Through my dissertation research project and my current job as instructional designer at Kirkwood Community College, I have discovered the role social media plays in professional development and how social media can be used as tools for one’s professional learning network.
I first discovered how Twitter worked as a great personal learning network during my first few years using it. Back then, I was following mostly news media and a few education organizations like EDUCAUSE and Edutopia. I was surprised to find that I got my news quicker from Twitter than going to the original source like the New York Times. The same was for learning about education technology to keep updated for my assistantship at the University of Iowa. Within a year’s time, I was learning about integrating technology into the classroom at the same pace or sometimes faster than my supervisor.
Early in my participant selection process for my dissertation, I was hitting a roadblock with recruiting participants via blogs. I decided to cast the net wider and select participants via Twitter and YouTube, and I discovered not only more participants, but how Twitter works for me finding more participants. I spent about a month following new potential participants while Twitter suggested more. This was a process that I had not learned in my research methods courses.
Currently, I use Twitter for two purposes: 1) to keep updated with my research interest, which is learning more about sojourning English language teachers, and 2) to learn more about current and forecasted trends in higher education, education reform, and education technology. This second purpose has helped me better understand my context at Kirkwood Community College. The biggest takeaway is that I have learned as much from participating on Twitter than as participating in some professional development conferences.
YouTube & Google+
As I write this, Google+ is trying to integrate YouTube more. I would say the feature that connects these two entities, which used to be separate, is Google Hangouts. Although I have known about YouTube since it was new to the public, I recently discovered Google Hangouts through my participant selection process for my dissertation. I was amazed to find a community of sojourning English language teachers in Japan who identify as J-vloggers, shorthand for video bloggers in Japan. Although I found this community at the end of my participant selection process, I want to investigate this and similar online communities as soon as possible.
This discovery inspired me to explore Google Hangouts, which I believe is the best feature of Google+, a social network that is not as popular as Facebook to put it mildly. I quickly learned that there were more educators using Google+ than I expected, which I later learned was mostly through schools that use Google Apps for Education. However, the discussions and groups seemed to be as active as the ones on Twitter. I joined a few, but I found myself overwhelmed with online participation and, for the time being, kept most of my online professional learning on Twitter.
In the fall semester of 2013, I introduced Google Hangouts to my department at Kirkwood Community College as a potential vehicle for professional development. We provided a couple of workshops in our Technology Teaching & Learning Institute, but we found that most of our faculty were not ready for that jump. In fact, using video conferencing in general was new to most of them.
I have more recently started using Facebook for professional purposes as a member of the #tleap community, which is for teaching and learning English for Academic Purposes, and as the community manager of TESOL’s Intercultural Communication Interest Section. I have found that these Facebook groups are great spaces for sharing resources and discussing issues that can be either open to the public or closed to community members only.
I am a fan and light user of Wikipedia, and I have used it to teach digital and information literacy when I was an ESL instructor at the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse. If given the chance, I would like to explore Wikipedia more in the future.