Friday, May 20, 2016

It's a Small World After All: Functional Social Media

The evolution of social media as seen through the lens of an educator can be charted by the trends of student use. MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, GroupMe, and SnapChat all have found traction over the years with the developmentally social teen set. Navigating and understanding the purposes and possibilities of different social media tools is crucial to administrators and educators today, not only to understand and connect with students, but also to connect with community, families, and other educators around the world.
As I communicate and share within my school district, I utilize different social media tools for different purposes. Twitter is my professional learning network, PLN. It is a place where I can search for great ideas through my follows and also connect with others in Twitter chats. I also use Twitter as a spotlight tool for my teachers and campuses. It is a quick way to give "shout-outs" and to bring attention to the great work that is going on in BISD classrooms.
Facebook is my personal life social media tool. My grandmother in northwest Missouri is on Facebook as are all my far-flung cousins. I post weekly photos of my children and try to keep family informed. When I started my position, I began to get FB friend requests from the teachers on the campuses I was assigned. I have to admit that I was a little surprised by this, just because I have compartmentalized my social media use and Facebook really is not something I use professionally at all. But then I thought about how not accepting the requests could affect the relationships that I was trying to build with the four different campuses. Would it hurt their feelings if I didn't accept? Since I only have one day a week with these people, getting to know them personally was a challenge. I decided that accepting the requests and connecting with all of these teachers on a personal level would actually help me get to know them faster than I would ever be able to do without Facebook.
As I head into the final days of my first school year as a digital learning specialist, I am very grateful that I decided to let these new friends into my personal life through the window of Facebook. I enjoy the baby gender reveals, the graduation photos, the recipes, and the which-puppy-should-I-get posts from all of my new Facebook friends. I can "like" posts and also have a little more insight into the personalities and lives of these people that I have the great fortune to serve. It has helped me get past the "district outsider" role and into a more "campus-based" role, which is essential to get teachers to not only understand how I can support them but also to trust me. It also provides conversation starters when I do get to meet with them face to face. "Wow, that was some awful hail damage!" or "Your daughter's prom dress was lovely."
So, as the digital nature of my position would suggest, I have learned how to embrace social media this year for different purposes that support the work I do with teachers and campuses. The benefits of immediate connection with followers and/or friends helps me communicate, collaborate, and celebrate in ways that are not possible in face to face interactions. Social media has helped me reach and connect with more teachers than I can physically meet with being split among four different campuses. These connections, more often than not, show common ground, common friends, and common experiences that make me realize that it really is "a small world after all."