Using Social Media for Professional Development

by Lisa Dabbs

Educators are developing a strong interest in driving their own professional learning and development. Gone are the days when we’d wait for that one big annual conference, or hope that our school administrators had some new initiative to share. These days we are learning that we can use the power of social media to drive our own professional development. As a former school principal, I applaud this effort and am excited to see how harnessing the power of social media for professional development can support educators as they seek to improve themselves and their practices.

Recently, I participated with education colleagues to present a webinar on the topic of Social Media Savvy for Educators. Its purpose was to support educators who might be new to using social media by helping them to launch into those spaces that could be supportive to them.

In this webinar we shared ways to tap into the power of social media to increase professional effectiveness, student engagement and parent participation.  K-12 educators and leaders participated with us to learn how to integrate Twitter, Facebook, Nings and Google Hangouts into their everyday work.

For our purposes today, let’s look at 3 steps that can support you in using social media as a tool to develop your professional learning and pedagogy.

1. Build your Social Media Bio

Before getting started with using a social media space to develop your professional learning, it’s important to be sure that you develop your bio. As an active Twitter user, there’s nothing worse than seeing that a follower of mine, who may have tweeted a great resource, only has their name and an “egg” (the default avatar on Twitter) for their bio. Taking the time to develop and fill out that bio with not only your name, but your position, passion and interests, makes for a much more interesting and engaging opportunity. You also will be more likely to build a following yourself! No one on Twitter wants to follow an “egg”. Do the same for the other social media spaces you decide to begin to use. Here’s a sample of my Twitter bio.

2. Choose Your Tool and Attend Events

Once you’ve got that great bio developed and prepared, decide which social media spaces are going to serve you best. Many educators use FaceBook exclusively, but there are so many other tools that offer a richer experience. I highly encourage educators new to this idea to try Twitter, Google Plus and Ning sites as they begin to consider their own professional development. These spaces are all great access points for 24/7 learning and sharing. Let’s take a look at them briefly:

Twitter offers the opportunity for resource sharing by following hashtags and participating in chats. You can jump on Twitter, any time, any day and learn something new!

Google Plus has numerous free webinars via Google hangouts that are great ways to participate and learn.

Ning sites are a great point of entry for those that might not be ready for the other two. A Ning is a community that has been set up for the purpose of connecting and collaborating. There are many on the web that can be joined for free and will provide lots of learning opportunities. One of the most popular Ning Communities for educators is Classroom 2.0.

Lastly, be sure to seek out and connect with colleagues that you know that may already be in these spaces and using these tools. As a new user, it will save you a lot of time and frustration!

3. Recommended Practices

As you decide to begin this journey I want to recommend the following:

Find a mentor who has experience with social media and use them as your guide on the side.

Choose a tool, get comfortable with it, practice with it and use it often.

Seek out free on-line professional development opportunities.

Collaborate & share resources that you find with colleagues and encourage them to join you.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help!

As an experienced social media user, I know that taking the time to use these 3 steps as you consider using social media for professional development will be supportive to you in this process. I invite you to check out this slideshare to get a feel for what was presented. I hope that you will find that it can be useful to you in supporting your practice and that you will be excited about discovering new professional development opportunities.

Lisa Dabbs

Lisa Dabbs is an educational consultant and former principal who lives in California. She is a Core Blogger at, founder of New Teacher Chat #ntchat on Twitter and blogs about supporting new teachers at Teaching With Soul.