More Teachers Clamoring for Social Media

Survey says educator membership in social media networks has increased by 34 percent since 2009.

There was a time when many of my teacher friends wouldn’t go near Facebook as a professional tool. After hearing stories about colleagues who had misused the social network — some getting reprimanded, even fired, for sharing their, er, less-than-professional sides in posts and comments — many heeded the advice of administrators and simply stayed away. 

Given the possibility of readers misconstruing comments and images, coupled with the relative permanence of the Internet — once out there, statements are nearly impossible to retract — who can blame teachers for staying away? Keeping their distance made sense — at least, professionally.

Now, a new report says changes to social media, including the introduction of teacher-specific applications, are enticing educators to give the medium a second chance in the classroom.

In fact, social media membership among K–12 educators has jumped 34 percent since 2009, from 61 percent to 82 percent, according to the 2012 Survey of K–12 Educators on Social Networking, Online Communities, and Web 2.0 Tools

The results, compiled by research firm MMS Education from the responses of more than 200,000 educators, showed that teachers continue to have “very serious concerns” about privacy and how they are viewed professionally on social media. Of those educators surveyed, 80 percent said they endeavor to separate their personal and professional social networking profiles.

As with the 2009 survey, 85 percent of respondents who are members of at least one social media network use Facebook. But researchers found that the adoption of other social networking sites, such as LinkedIn (14 percent in 2009, 41 percent in 2012), has increased dramatically. 

Respondents also showed interest in using education-specific social media applications, such as Edmodo (27 percent) and edWeb.net (15 percent), although researchers had little existing evidence to gauge how those figures might have increased, compared with the 2009 stats.

So what now makes the use of social networking applications in education worth the risk?

There was consensus across the board that such tools can be useful when connecting with colleagues and family members, identifying new teaching resources and extending personal learning opportunities.

Although a small percentage of educators, including principals (4 percent), teachers (5 percent), and librarians and media specialists (10 percent) plan to join a social network for personal use in the next 12 months, much higher percentages (22 percent, 26 percent and 25 percent, respectively) said they would sign up for a social network specifically for educational use during the same period.

In addition to social media applications, the survey indicated that, compared with 2009, more educators are using Web 2.0 tools, such as wikis, blogs, webinars and document- and photo-sharing tools, although educators claim many of these tools are used more for professional collaboration and sharing than for instruction.

Here’s a list of the top five education-specific web-based applications, broken out by category, as indicated by the survey:

Rank Principals Teachers Librarians
1 Discovery Education Network (25%) Discovery Education Network (37%) Discovery Education Network (49%)
2 Edutopia (25%) BrainPOP Educators (17%) Edutopia (31%)
3 Moodle (24%) SMART Exchange (19%) PBS Teachers (30%)
4 Blackboard (22%) Moodle (19%) Thinkfinity (25%)
5 BrainPOP Educators (17%) Teachers Pay Teachers 18%) BrainPOP Educators (24%)

Where do you stand on the professional use of social media and Web 2.0 applications by educators? Are there enough quality options that justify taking risks in hopes of reaping rewards? Let us know in the Comments section.

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Dec 19 2012

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