Thursday, June 16, 2016

Professional Online Networks (Week 30)

Applied Practice in Context (APC) - Professional Online Networks

Activity 6: 'Using social online networks in teaching and/or professional development'

The debate on whether or not to use technology in education seems as outdated as old technology itself. Educators are now engaged in improving digital tools to effectively cater for student learning.
A study investigating social media use in teaching (Silius et al., 2010) showed that student motivation for social media can enhance study.

Social media platforms have been able to provide personalised learning which is need-based and flexible in time and location. Teachers can use online social network to seek information, share ideas and even contribute to the development of deep knowledge.

In the New Zealand context, the Ministry of Education has introduced an initiative to enhance professional development via online social networking. The Virtual Learning Network is a platform where educators can engage in professional conversations. Melhuish (2013)’s study has suggested that VLN Groups can enable an informal type of professional learning for teachers.

What are some key features of social media that are beneficial for teaching and learning?

We know that the world is changing at an incredible pace for our students and if we want to prepare them for their future, it is important that we, as connected educators also become the connected learners.
As social media have the power to connect educators, I utilize Twitter and some of the # chats, the VLN groups, Google+ communities, Pinterest, TeachMeetNZ (where teachers come together to present virtually and broadcast live through a Google Hangout for the rest of New Zealand and Globally), N4L Pond, Class Blog (as a means of maintaining an effective communication between home and school), Professional Blog, LinkedIn, NZ Teachers (Primary) Facebook page, to make connections with even more incredible educators. I can’t imagine a more creative way to discuss the needs for future focus learning with fellow professionals and cherish the opportunity of having teachers and school leaders working together locally as well as through global networks.  We are able to connect, collaborate and use each other’s knowledge to apply in our schools and classrooms. Being a connected educator allows me to do something with the information I find.  I allow myself time for experimentation, innovation, questioning, mistakes and constant reflection as I am driven to make learning even more rewarding and purposeful for my students, thinking about what is important to them and their learning

As a connected educator/learner, I also want my students to experience this.  Therefore they connect with other classes through KidsedchatNZ and Quadblogging Aotearoa. I have also previously participated with my class in the global classroom project called 'the Travelling Rhinos'. They enjoyed their involvement in such a way that we extended our learning with a class production the next term. My 5 year old students also participated in a 10 sentence story based on a topic with 9 other schools using Google Docs.

As co-organiser of KidsedchatNZ (a twitter chat for NZ schools) and having my five year old students participating through our class account, I have seen first hand the benefits of their involvement, not only as we are able to discuss online behaviour in a safe and positive environment, but I can also see an improvement in their reading and writing skills. It is great to see how students gain confidence and feel good about themselves, which in the end leads to them being actively engaged in their learning. That is what KidsedchatNZ offer to students.

I believe that learner agency can be developed when using social media in the classroom. My students have an ILP on our class wiki and each one have their own ePortfolio. With having these opportunities, students can slowly be introduced (through lots of scaffolding) to be in control of their own learning.

Social media provides us with a range of learning opportunities that would not have been available through any other context.

What social media platform do I feel best supports engagement with my professional development?
My professional development is supported in different ways through all the various social media platforms I belong to. Each one of them have a specific purpose in my learning journey, however the following would be my main 'go to' places:
Twitter: For learning from and sharing with my own Personal Learning Network. I can learn anytime, anywhere. It's like brewing your own personalized PD.
VLN groups: Are the online community I use to connect, share experiences, and learn together with teachers, school leaders, and facilitators.
Google+ communities: This is the platform where best practices can be shared, questions can be answered and valuable information are being shared.
TeachMeetNZ: There is always something new to learn at each and everyone one of these sessions. By just listening to presenters, I realize that there is so much more for me to accomplish... and there are many more ways to assist my students to reflect on and think critically about their learning! I can and have to select [other] technologies and resources that will be effective and address the needs of individual students. My journey is ongoing...


Melhuish, K.(2013). Online social networking and its impact on New Zealand educators’ professional learning. Master Thesis. The University of Waikato. Retrieved on 05 May, 2015 from :The author presents an in-depth investigation into the use of online social media networking in teachers’ professional development

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 on 7th May,2015 from

~ "We don't have a choice on whether we DO social media, the question is how well we DO it." - Erik Qualman ~


  1. There are a few simple reasons why I use social networks in teaching and with kids.

    For teaching it provides a VOICE for everyone. Social media lets everyone have their say and share their ideas. It allows the quiet, introverted teachers to share their ideas.

    Secondly, it provides a real, live audience. It allows you to easily drum up support or get instant feedback to what you are doing.

    Thirdly, It's a great place to get ideas and to keep up to date with what is going on in the educational world. A variety of teachers sharing a variety of ideas and resources.

    For kids, its engaging, it allows the kids to learn about digital citizenship in context, it allows for collaboration and it also provides a real audience for the kids learning. And all this at a touch of a button.

    Social networks are pretty powerful really. It begs the question why so many teachers still have nothing to do with it?

  2. Thank you for your valuable contribution Stephen. I agree with your sentiments wholeheartedly!

    Yes, social media has the power to transform education. It is essential to bring it into the classroom to empower learning. Why?
    1. Students need to be engaged with what they are doing to
    improve learning outcomes – and technology engages them.
    2. It enables students to become thinkers/learners/risk takers
    in a sheltered environment.
    3. Students learn not to rely on the teacher but to be
    accountable themselves and to become independent!
    4. It teaches digital literacy.
    5. Valuable employable skills in a digital world are learnt –
    appropriate online behaviour, good digital citizenship,
    6. It broadens the horizons of many students as it exposes
    them to the world outside their city or town.
    7. It fits in with rural education where students in small
    rural schools need no longer be disadvantaged by distance
    and isolation, as they can learn virtually from experts.
    8. It allows for an ubiquitous learning environment –
    anywhere, anytime, anyhow

    I have seen [first hand] the power of social media in my classroom and how it enhances students' competence. Social media is definitely the 'new language' of communication as it can be used in so many ways (podcasts, flipped learning etc). Thinking of how schools are moving towards using BYOD, one has to realise that social media has become part of our daily life and that it underpins education in every way.

  3. And we meet some people who become friends as well as colleagues. It joins like minds outside the school walls!

    1. Indeed Annemarie! The two of us are a good example of this.

  4. Marnel, Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I thought until now I was a fairly connected person and my classroom reflected this also but after reading your post I see I have an even longer way to go then first thought. What super amazing opportunities you provide for the students in your classroom. Thank you for sharing them as I would like to look some that I am not using and apply them in my practice. As a professional I also use the Virtual Learning Network such a wonderful place to collaborate and problem solve. I find it invaluable. Currently I have my students working collaborating and sharing their learning with a neighbouring school in our area. I think after reading your post I need to go bigger and create a wider audience. Your checklist points above would be so valuable to share in a staff meeting. After looking at them it is hard to believe some teachers will not embrace digital technologies in their teaching and learning practices. It really is a mindset and one that needs to change. Stephen, I couldn't agree more with the points you raised.The question remains "So can we do about this as a profession?"

    1. Thank you for your lovely feedback Shannon! Well done on having your students working in collaboration with a neighbouring school. However I am delighted that my post has helped you to think about extending opportunities for your learners.

      Please feel free to contact me at any time if I can be of help in the future.