Teacher Social Media – My perceptions of the merits and drawbacks of different platforms.
Ever since I started my teacher training I have been on Twitter. At the time there didn’t seem to be loads of trainees on there, but that seemed to quickly grow and now it seems to be more common for early career teachers to join Twitter. I felt out of my depth for quite a while, but I kept blogging my reflections on my School Direct, PGCE and beyond and soon it became a comfortable platform for me. However, I’m well aware that it’s not that way for everyone and so I want to consider the three main platforms used by teachers, the merits of them and their drawbacks.
There is an absolute gold mine of groups on facebook for teachers of all stages. You name it, you’ll probably find it. To give you an example, in the MFL teaching community we have multiple main groups for all languages, some secondary, some primary. There are groups for middle leaders, GCSE specific groups, language specific groups and groups for individual films or literary texts studied at A level.
Personally, I’m a member of a few but don’t like to engage with them too much. For me Facebook is my personal space and I don’t like the idea of my notifications being full up of work related things. So that’s one drawback.
Another is that whilst the majority of communication is professional, helpful and friendly, some of it is far from it. I think the issue is that with Facebook being a mostly personal platform people can easily forget they’re talking to other teachers in groups where thousands of people can see what they are saying. One look at the comments on a TES article gives you a good idea, I’ll let you check that out for yourself.
Verdict: A treasure trove of great groups, but don’t delve too deep and let it takeover what is usually a private space.
Instagram is a very new one for me, having only joined a few weeks ago. There’s a very positive atmosphere, but I think that’s probably helped by the fact that discussion isn’t that easy and so it would be hard to get annoyed with people! Accounts are very mixed in terms of how teachery their posts are. I myself use it not only for teaching and podcast-related things but also anything that I would like to share publicly like recommending a business because my personal account is totally locked down.
You’re not going to revolutionise your teaching on Instagram, you might find some good looking resources and you’ll definitely get more into stationery. I’ve learned what washi tape is and the best pens to buy! But what Instagram lacks in real teaching development it makes up for in community. Photo challenges set around themes encourage a sense of togetherness in things, something that other platforms can lack.
Something that Instagram is rife with that isn’t so evident on twitter is ‘desperation’ for followers. I’ve been tactically muting recently as my stories were full of people reporting how many followers they have, starting follow loops or giveaways that are geared around getting more followers in the process. Fine if that’s what you’re into, but I’m there for teaching, not to become some kind of influencer.
In terms of balance, it seems to be very skewed towards early career primary teachers with little pockets of secondary or more experienced teachers. It also seems very popular with Australians as well as Americans and Canadians which I’ve found quite interesting.
Verdict: An enjoyable platform, encourages some creativity and a bit of fun. Just learn how to mute stories so you can avoid some of the follower-seeking posts.
As I said at the beginning, I’ve been on Twitter from day one of my teaching career. Whilst it means I am really comfortable with the platform I think it also makes me aware of the pitfalls. Newcomers to twitter could quickly feel out of their depth, especially those in the early stages of their career.
One reason that newcomers could feel alienated is because they might feel as if they are talking to themselves. There is nothing instant about Twitter. You have to build it. The more you interact, retweet, follow and most importantly reply, the better the experience you will get. Knowing the hashtags to use and when can really help. There are loads of chat sessions set up and these might help you to find the people that you can relate to best.
Another issue can be the level of debate and the way this is carried out. It can be hard to put your point across without feeling like you’re going to get into an argument. To an extent though, you need to learn that people aren’t ‘having a go’ at you, they’re probably just trying to discuss something they’re really interested in. You’ll soon learn who the people are to discuss with and who to avoid!
Twitter is great for sharing, with great communities for different subjects, age ranges and contexts. There’s a hashtag for everything and a community behind each one. On the negative side, there will always be someone that doesn’t like what you’ve done. It’s all about knowing who to pay attention to and who to ignore! The block and mute functions are there for good reason!
Verdict: Twitter allows for deeper discussion, sharing of blogs, articles and podcasts. The level of learning on offer is incomparable as far as I’m concerned. However, it comes with a warning to curate your timeline well to keep it the kind of place you want to be spending your time. Also, remember the Twitter bubble – what goes for the majority on Twitter is not always applicable to teachers on the whole!
I hope this article can help anyone trying to navigate the world of teacher social media.