The first step to building our students to become Digital Leaders it to look at ourselves and build our own skills. Teachers NEED to get online. You NEED Facebook and Twitter accounts, maybe even Instagram. I am shocked at how many teachers tell me they do not have these accounts. They are afraid of (insert many excuses here), they say the magical word "privacy" and think that makes it ok, or just do not know how. I get it. I understand. Teachers are under a LOT of scrutiny, their social media posts seem to be judged and they worry about not being able to be themselves. They worry about losing their privacy. There is no one who understands this better than me. I am a foster parent and deeply value my privacy for myself and my family. I still believe that you, a teacher, NEED these accounts. You just need to be very purposeful about how you use them.
What TO do: Get a Facebook account, or use your current one. Use privacy settings to determine exactly who can see what. Think of your posts like newsletters (really short quick newsletters that you can add pictures, videos and even emojis to :-D). You might have a FAMILY newsletter that only your family can see, but you still send news and communicate with your students and their families. You speak professionally and write with care online, just like you would in those old newsletters. Follow these directions to help improve the security of your account. Then join groups. I LOVE Facebook groups because they allow me to show my multiple personalities (or different hats) and only talk with certain people about certain things. I can talk to other librarians about professional topics, I am a member of foster parent groups, I am part of local dog groups, for sale groups, I manage our school's Facebook page. Yet, I do it all knowing that because I post with care, I post considering my audience AND directing posts to only certain audiences (like dog questions to the dog group) that I have nothing to fear.
When you are ready, join Instagram and Twitter. Maybe even others! Ask kids and parents where THEY are, and meet them there. Do learn how each of these platforms works. I like Twitter, I do. It is amazing for professional development and finding ideas, for connecting with other professionals. However I also know that there is NO privacy. You are posting for the world to see (that is the idea). So I ONLY use it for professional use, to connect with others professionally. No matter how tempting, I do not even use it for complaining or reviewing businesses when they are awful.
Next: USE these accounts professionally to connect with others. Join Facebook groups for the many many hats you wear. Search for them, they are out there. However, do keep in mind the different levels of privacy (public, closed and secret) in groups. Public groups are just what they sound, you are posting to the world. Tread carefully there. Also keep in mind that the privacy of a group can be changed (and you have no control) so I still encourage you to post with care and professionalism even in secret groups. Find people on Twitter that you want to follow (I am @MalvernMRS), see who they are following and slowly build your PLN.
Most importantly: USE these accounts to model for students digital citizenship. STOP CLASS and explain that you saw or heard something AMAZING and HAVE to share it with the world (or parents). When you have a question your PLN can help with, MODEL and SHOW students how, where and what you are posting and why. Take 60 seconds to think aloud writing and re-writing posts until you get it just right. Explain why you choose words well. Explain how you respectfully disagree with someone. Model how you use the power of likes and emojiis. Model how your language changes based on your audience. I know this sounds like a lot, but if you think about it.....doesn't it take about a MINUTE out of the day? Then think of all you have gained in ONE MINUTE! #KidsDeserveIt
USE these accounts with your class.