Looking for a creative way to teach fractions or introduce new ideas that can make learning fun and engaging for your students?
Teachers on social media can offer an unlimited wealth of resources for every age level and subject. Not only can you find amazing ideas to implement in your own career in education, but you can also make lasting friendships, expand your network, and focus on your professional development.
Many teachers say that it was connecting with others on social media that made them “fall back in love” with teaching – long after the initial energy and excitement had worn off. This is particularly important, as it helps teachers to maintain a sense of purpose, clarity and passion for a career that can easily become exhausting in times of frustration.
Whether you’re looking to enhance your lessons or find emotional support, this guide explains how teachers new to social media can grow their following to make the most of this powerful tool.
Where to start?
With so many social media platforms at our fingertips, it may be difficult to know which one(s) to choose. The basic premise of all social media sites is to post, view and share content while interacting with other users.
Although their purposes may be similar, most teachers find these popular social media sites to be best suited for the following uses:
Instagram – post pictures and short clips of your classroom ideas, while browsing specific content via hashtags and following others who share your interests.
Facebook – engage in dialogue with other teachers and parents by joining Facebook groups and sharing content – such as articles, videos and pictures.
Twitter – Stay up-to-date on the latest trends and ideas in education by browsing and posting brief snippets of inspiration or information with others. Many teachers use Twitter to discuss new pedagogies and teaching ideas, and share resources they’ve used in their own classrooms.
Top Social Media Tips for Teachers
1. Set up a profile and introduce yourself
First, set up a profile on the platforms you’re using – Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Most teachers seem to use their real names, but you can make your account private, so that students can’t find you.
On Twitter, you’ll be asked to select areas of interest: choose education, schools and anything else that takes your fancy. Add your interests to the “About You” section, so that people with similar interests can follow you, and you can build mutually beneficial professional relationships. (This goes for Facebook and Instagram as well.)
Adding a profile photo will also help others know you’re a real person and strengthen credibility and trust around anything you post.
2. Start following/connecting with others
To start populating your feed (whether it be Twitter or Instagram), you’ll need to find relevant educators to follow. There are a few ways of doing this, but ultimately you’ll learn who’s worth the effort as you go along.
One common tactic for people new to Twitter is to follow everyone to begin with, then narrow it down later. Twitter will then recognise the types of people you engage with and refine its recommendations.
However, this isn’t always the best way. A lot of people fall into the trap of thinking it’s ‘polite’ to follow back, but this is also a sure fire way to get a bloated network full of people you’re not really talking to.
Luckily, there are some ways you can sort the wheat from the chaff:
- First, take a look at their profile. Is it completed to the full? Do you have interests in common? What do they talk about, and are they interacting?
If you’re both MFL teachers looking to exchange ideas for instance, then bingo – you’re onto a winner. Or maybe they’re regularly sharing links or ideas, and there are plenty of @replies showing they’re engaged with their network. This also indicates that they’re likely to be a good person to follow.
- Lists and directories can be a great source of potential people to follow – you can start with this great EduTwitter one for Twitter. But be selective. Do your usual checks or you risk bloating your follow list with people who aren’t relevant or engaging.
- Follow people your followers follow. The people who share the best links are most engaging on Twitter tend to be following a lot of equally excellent tweeters that might make a valuable addition to your network.
- Ask for recommendations. Teachers on Twitter and Instagram are a friendly bunch who will only be too happy to help out. If you’re interested in a specific type of person make it clear.
- Search for hashtags. As you’ll see down below, hashtags that are of interest to you will be able to open your eyes to lots of experienced educators who are active in that area and may be worth following.
3. Find & share resources
Whatever resource you are about to make, stop – open Twitter and explore what is already available. Chances are that another teacher will have created something that is perfect for you, and is using strategies you’ve never thought of.
Upload related content such as videos, links to your favourite articles, photos, or your own custom images created on Adobe or PowerPoint. When posting pictures, keep in mind that privacy laws prohibit teachers from uploading students’ pictures without written approval from parents or guardians. To be safe, avoid using pictures in which students are present or easily recognised.
4. Use and follow hashtags
Twitter and Instagram have a widely used hashtag network that can be used to browse and share all manner of content. For example, each different teaching subject will have its own hashtag, as well as various underlying themes such as #homelearning, #nqt, #teachershelpingteachers and so on.
Some of the most common hashtags used to discuss educational topics on Twitter include #educhat, #edutwitter and #edutweet. When sharing a thought or helpful resource, make sure you always use a handful of relevant hashtags – but don’t overdo it! Two or three is sufficient.
5. Join communities relevant to your expertise & interests
There is some incredibly useful research being carried out in education, many of which can be discovered by joining various groups and communities on social media.
Twitter is full of supportive teacher communities, many of which will be run by a specific person or group and indicated with a hashtag. They will usually hold regular weekly discussions at the same time on a set weekday, so don’t be afraid to ask. By getting involved in community discussions relevant to your interests and expertise, you’ll likely help others, make friends and strengthen your own knowledge and understanding too.
Instagram actually gives you the option to follow specific hashtags so that their content always shows up in your main feed. Be sure to follow academic ones relevant to your subject, but don’t forget the fun ones too!
For Facebook, it can be really helpful to join closed teacher groups, where you can engage with others and share tips and resources. Some groups are more social and light-hearted, whilst others are more learning and teaching based.
Related: 20+ of the Best Online Teacher Communities
6. Take part in discussions
Teachers of all ages and nationalities come together on Twitter and they are excited about the profession, their subjects and the students they teach. Many teachers find that when they choose to associate themselves with these types of people, they end up becoming one!
Of course, being a part of a community is one thing, but those communities will only thrive if everybody is proactive. Get involved with discussions on hashtags and don’t be afraid to share your own points of view.
Twitter in particular is vibrant hub of diverse voices, each with their own perspectives and unique experiences. Honesty and genuineness is what’s respected – so don’t think twice about sharing your blunders and mistakes, as well as your achievements and wins. People are also more likely to follow you if they can see that you’re a conversationalist that they’re likely to have some quality interaction with, and you’ll enjoy Twitter a lot more that way too!
Ask questions – be curious and genuinely interested in what other people have to say. And if you see a teacher asking for help on a subject you’re knowledgeable in, taking the time to respond will really go a long way.
7. TELL people you’re on social media!
Share your social media handles and profiles with anybody who will listen! Shout it from the rooftops – put it on your email footer, on your business cards, on your blog, tattoo it on your forehead…
Whatever it takes, just let people know you’re posting and ask them to connect with you.