Where To Begin
With all the social media tools out there to choose from, it can be overwhelming to know where to begin. Just when you think you have chosen the one or three that you want to focus on and get the most return from, another pops up to take its place. Take a look at how Google+ is really starting to create a stir and take a shot at the Facebook crowd! Who would think that anything could ever challenge the giant that Facebook has become. It may be difficult to know where to begin, but the value in using the social platform of your your choice for staying current professionally, keeping in touch with parents, community, and students, shouldn't be overlooked.
It doesn't have to be overwhelming though, just relax a bit, take a deep breath and ask yourself who your audience will be. I am not an expert on social networks, but this has seemed to work for me. I jumped into the mix some years ago like many with:
I enjoyed myspace, it allowed for creative control of your profile and the number of bands using the site to promote was amazing. But the audience I was wanting to connect with were friends that I had lost touch of and current friends. I was able to connect with a small number, but not the number that I had anticipated. As Facebook gained traction, I created an account and started exploring, basically my entire graduating class and many more were quickly friends and we all know what has happened to myspace. My point, if one social network is not meeting your needs, don't be afraid to look at others, take advantage of the many choices available.
The Professional Menu
When Looking at this menu, I have tried to focus on what social network is going to connect me to a peer group that will help me grow as a professional and stay current with the rapid change that technology provides. But more important than that, I wanted to be able collect great resources from others that I could then pass along to the teachers, administrators, and other staff members in my district. Sharing is caring, but I wasn't sure what platform was going to best provide what I was looking for, choosing the appetizer when I really needed the main dish took some time and exploring.
My main dish that I was searching for happened to be right under my nose, which is my only plug for a social network that I would recommend everyone spending some time with if you are looking to jump into the game.
I have had a twitter account for some time, but didn't really understand the buzz and was not liking the celebrity attention it was getting, yes I think you are OK Ashton Kutcher, but I am not interested in what you are doing on a daily basis. But I realized one weekend that I could follow the Supercross race real time, since it was not on TV. It brought relevance for me on the personal side and with the encouragement from Nick Sauers and Tracy Watanabe, I jumped in and started following peers on the professional side. I have to say that this has been the one of the best professional decisions I have made in the last year. The vast amount of resources that I have been able to take in and contribute has been amazing. Check it out!
It is difficult to predict the next best thing that will come along and change the way that social networking is valuable to us. Google may be on to the big game changer in my opinion with Circles, their answer to organizing friends, and how you communicate with them. This seems like a logical way for educators to use social networking tools and keep their personal lives separated from professional, which seems to cause some issues at times. Others may have a similar feature, but Circles is very user friendly.
Social networks are part of our culture and here to stay, just ask your students:-). How we participate will be up to to each individual to decide, jump in feet first and give something a try!