Using Twitter and Other Social Media for Professional Development

A week ago, I attended the Central East Alberta Teachers’ Convention. As usual, I enjoyed the networking and the convention sessions. It is nice to connect and share with colleagues.


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This year, however, was additionally satisfying as I discovered I had learned a skill that I could share with other teachers. I noticed a push, or a pulse, toward online social networking at the Convention. Teachers were talking about it. And sessions were providing resources for it.

During the Convention, I had a great conversation with a vice principal of one of the schools where I substitute about social networking and how a few months ago I ventured into the land of tweets and blogs. I offered her a summary of resources that I used to learn how to digitally network. And she was interested. This was great; I was thrilled to be useful. But it got better. Since the Convention, another teacher asked me for more information; we had agreed to exchange session information beforehand, but this information was bonus. I combined the two requests and shared the resources with these two teachers.

I realized that others might also be interested, so I decided to post publicly about how I started social networking. This then is my first response to the 2011 Central East Alberta Teachers’ Convention. It is also a summary of much of my professional development this school year.

If you are just delving into social networking and want to know how to do so, the following information might help you. Even if you are a veteran, you might find these resources a strong way to enhance your portfolio.

Why social network?



Social technology is about mutual, and public, sharing. There are two general reasons it is used in education. In both cases, it is a tool only; it should never be an end onto itself.

  1. Broadly, technology is used to share, to network, to create Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) and to develop professionally. Social media activities, such as tweeting, blogging, commenting, social bookmarking and RSS feed reading, serve this purpose. Several secondary activities, such as video creation, slide sharing, imaging and audio creation, enhance these activities.
  2. Specifically, technology is used to create learning opportunities using specialized relevant tools. Any of thousands (and growing) of Web 2.0 and 3.0 tools serve this purpose. The tool should enrich and enhance learning, not distract from it. Best practices should be in effect.

To learn how to use Twitter and other social media



Study the webinar series, Using Social Media for Transformative Teaching & Learning, presented by George and Alec Couros. Each webinar is 1.5 hours long, plus there are several activities that you are asked to do on your own time. But it is worth it! (I have encountered many baffled teachers who just jumped into social media without any immersion.)

To learn how to blog and set up a blog



Participate in the Teacher Challenge Kick Start Your Blogging (KSYB). This Challenge consists of eight activities and is designed to take 30 heavy days to complete. There are several Challenges running throughout this year, but the “old” ones are still active. A new wave of teachers is just starting KSYB.

In addition, the Twitter hashtag #ksyb is used to network with others in the Challenge and to advertise your Challenge posts. Several of us who already took the KSYB Challenge still use that hashtag to keep in touch and advertise current posts we publish. In essence, we created a KSYB PLN. Anyone is welcome to join.

To learn how to create a professional education portfolio



A professional education portfolio is an extension of a blog. It is found in the pages part of the blog and illustrates throughout a student’s, teacher’s or administrator’s career how she or he meets the outcomes or quality standards for his or her position. In essence, it is a specialized illustrative resume that goes beyond standard or outcome descriptions, grades and bullet statements.

Participate in the short North Central Teachers’ Convention tutorial, Creating A WordPress Portfolio, again by George Couros. Pay particular attention to his answer to “What does the portfolio portion of our blog look like?” under Other Links. In his answer, he shows examples of student, teacher and administrator portfolios and explains how the portfolio can follow the individual rather than the institution. This portfolio can be used on an individual, class or school-wide basis.

A selection of (ever-growing) resources to jump start your social networking



Twitter: How to Navigate – Hash Tags, Chats, People and Lists




Tech in the Classroom

Twitter: @stefras, Blog: Digital Substitute, Web: Teaching Resources, Node: I Am Here

I further discuss Twitter and the building of a PLN in a previous post.


17 thoughts on “Using Twitter and Other Social Media for Professional Development

    • Hi spanishtechteacher,

      You are welcome. And thank you. You are the first person to like one of my posts. I am thrilled that my post was useful to you. I hope you find the resources helpful.

      I actually pulled the items in the last section from a huge list of posts that I wish to add to my Diigo bookmarks. I really have to work on that. I tend to copy the titles and URLs of good posts in a Notepad document so that later I can add them to my social bookmarks. However, I just determined that the list is currently five pages long using single-spaced 8pt Times New Roman! Not at all behind, really. 😉

      I appreciate your encouragement and look forward to providing more useful posts on this blog.

      Thank you,

  1. Fantastic information! I am preparing a session proposal for my annual school counseling conference this fall, encouraging school counselors to incorporate Twitter and PLNs into their PD. Your blog post is my road map, thank you!

    • Hi Jennifer,

      You are also welcome.

      I really enjoyed my PD this year. I decided to go with social media and Web technology this year for three main reasons, all of which stem from the fact that I am a substitute teacher.

      First, I wanted to connect to, or at least understand, the “world” of my students. After all, I spend more time with them than with other people in the schools where I teach. So, I knew students text. They instant message (IM). They use Facebook. I, on the other hand, don’t text. I IM only when cause encourages it. And I don’t Facebook. But now, I tweet, I blog, I create other digital objects and I socialize with my peers. I consider this first goal accomplished.

      Second, I wanted to create myself a PLN, which I heard strange rumors and whispers about, and a “base”, since I do not have a home staff and school. This is an ever building process, so it will never be completed or accomplished. I think though that this is one of those ventures when the journey is the point and there isn’t supposed to be a completion. So, I consider this goal successfully engaged.

      And last, I wanted to develop professionally. My school district does not offer substitute or non-contract teachers PD, so I had to seek it. Social networking offers that, so I consider this goal accomplished as well.

      Overall, I think this was a very productive and successful year. I was able to interact with a lot of peers in a lot of ways and I even was able to help a few, which is great. Now that is what I consider successful PD and PLNing.

      It has been a disproportionately large amount of work, compared with the rest of my life, but I definitely see growing benefits.

      I also wrote another post on Twitter and PLN building that you should look at if you are interested in this topic. I added a link to this previous post at the bottom of this one because of your comment. So, while you are welcome, you are also thanked. My post is better because of you.

      Good luck with your session,

  2. Dear Shawn,

    For someone who has just recently “jumped into” Twitter and blogging, you’ve amassed some great resources! I wanted to add a few that may be of interest to your readers.

    Web 2.0 tools

    LiveBinder – –
    Seedz –


    TakingITGlobal –
    Teachers and Social Media –
    Room to Read –
    t.h.e. journal –

    People to follow on Twitter:


    • Hi John,

      Thank you for the resources and the compliment.

      The Seedz tool is new to me as are @TechInTheArts, @globaledcon and the Websites/Organizers.

      I haven’t tried LiveBinder and, but I am familiar with them. So many tools, so little time.

      I believe in using technology as a tool where its use benefits learning, not for the sake of using it nor for making our jobs easier. The last thing our kids need is flashy technology to distract them and their teacher from rich learning experiences.

      I really recommend reading George Couros’s It’s not about the technology …. There is a reason I listed his post first in the last section. Read particularly the comments that follow his post.

      To me, it is easy. The information and engagement that technology exposes students to is wonderous and wonderful. I can see a day when it becomes truly virtual, so that we immerse students in the content and they interact with and investigate it. That technology exists today. The Mazankowski Heart Institute in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, to name an institute close to me, has just such an environment, called The Cave (#6), where cardiologists and researchers interact with holographic images to diagnose cardiac ailments and plan treatments and surgeries.

      If it enhances learning, use technology whole heartedly. But our students and the content must remain the focus and the reason for using the technology. Technology is one of many tools to help our students understand, embrace and own what the world has to teach them. Our job is to introduce the students to the possibilities. If there is one argument that definitely supports technology, it is that our job is to teach students the underlying and overarching skills and strategies they need to prosper in our world. The use of technology to effectively and actively receive, interpret, interact with, execute and communicate information is a priority skill they need to learn.

      Thanks again, John, for the compliment and resources,

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