hear her speak on the same topic.  This one was at 7.00pm on a Wednesday night; I’ve been known to sit up in my pyjamas to listen and contribute to a northern hemisphere webinar at 3am!

I’ve got a wealth of knowledge about other schools in New Zealand. My classroom really doesn’t have walls.  I feel like I am part of a virtual staffroom and know “who does what” in New Zealand: innovative learning environments, makerspace, Minecraft… This has led to school visits or online question and answer sessions.

I’m a regular participant in educator chats like #edchatnz, #aussieED and #ldrchatnz.  These Twitter chats are fast moving discussions between global educators.  Using Storify, and the hashtags, I curate these chats into slideshows to read later, save links and serve as evidence against the Practising Teacher Criteria. There’s usually a Devil’s Advocate - I’ve had a turn at that - to challenge our thinking.

I’ve used Twitter as my “lazyweb” to use the collective personal professional knowledge of others to quickly glean information. Or advice.  Other leaders on Twitter are great help mates.


While I’ve dabbled with Google+ in the past, I have put it to good use during my postgrad studies with MindLab. We share a community with our cohort, to share links, discuss assessments, ask questions and reflect on each others’ blogs.  I have two accounts: one is for school, one I keep separate.  In each one I have set up collections to curate readings I find on the internet. I am a member of other communities too: coding, Google Apps, Literacy, Minecraft. It’s been useful for setting up a study group community too, especially for our literature review.  

The Virtual Learning Network

I first started using this because I was the ICTPD facilitator for our cluster, and the VLN was the platform for sharing learning and recording evidence for our milestone reports.  I found that I could connect with other cluster facilitators and elearning experts for advice; what Melhuish calls “group genius”. I was one of the people who responded to her survey for her thesis:
“Two areas where participants felt the site most successfully met their needs were the ability to explore topical issues and being able to connect with other colleagues". (p.95)

I had my turn as guest speaker in webinars and enjoyed participating in forums.  My most active group is our #connectedrotorua group page.


While my aim has been to keep Facebook for social interaction with family and friends, an addition last year meant that I changed my mind. Two teachers from Auckland began the NZ Teachers (Primary) group which has in turn spawned a number of other professional teacher groups.  These are great help sites for locating resources and creating discussion.


Although I am a member and “link” with a range of professionals, I don’t venture into the discussions as I do on the other platforms.


I love Blogger because I love writing. This is my reflective portfolio, where I make sense of the ideas from my discussions and readings. I tag my posts with the Practising (Registered) Teachers’ Criteria. I then use my other social networks to share my posts, using the hashtags #edchatnz, #edblognz and #MindLabED.  I encourage students to have blogs and share these using the #comments4kids hashtag. 

Key features of social media that are beneficial for teaching and learning:

Ubiquitous personalised learning.  I love that I can organise where and when and how I want to learn. Social networks are always awake, even if it’s somewhere else in the world.

Multidisciplinary and cross sector.  I remember a time when secondary teachers and primary teachers kept to their corners. Now we are found in the same virtual staff rooms. Social media has helped to de-silo learning.

Equitable. Learning does not belong to those who are able to pay.  It is available to all.  Besides the free availability of googlable information, many structured courses are free. The Edchatnz Mooc is an example.

Ako. "Ako" means having a mutual teaching and learning relationship.  Wellburn and Eib (Veletsianos, 2016) talk about the different roles we can take in social media; at different times we can play the “expert, amateur, audience, author, learner, and educator” (p.65). Youtube is another example of this in action. 

Interactive and creative. Rather than just receiving content, we are expected not only to interact, but to make content.  

Authentic. Teachers are harnessing social media not only for their own learning but to engage students.  Students blog for real audiences who can provide feedback and feedforward in their comments. They are participating in quadblogging, and Twitter chats like #NZreadaloud and #kidschatnz

Key competencies.  Social media engages us in the competencies.  We must learn how to operate in each environment; they each have their own literacy.  Twitter, for example forces us to be succinct. Thinking, relating to others responsibly, managing self and participating and contributing with others are all encapsulated in these networks.

The vision of the New Zealand Curriculum is for “young people who will be confident, connected, actively involved, lifelong learners” (p.7). The “older” people need to model these attributes too.  Social networks provide a rich, attainable arena for professional discussion and development to enable this vision. - cc license

Related Blog Posts

Species Twiducatus Edchatnz (No Birds Were Harmed in the Making Of This) -

Reporting and Interviews...subtitled "I wasn't going to tweet tonight." -

It's All About Connecting - #connectedrotorua -

#Edchatnz - Speed Dating With Twiducators -

Attwicted to Learning -

Using Microblogging: Twitter and Other Tools to Facilitate Teacher and Student Learning -


Joosten, T.( 2013. October 22). Pearson: Social Media for Teaching and Learning. Retrieved from

Melhuish, K.(2013). Online social networking and its impact on New Zealand educators’professional learning. Master Thesis. The University of Waikato. Retrieved from

Silius, K., Miilumäki, T.,Huhtamäki, J.,Tebest, T., Meriläinen, J., & Pohjolainen, S.(2010). Students’ motivations for social media enhanced studying and learning. Knowledge Management & E-Learning: An International Journal, 2(1), 54-67. Retrieved from

Veletsianos, G. ed. (2016). Emergence and Innovation in Digital Learning: Foundations and Applications. Edmonton, AB: Athabasca University Press.

No comments:

Post a Comment