I quite like social networking. In fact, I think it’s brilliant for CPD, and I’m not the only one as this great infographic made by @teamtait shows:
However, when you start off cultivating a professional online presence it can be a bit intimidating, and a lot of teachers and schools are concerned about potential fallout from publishing your thoughts online for all to see. However, with a bit of common sense and a few simple steps you can start to build a really powerful and positive digital presence.
Anyway, onto the tips.
1. Professional or Personal? Decide early
Is your Facebook/Twitter account for you and your friends or you as a teacher? If it’s personal, then lock it down. If you don’t know how to lock it down, find out. Here’s a Facebook guide, and here is my video guide to privacy settings:
Twitter is slightly different, but you can still protect your tweets. It’s your responsibility, but if you leave your personal account wide open, then don’t be surprised if people look at it!
Another obvious tip is to control who you’re friends with. The term ‘frolleagues’ refers to workmates who you invite as friends on social networks. If you cross the streams of personal & professional and add your boss on Facebook then post about your planned sick day then you only have yourself to blame. It’s also important to know that your Tweets can be read by anyone, follower or not unless you protect them. This does have the downside of not making your contributions to online discussions like #ukedchat visible to everyone.
If you want a very quick summary about how to behave when using Facebook, then basically don’t do this.
2. Best foot forward
Your professional digital footprint can be immensely useful, but only if you behave in a professional manner. I’m not trying to say that you have to be buttoned up and super serious at all times but remember you’re in a public arena. It’s easy to vent frustrations online in a couple of clicks, but be mindful of how your comments could be interpreted even if they’re meant in a completely different context. To be a powerful, positive presence online, follow Seth Godin’s guidelines:
- Be interested
- Be interesting
- Be positive
- Be generous
3. Consider a ‘faceless account’
If you or your school is nervous about digital identities, try a generic school or department account. Tell your line manager about it and let them have the password. This sort of account is useful for pupils to follow, I’ve seen PE departments use them brilliantly for fixture and team updates. I use our ICT department one to link to relevant ICT news articles for my GCSE students. However, I discourage my pupils from following my @MrAColley teacher account as I use that to discuss teaching & learning with other educators. I usually just explain how boring I would be to follow, that normally does the trick! If not, a quick chat usually persuades them to unfollow
4 Know when you’re mentioned online
Google alerts were designed to monitor the web for interesting new content, but they can also be used to trawl for mentions of your Twitter username or your school.
Social networking can be a tricky ocean to navigate for schools and teachers alike, but if you always present your best side and stay positive, you can have a massive impact on your own professional development and that of others. As an extra bonus, you’re modelling exemplary online behaviour for your students.