Social media is a great tool not only to build up our PLN but to transform learning to increase student engagement and empowerment as well. 21st century learners will not respond if you go on teaching with the traditional methods. Even though you have great teaching skills, you cannot be effective without being relevant to them. Look at the world they live in! It is being driven by technology at an amazing rate as you can see in the animated infographic from Pennystockslab below. Please follow this link to start the animation.


Our students live right in the middle of this tech infused, connected world. Consequently, they want to be actively involved in the learning process by connecting, collaborating and creating.  If we don’t embrace this connected culture and integrate it into our classroom practice, then there will be a big gap between their real-life and in-class practices and they will find the learning experience totally irrelevant. Therefore, more and more teachers are trying to leverage social tools to facilitate learner engagement and to encourage the learning process.

Unfortunately, because many administrators, teachers and parents worry about safety issues, they are against using online social media platforms at school. Even though it is banned at some schools, many students are using these outside of the classroom, anyway. Therefore, online safety is an important issue that has to be taught by integrating digital citizenship resources into our curriculum, including the ones on appropriate use of social media. However, I don’t think the students will be able to internalize them and understand the importance of online presence if they aren’t allowed to practice them by using the social media networks in class.

Some educators think that using social media networks in the classroom causes distraction and cannot be considered as serious learning. I wish they could give it a try and see how the students respond to it.  As long as they are carefully planned, implemented, and supported by systematic PD that empowers the teachers to use social media in a way that is best for student learning, these learning environments –inside and outside the classroom –  offer a window to the real world, enabling each student to express themselves creatively and become actively engaged in their own learning. This way social media becomes a constructive tool to use with students to enhance learning.

The graphic below shows the tools teachers use to be networked and connected. In this first post on using social media in the classroom, I decided to write on blogging with students as it is my favorite one.

SOURCE: Edu Toolkit via Flickr

I love blogging with students as it gives them the opportunity to communicate their learning and their voice to a larger audience. Students are much more engaged and try harder than usual when they are producing work to share with people other than their teachers using mediums and tools they are familiar with. At our year-end polls, many students marked blogging as the activity they enjoyed most during the academic year.

By blogging, students who are not tech savvy become familiar with technology – a skill they will need a lot in the future. Moreover, it helps them understand the importance of a positive online presence. It is also a good way for the introverts to express themselves. As an English teacher, I can say that blogging is a great way for the students to improve their language skills. They can write book reviews, journal entries, answer the questions and respond to the pictures, videos or articles they themselves or their teachers have posted on the blog. They can also reflect on their own and their peers’ work and post their work (videos, glogs, Wordles, etc.) on their blogs. This way, they can receive feedback from people other than their teachers and they love it. Language Arts teachers can use blog posts and comments as an authentic way to teach a variety of literacy conventions and to enforce literacy concepts. It is a great way to make learning happen ‘on the spot’. Make sure to give your students the option of free choice posts together with the classwork-related ones. All this work, not only improves their English but their creativity, critical thinking and collaboration skills as well.

 I don’t mean that blogging is great only for language learning. Students benefit from blogging in different courses in different ways and it should be practiced in all courses. For more info on the benefits of blogging in all courses this post on the benefits of educational blogging by Kathleen Morris will give you a better picture. Teachers blogging with their students should check her website, which is full of great resources and ideas.

Before you start setting up your blog, it is a good idea to examine other teachers’ and students’ blogs and share some of them with your students. Here, you can find 40 examples of class and school blogs. You can also have a look at the blogroll on Larry Ferlazzo’s blog to see his class blogs and visit Mrs. Yollis’ classroom blog where you can find fabulous blogging resources for teachers. This link will take you to 57 wonderful student blogs that you can share with your students. For more ideas, primary teachers can read the post by Linda Yollis on hows-and-whys behind blogging in the primary grades and high school teachers can read this post by Nicholas Provenzano, who thinks giving students the chance to write creatively about any topic is a must in a world where kids are constantly told what to write and when to write it. 5 Reasons Your Students Should Blog by George Couros is a must-read post for all teachers whether they are blogging with their students or not.


  • Set your guidelines and discuss them with your students and your school community before you start blogging. Publish your guidelines on your blog, send home a copy and display them in your classroom.
  • Before they start commenting on each other’s posts, show your students a post written by you following the same guidelines and ask them to comment on your post. Give your students feedback on their comments.
  • Provide your students with as many exemplary student blog posts or blogs as possible. Talk to your students about what makes a good blog post both at the start of the blogging process and in the middle of it. Design a rubric (preferably with your students) for your blog and share it with your students before they start blogging. The example here may help you prepare your rubric. Use the rubric to give feedback to your students but don’t grade it.
  • Blogging is a great platform for students to learn about managing and participating in global learning communities. At my school, we cooperate with the teachers in the tech department to teach our students online tools they can embed into their pages and video creation. We often teach one tool at a time and wait until our students get competent using it before we introduce the next tool.

You may also find this infographic helpful as a visual guide on why and how to blog. It was created by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano who has great resources and ideas on blogging.

SOURCE: Langwitches via Flickr

How do you engage your students through blogs? Please share your stories in the comments section below.


Today, social media offers us endless opportunities to expand our Personal Learning Networks and you don’t have to be at home or in the office to be able to do this. You can find about the newest and best developments in education and stay in tune with the latest trends by using your smartphone when you are at the beach, by the pool or even at the airport while you are waiting for your plane. There are many handy web tools and social media platforms that will help you grow your PLN:

  • TWITTER: I personally think it is the best resource for your PLN. I can say that I have learned more from Twitter than all the conferences I have attended.  Joining Twitter enables you to connect with educators all around the world 24/7. It is a great way to connect, share, discover, discuss, and learn about the latest trends in education. This animation by explania is for complete beginners:


Twitter allows you to make your point only in 140 characters but many people include links to blog posts, articles or resources in their tweets. By following hashtags, you can join live Twitter chats on a variety of education topics. Hashtags are a way to sort tweets by topic. As a beginner, you can start by using the hashtag, #nt2t. Then, you can try other popular hashtags like #edchat.

Some people find Twitter confusing. However, once you start using it, you will see that it isn’t confusing at all. You will soon realize its amazing power in contributing to your PD. The video below explains why all teachers should use Twitter:

You can find almost everything you want to learn about Twitter on Cybrary Man’s Twitter page and The Twitteraholic’s Ultimate Guide to tweets, hashtags, and all things Twitter by Sue Waters. Both of them are great resources for beginners. Teachers and administrators who are already using Twitter can check Twitter as a Professional Development Tool by Teacher’s Tech Lounge.

    • FACEBOOK: Facebook is the social network with the largest number of users, but like many people, I don’t use it for my PLN very often. I mostly use it to connect with my friends. The reason why I post educational articles on Facebook is because I want to share them with my colleagues who are not using Twitter at all or who are not using it actively for PD.  In the video below, Julie Smith explains the different uses of Facebook and Twitter:

If you want to use Facebook for your PLN, you can check out the Facebook in Education page.

  • PINTEREST: There are other popular bookmarking tools like Diigo, but as a “visual” social bookmarking tool, Pinterest is my favorite one. You can group your pins under different virtual boards that you share publicly or keep private for yourself. You can create pinboards to share only with your colleagues, students or parents on Pinterest. You can also browse pinboards created by other people. It is a great way to curate information for people with different learning needs.
  •  GOOGLE PLUS / HANGOUTS: Google+ is the fastest growing new social network which offers some great ways to connect and learn with other educators. Besides following friends and colleagues, you can also follow the educational communities. After creating your profile page, you can group the people you are following in different circles. What I like best about Google+ is the feature that allows you to set up hangouts (free group video chats). Check out The Guide to Keeping up with Google and this cheat sheet to get started.
  • BLOGS: Blogging is another social medium that helped me build up my PLN. I have learned many things by reading the posts on Edutopia, Teachthought, Mindshift, Edudemic, Educational Technology and Mobile Learning and many other blogs. Blogging also enables you to exchange ideas and share opinions with other teachers all around the world and find out about current practices happening in their classrooms, some of which you can adapt and use in your classroom. It is also a good way to reflect on what is happening in your classroom or at your school.
  • WIKIS: wiki is a space on the Web where you can share work and ideas, pictures and links, videos and media — and anything else you can think of. Wikis are collaborative websites enabling all registered users to contribute to the content. You can view and even join some exemplary wikis: Virtual Cafe, Minecraft WikiGenius Hour, UDL Tech Toolkit, Digital ID, ICT Magic.
  • PROFESSIONAL NETWORKING COMMUNITIES FOR EDUCATORS: You can join professional networking communities such as The Educator’s PLN, Classroom 2.0, English Companion Ning, and Edweb to connect with educators all around the world, to join groups and discussions about best practices and problems in education, to share blogs, videos, and  documents. You can also join the webinars these communities offer.

Teachers who want to engage more in personal learning networks to perform and achieve better can check the Teacher Guides by Med Kharbach from Educational Technology and Mobile Learning and The Teacher’s Guides to Technology and Learning by Edudemic. But before reading any of the resources in this post, I recommend you read the blog post on Edutopia Why I am Still Banging My Head Against the Whiteboard by Julie Warren. We are doing the most important job in the world by preparing young minds and hearts for the future. Instead of relying on PD sessions predetermined by others, through the use of social media we can self-direct our PD according to our own unique needs to establish and foster learning environments that will empower all learners. Social media is a great opportunity for us to connect with other educators and experts all around the world to collaborate and learn anywhere, anytime. Please use it!

IMAGE CREDIT: Krissy Venosdale