What is my relationship with social media? Well, if I am about to define my relationship with it, I should probably solidify my personal definition of it first. When I think about social media, the first thoughts that come to mind are Instagram and Facebook. TikTok pops into my mind shortly after, alongside platforms I use less frequently, such as Twitter. For some reason, I put Snapchat and Pinterest in a separate side-category, since I equate Snapchat more closely with messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, or iMessage.
Reading through this week’s articles and browsing a few dictionary definitions definitely broadens my personal definition of social media. Most definitions include words like networking and sharing, as well as terms or phrases that include the sharing of various media, including text. Social media spaces are those that foster digital networks and virtual communities. I suppose, then, that the WhatsApp group I am in with my in-laws is social media after all (which should not be surprising based on the volume of GIFs that comprise this group message).
Expanding my definition of social media also allows me to include some of the valuable tools and platforms I use in and for my classroom. It makes me think about when I was offered my first classroom teaching position – a grade 4 class. As I began setting up my classroom, I spent a considerable amount of time online researching ideas. I came across this Instagram account. I took a lot of Brittany’s ideas and incorporated them into my classroom, some of which I still use today in my grade 7 classroom, a whole decade later. TPT is another platform I use regularly to find resources, among so many other educators around the globe. I could easily list more examples, but I think this does a sufficient job illustrating the role that social media and PLNs (Professional Learning Networks) play in my role as an educator.
EC&I 831 will be a good reminder of the value of social media in creating diverse learning experiences that would be otherwise impossible. I was not especially familiar with the term Professional Learning Network until perusing the articles listed for this week. Before I share my thoughts about them, I just want to note something. I’m a bit of a “PLN wallflower”; I prefer to watch from the sidelines and collect ideas and resources as they spark my interest. I am a lot more comfortable and content to consume information rather than to produce it or share it myself, even if I believe it to be valuable or interesting. I guess that maybe I just think there’s already a lot of… noise in the digital world and I don’t feel the need to make it any louder.
All that said, I absolutely see the value in PLNs. This blog post touches on how they offer so many more ideas for how to remedy teaching challenges that arise, such as students who struggle to read. The limited number of age-alike classes in an individual teacher’s building who could offer suggestions or advice is no longer problematic thanks to professional learning networks. The article also talks about the challenges of individual schools as “echo chambers” which is an important point; PLNs break down these walls, inviting a collection of ideas, diversifying learning and eliminating what might otherwise be a single-lens perspective on a topic.
The EdTechnica article talks about the social learning involved in PLNs and how much more immersive and extensive the learning experience is, discussing how “PLNs can support educators’ affective, cognitive, identity, and social growth”. It also points out the challenges of PLNs, two of which particularly stood out to me: their overwhelming nature and the inability to always assess information for quality and correctness.
If you’ve made it this far, I should perhaps finally answer the actual blog prompt for you. What is my relationship with social media? How has it affected my personal/professional life in positive/negative ways?
I enjoy social media. I use it every day. In my personal life, it helps me connect, unwind, and be creative (shameless plug for my little side gig). In my professional life, it simply makes teaching easier and more authentic, broadening my perspectives and diversifying the content I share with my students.
As for the negative effects of social media, I imagine my thoughts are going to be similar to those of my classmates. Social media can be addictive. And as with anything good in life, moderation is key. This can be a struggle for me, more-so in my personal life than in my profession. We see our students struggle to use social media in moderation, a greater challenge to remedy as they are so deeply immersed in digital culture. Yes, finding and maintaining a healthy balance of social media use is… complicated. Overall, however, if used in a healthy, balanced way, I do believe the good of social media outweighs the bad. I think it certainly can be a bit of a monster if guidelines are not set and followed on an individual basis regarding consumption and production of content, but in terms of what it allows and makes possible for connection and better learning, it isn’t worth abandoning. Maybe it’s like what I keep telling my daughter about the beast in Beauty and the Beast – as much as he looks and acts like a monster, at his core, he’s not really a beast at all.