Thoughts on: Connected Conferences (or lack thereof)

Reflection, Uncategorized

This post has been in my draft folder for a far too long, and I think it’s about time to sit down and bang it out.

In the last couple of years, I have come to embrace social media as an invaluable tool for my continuing education and participation within the field of ESL (and education in general). I use Twitter every day, although I don’t have a smart phone, so I check it a few times a day instead of getting constant updates. I blog (obviously) about my experiences in the classroom and within my own profession. I subscribe to blogs and websites and read them on an RSS feed daily. These tools have become a part of my daily professional life, and as I venture out into the field and attend in-person professional development opportunities as well, I feel excited to blend the two experiences.

I recently attended the International TESOL Convention and Language Expo in Dallas, as well as a local Minnesota Writing and English Conference in Bloomington, MN. While I wrote about my experiences at these PD events in previous posts, I wanted to write this post about the lack of connectivity via social media present at these events. There were thousands of educators and professionals at the convention in Dallas, and while they had a TV set up in a central area of the convention center, there were probably less than 20 people tweeting about their experiences during the convention. Why was social media present but so under utilized? I understand that many people have yet to embrace Twitter as a legitimate channel for online professional learning, but I was really surprised at the lack of participation and discussion via Twitter at the event.

By the Twitter feed at TESOL.

I have been to a grand total of one international convention and three state-level conferences thus far in my career, and I have noticed a few things about the way social media outlets are utilized by event coordinators and participants:

  1. Participants seem to be situated along a spectrum of social media participation that extends from not connected at all to 100% connected and participating. It seems that conference participants fall at one of those two edges of the spectrum, rarely in the middle.
  2. Not only do larger conferences seem to understand the potential benefits of utilizing social networking sites during such events, but they also use them more effectively.
  3. Different fields have different feelings about using social networking sites for professional development. For example, the first thing a group of web designers discussed while planning a local event was getting a Twitter account up and running. While within the field of ESL (at least in Minnesota), those in charge of events (MinneTESOL) are unconvinced of the benefits (however, there are a few subgroups within the MinneTESOL organization that have embraced Twitter completely).

I guess I’m just unimpressed with the degree to which the field of ESL has embraced this new (sort of) technology. Change takes time, especially in education, I guess.

Thoughts on: Using social media tools to fit your professional development & support networking needs

Reflection, Teacher Support

When exploring the vast pool of online tools and resources, it becomes clear that there are various types of tools available for any purpose. With the purpose of self-directed professional development and language education in mind, there are a few categories of tools that I have come to appreciate. I write this with a novice language teacher in mind, but much of the following information may be applicable to learners and social media as well.

Social media and online tools could be organized by how engaged the user must be with the platform and how the content is experienced by both the user and the support network (learning community). Every social media platform seems to fall along a plane that ranges from totally receptive to totally productive on one axis and collaborative to individual on the other axis. It might look something like this:

social media categories

 

In reality, the classifications of social media tools may not be so simplistic. Each tool has the potential to be used in a variety of ways depending on the context and purpose. Where Twitter seems to be a fairly collaborative and productive tool (users create content and often share from and interact with other users), it could be a more individual, receptive tool if a user simply collected information others shared via Twitter. Information can be transferred, moved around, edited, and conveyed again using Twitter, but each user will engage with the tool in the way that works best for their purposes.

In the coming months, I hope to explore a few different social media tools in relation to my own continuing education and professional development. I hope to share my findings here and ultimately in my MA degree qualifying paper.