Social media? Bane of my existence? Ray of sunshine?

Faten RomdhaniSocial media? Bane of my existence? Ray of sunshine?

Faten Romdhani

 

To be on the same wavelength, the following definition of social media presents the social media I intend to discuss.

“Social media are Internet-based channels that allow users to opportunistically interact and selectively self-present, either in real-time or asynchronously, with both broad and narrow audiences who derive value from user-generated content and the perception of interaction with others.” (Carr and Hayes, 2015, p50)

Social media were never developed for pedagogical uses. However, they have great potential for improving education. This has been put to the test during the many lockdowns we have been forced to comply with. Teachers, amongst many other professionals, were working from home, whether to plan online sessions with teachers or attend seminars. Connecting, collaborating, brainstorming were possible and proved real. Hence, the many tasks we devised face-to-face were smoothly changed into online activities. Whether we appreciated the experience or not, this is another matter, what we did though, was cope in a more or less perfect way with the changing needs of our professional tasks. The pandemic has proven that our educational landscape needs constant and ongoing adjustment to the developing needs of our current “digital” or “semi-digital” era. At critical times, we feel the digital is only a pseudo one.

Issues for consideration

Taking into consideration the many positive aspects of social media does not exclude the urgent needs we need to tackle with students, teachers and all users of internet. Bolstering both students’ media literacy skills and† critical thinking skills are two of the urgent key themes that need to be dealt with in depth. Other issues such as privacy concerns, identity theft, plagiarism, and more, remain real burdens.

One question to reflect upon is the following: Do you feel adrift in the gripping nature of social media or are you steering toward a more purposeful and principled navigation? This is tough, particularly when you have one social media account with which you connect with colleagues, friends and family at the same time.

Why do you use social media?

While preparing this blog post, I posed a question poll where I asked professionals, mainly teachers to choose one option amongst three alternatives:

The question was: Why do you use social media?

1. Expansion of one’s network

2. Communication

3. Building one’s brand and sharing content

The answers to this poll on LinkedIn are revealing. As a matter of fact, the respondents to this ad hoc poll are mainly interested in expanding their network and growing their professional circle. Digging deeper, communicating with like-minded professionals involves expanding one’s network, and getting inspired by their work.

How do you use social media?

Metaphorically speaking, I compare the experience of social media to that of travelling by the most rapid train. Some passengers are focusing on reading books, articles, magazines, etc. Others listen to their favourite music or watch their favourite movies. Some other users go on a wild goose chase and build castles in the air. And you can be the one of the passengers who is busy with all of these activities.

During this fascinating trip, some professionals are keen on discovering the outer world while other educators are immersed with inward-driven questions.

Social media can enrich your virtual experience

So whether you are an outward-driven or an inward-driven professional or even both, social media could but enrich your virtual experience.

Furthermore, the professional spectrum couldn’t be so appealing and enticing without the presence of active, creative communities. Within these edutopian communities, you meet active and inspiring educators who lift you up. Such dynamic connections and communities make the virtual experience a joyful and interesting one because they push you to think deeper, challenge you and make you creativity-inclined educators.

After all, there are no surefire ways to guarantee effective use of social media. Nevertheless, follow your passion and you will certainly find unexplored lands of creativity to visit. These lands are destined for brave, dedicated educators only.

Social Media and me: A mini guide for teachers

Theodora PapapanagiotouSocial Media and me: A mini guide for teachers

Theodora Papapanagiotou

 

Social Media have always been a part of my life. I remember when I was a teenager; I dreamt of a ďplaceĒ where I would show my life, my work to other people, to communicate. I remember that I used to write letters to people all over the world and I also used to interact with people on Satellite TV, sending pictures, sharing information about my country, and communicating.

We can do everything online

So, the time came, and we can do everything online. We can do research, we can talk with other people, we can study whatever we want. And all this, thanks to the Internet.

Social Media have helped us socialize, but also grow as professionals.† So let me share what I have done all these years to grow personally and professionally through social media:

Facebook

Although young people say this is a platform for ďold peopleĒ, you can still do a lot of things using it. You can be a member of groups with people who have the same job, the same interests, and the same problems. Through Facebook I got in touch with so many wonderful teachers, I discovered iTDi, and took wonderful courses. I met Shelly Terrell and took part in her amazing 30 Goals project, and got a mention in her book. I have taken part in ELT talks, and even wrote a chapter in Rob Howardís book. I took part in so many webinars and conventions both as a learner and as a speaker. I even found a job, because I had a strong presence on this platform, and so much more. Facebook is also a wonderful tool for us as teachers individually. You can create groups for students or parents and make it easier to interact with them. In pandemic times, Facebook messenger and rooms is a valuable tool for classes as well and is comparable to Skype or Zoom or other teaching platforms.

Instagram

Yes, this is a platform for pictures. But, you can totally use it for work as well. Take the opportunity to promote yourself and your work thought this platform. ďStoriesĒ are a wonderful tool for little tips and announcements about classes, exams, and even teaching vocabulary and grammar. If you have a blog or a website, you can link your posts and let people know your work. Younger people prefer short texts and more images, and why not? Using Instagram could bring you more students, or at least better communication with them. Instagram Chat is also a communication platform you can use to teach, since a lot of people donít use other platforms.

Tik Tok

Tik Tok? Yes, I am serious about it! I am pretty new at this, but I see a lot of my students spending hours and hours trying out new challenges. Do we adults have a place in this? Yes, we do. Tik Tok is all about videos and images. So why not create a mini channel with learning tips? Or explaining new words? Talk about exams, talk about fun facts of the language or the subject you teach! I am sure that a lot of students will find that interesting enough to contact you.

Using social media takes a lot of time. Content creating and being consistent is not always easy. ButÖ I believe that you can benefit a lot if you give it a try.

 

Two Types of Social Media for Teachers to Grow

Aziz SoubaiTwo Types of Social Media for Teachers to Grow

Aziz Soubai

 

Social media has now become extremely important in the life of every individual, and especially teachers, educators, and supervisors. It is a source of entertainment, learning, and connecting with people worldwide. In this post you may be a little surprised or even shocked when you see my favourite social media platforms and how I use them in my personal and professional life. Iím going to focus on two main platforms; one is full of distractions and can even lead to a serious addiction if not properly managed, while the other is quiet and purely professional.

Making the most of Facebook

I joined Facebook exactly on 15th November, 2012. Back then I was lost in the sea of different types of information that made up my Facebook feed at the time, which was mostly unrelated to what I did as a teacher or a language learner. I was trying to find a way to get out of the mess. My vision was blurred and I wasted a lot of time and energy on subjects and topics of zero quality and no benefit whatsoever. That was when I decided to create another account where I would only add people related to education and teaching foreign languages, especially English. I followed various ELT pages and joined closed and open groups like the iTDi page, Arizona State University, and Coursera mentors. After I did all that, my feed became a little cleaner and clearer; I now see only the things Iím interested in.

Improving your academic visibility

The next step was to find a way to increase my academic visibility and online presence, and I can say that Facebook is perfect for that purpose. The way to achieve this goal is quite simple. First of all, as a teacher and an educator I try to select and share what I do with my friends. I love writing, it is a huge passion of mine. So, most of the time I share my thoughts, articles, and poetry with my Facebook audience and followers. I also mainly focus on sharing what is related to my classroom practice. For example, after publishing an e-book on how to use grammar games for better language instruction, I received many comments, reactions and support from English teachers.

The second step to improve your academic visibility is to post what you do in your professional life as a teacher. Give reports on the different conferences you attend or the workshops and presentations you conduct. Documenting your experience on social media is of huge importance in our context. You can post pictures, share information about the event, links and your personal takeaways. Iím a huge fan of online learning and I think it is a great idea to let your online audience and friends know about the training or online learning experience youíve gone through by sharing your achievements, digital certificates or badges. This is not done out of intellectual snobbery or in order to show off, but rather to grow as a language teacher and have a nice online presence. In fact, sometimes institutions and organizations may ask individuals to provide their Facebook account information to see their activity for potential job offers or scholarships.

Zero distractions on Edmodo

The other social media platform I want to talk about is truly amazing. It hosts teachers, administrative staff, and parents from around the world and lets you connect with your students by creating classes and groups entirely protected by codes. Iím talking about Edmodo. This platform allows you to do practically anything you want as a teacher. You can easily create free classes and invite students to join by a special code or through their emails. You can differentiate instruction by further creating smaller groups, which can be useful for learners who have particular language problems. Another amazing feature is called ďbadgesĒ. The purpose of badges is to motivate students and make them use the system more frequently. Additionally, there is a possibility to connect and collaborate with teachers from other schools either locally or internationally.

Edmodo offers three types of accounts: for teachers, educators, supervisors, and administrators; for students and learners in general; and for parents. As it is a professional social network, there are zero distractions on Edmodo, so you can work at your own pace. You can join various professional development groups, but even then you wonít receive as many unnecessary notifications as on other platforms. In those groups, you can ask questions, offer suggestions or tips, and be sure you will receive helpful comments and answers from your online colleagues.

Considerations when choosing social media

Time is precious and social media may be consuming a lot of our time. It is crucial to select the type of social media you want to use in your own personal and professional life. It is also essential to see what is the added value or impact of this tool on you as a teacher. Does it make you grow? What do you learn from it? Do you have a particular professional learning network? If you reflect on these questions and make them guide you in your choices, you will absolutely spend less time online and use the tools that work for you, not against you.

 

Adventures in Podcasting

Timothy HampsonAdventures in Podcasting

Timothy Hampson

 

I decided to start my podcast, ELT WTF (the WTF, naturally, stands for ĎWhat Tim Feelsí) while listening to the TEFLology podcast. In the past I had blogged, but I was never sure that I had much of interest to say. On the other hand, I am always full of questions that I want to ask people. Starting an interview-based podcast was a solution to both those problems; I wouldnít have to come up with things to say each week, just a list of questions. Besides, the TEFLology crew seemed to be having a good time and their episodes were really interesting. I wanted to be having similar conversations.

Getting started

I had the idea to start a podcast at around eight pm one evening and by nine I had ordered an all in one recorder and sent some emails asking people to be guests on the show. One reason for starting the pod was wanting an opportunity (or perhaps an excuse) to have more conversations about English language teaching. Another was a desire to scratch that creative itch that many teachers have. I was also interested in having a chance to give a platform to people and causes I believe in.

One thing that is certain is that podcasting can open doors. I canít imagine emailing someone to say ďHi this is Tim Hampson, a teacher without much experience. Fancy a chat about teaching?Ē However, an email asking someone to appear on a podcast is certainly doable. I feel really lucky to have been able to talk to, and even meet, some of my TEFL heroes and even more lucky to get to ask them exactly the questions I wanted to without having to share their attention with anyone else.

My favourite podcasts so far are ones where Iíve honed in on a specific topic rather than having a broad chat. When I interviewed Reiko Yoshihara, it was after seeing her speak about feminist language teaching at a conference. After her sessions I had a list of questions I wanted to ask her but didnít get the chance. I also thought what she was talking about was something more people should hear about. I was really proud of how the interview turned out because I think that shared interest came across.

Investing in equipment

Itís a little clichť to say ĎYou donít need a lot of equipment to start outí, but itís a clichť for a reason. Itís totally possible to start out recording everything on a mobile phone. If youíre interviewing someone by Skype, you can both wear headphones and both record your respective sides of the conversation on your phones. When you start out podcasting, you will most likely be annoyed with yourself when you listen back to your tape and hear yourself going Ďmmmm hmmmmí in agreement with everything your guest says. This two phones and Skype setup makes it really easy to edit out all those extra noises. Given how many podcasters Skype and only record on their side, this will already result in better audio than 75% of whatís on the market.

If youíre anything like me though, youíll want to splash a little cash on your set up. The good news is that, compared to videography or photography, a little cash goes a long way when youíre shopping for audio equipment. My first recorder was a Zoom h2n. This set me back about a hundred US dollars. This isnít peanuts, but compared to the cost of a Ďdecentí camera, itís a steal. More recently Iíve upgraded to a Zoom H5 recorder with a Rode NH4 microphone which cost around $400 in total. Once again, not cheap, but I think the audio quality is so good to professional podcasting equipment that only the snootiest of audiophiles would be able to tell the difference.

Organizing your podcast

My process for producing a podcast is based around seasons. In the past Iíve been very ambitious about seasons and wanted each one to be seven episodes long. The two that Iíve done so far have ended after the fifth episode and so I think this is maybe a more managable amount. Seasons work for me because I can record a bunch of episodes back to back and then edit them in batches too. Iíll start a season by making a list of people Iím interested in interviewing and then sending out emails to everyone. I always carry a notebook with me and so Iíll write down questions as they come to me in the time before the interview. The night before Iíll usually write down a condensed version of the list and try and put them in an order that makes sense. I always start off the interview by going through a checklist of things I tell every interviewee (ďTake as much time to think as youíd like, Iíll just edit it out.Ē, ďIf you donít like a question, itís no problem to skip it.Ē and so on). I try and warm up the guest with some more general questions to get them comfortable and then take a deeper dive into a specific area.

My experience has been that itís better to pick one or two themes to go into in depth rather than try and talk about everything. When going through your interview questions, you might find a segue that breaks up the order of questions you have. I think itís always a good idea to take that segue and for that reason Iíll tick off questions as I ask them. This gives a nice visual guide to whatís left to go into in the interview. I often find that follow up questions that come up in the interview are often more interesting than the questions you had written down. Feel free to go off piste if you want to change your questions mid-interview.

Editing your audio

The last part of the process is the edit. This is my favourite part, not because the process is fun, but because a good edit can make even the most ineloquent host (i.e. me) sound professional, More importantly itís the part where you get to make your guests sound great! There will probably be a lot of Ďummsí and Ďahhsí and other noises that you donít want in your recording. You may also find yourself wanting to edit your podcast for brevity and clarity. The good news is that modern editing software makes this process very easy and relatively quick. Editing audio isnít that much more complicated than using word processing software, but good editing, like good writing,is a skill that takes a bit of time to hone. One of my first interviewees told me that Iíd edited out so many of his pauses that he sounded like he had taken speed, so donít try and over edit and youíll be doing better than me.

Podcasting as a professional development tool

I hope that this article has convinced you that not only can podcasting be a great tool for professional development for teachers, but that it can be an easy and fun way to produce great content for other teachers in the community. Imagine a world where there were hundreds of great podcasts about language teaching. Having that much access to teachers having intelligent conversations about teaching would be a huge boon to the profession. It would allow good ideas to spread and for teachers to have debates important issues. Iíd also hope it would allow for a more diverse group of teachers to have a voice.