Build Your Personal Learning Network Using Social Media
By NAfME Member Joe Guarr
Take a moment and think about your personal learning network (PLN). How many other educators have you deeply connected with over the course of your career? How widespread was your PLN five years ago? Ten years ago? When you graduated from college?
For younger teachers such as myself, the answer to that first question may have been somewhere in the low teens. Without many years of experience in the field, and ample opportunities to create relationships with colleagues, our PLNs are most likely smaller than those of our veteran colleagues.
This isn’t a serious shortcoming; it’s merely a product of the environment. Developing these meaningful collegial relationships takes time, and our PLNs will grow as our careers develop.
At least, that’s how things used to work.
Join Twitter and Facebook
In the past five years, the explosion of social media tools has allowed teachers young and old to build connections in a manner that was previously not possible. Sites like Twitter and Facebook allow us to tap into a sizeable network of educators, and to learn from their experience without a face-to-face meeting.
Without social media tools, my PLN would most likely be limited at this point to the people I attended college with, my cooperating teacher from student teaching and some of his colleagues, and the small number of music teachers I have worked closely with in the first five years of my teaching career. I certainly consider all of these people to be very valuable resources, and make it a point to chat with them frequently. But, with a PLN that small, there are bound to be some knowledge gaps.
Join a Music Facebook Group
That’s where social media comes in. Thanks to Facebook pages like the Band Directors’ Group, I’m a Choir Director, and Music Teachers, there’s a network of over 30,000 teachers available to speak or share resources with. Twitter chats like #musedchat (Monday nights, 7PM Eastern) or #edchat allow educators a chance to experience highly relevant professional development on a weekly basis, something that may not necessarily be happening in their own buildings.
Follow Twitter Chats
These Twitter chats and Facebook groups offer the best kind of PD: something highly tailored to your subject area and teaching situation, that you can take in from the comfort of your own living room while enjoying a frosty beverage. The fact that you can come and go as needed, share or consume resources as you see fit, while having total autonomy over your PD makes for a very refreshing experience.
As a younger educator, these social media resources have been invaluable for me. Many of the connections I’ve made with other educators have led to great experiences for my students, such as Skype sessions with composers, or musical collaborations with students in other cities. The wealth of experience held by the people involved with these groups also gives me a great deal of confidence.
If I have a question about score study, or field trip permission slips, or working with administrators, I can post it on Facebook or Twitter and receive dozens of responses from varied perspectives in a matter of minutes.
Social media can definitely be intimidating for some teachers, but the educators using each of these tools tend to be very welcoming and encouraging. You can participate at your comfort level, and still glean a great deal of information. Not yet comfortable posting your own resources? That’s fine, save some Facebook posts or favorite some tweets, and start building a library of resources. Looking to share a little bit? You’ll find a very responsive community happy to discuss your ideas and give feedback.
Every music educator can benefit from using these social media tools. New teachers can begin building a PLN that previously would have taken years to develop. Music teachers in small districts who may find themselves as the only member of a department now have an easily accessible resource where one did not previously exist. Veteran teachers can share the knowledge that comes from years of experience, or they can keep themselves fresh by taking in ideas from across the country.
Join the #MusEdChat on Twitter!
What IS #MusEdChat?
#MusEdChat is a weekly chat on Twitter that is centered around discussion of topics significant to music educators. Participants submit topic ideas, vote on the topic each week, and then get together one evening each week to discuss their thoughts on the topic using Twitter. Afterwards, the chat transcripts are recorded and posted so those that weren’t there can read what others said, and so those that were there can catch up on what they may have not noticed.
- Chats will occur on Mondays at 8 pm EST.
- If you have a topic suggestion, fill out the Topic Submission Form to submit your idea
- Each week, a few days before the discussion, a TwtPoll will be started with up to five possible topics for discussion. Whichever topic has the most votes after a few days will be the topic of discussion for that week.
- Topics that are not selected in a given week will be put up for vote again in the following weeks
How Can I Participate?
- Simply log on to your favorite Twitter client at the chat time, and set up a search for #musedchat!
- When the chat starts, all you have to do is post your thoughts/reactions/questions using the hashtag #musedchat!
- If you see a comment from someone else that you find interesting, it is encouraged that you “Re-Tweet” that comment to YOUR followers to extend the conversation!
Join the conversation today on Amplify, an exclusive online community for NAfME’s more than 60,000 members. Connect with educators in your district and around the country.
About the Author:
A graduate of Michigan State University, Joe Guarr is currently in his fifth year teaching in Hartland Consolidated Schools in Hartland, Michigan. Joe is currently finishing up a master’s degree in music education at the University of Michigan, and he is the moderator of #musedchat on Twitter. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @jguarr.
The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) provides a number of forums for the sharing of information and opinion, including blogs and postings on our website, articles and columns in our magazines and journals, and postings to our Amplify member portal. Unless specifically noted, the views expressed in these media do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Association, its officers, or its employees.
Kristen Rencher, April 9, 2015. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)