Be strategic with your time
Social media gives you a number of different ways to meet great innovative educators, willing to share what they’re doing in their classroom, but it can quickly eat up your valuable free time. Plus it’s just so shiny that you only ever mean to sit down and give it a quick look, then BAM! You rub your aching eyes and it’s ten o’clock on a Sunday night again.
So how do you make the most of social media for professional development without letting it eat your life? Here’s 4 ways to keep social media manageable.
1. Use twitter lists
If you follow everyone who posts something shiny and useful, fairly soon your Following list hits three or four digits. And that can make your twitter stream pretty crowded. Solution: twitter lists!
twitter lets you create and curate lists of accounts, and it’s a great way to keep twitter manageable. Try building lists of folks who share your content area, or who you meet during twitter chats. You can embed the resulting timelines into a team webpage or google site for perusing at leisure.
It’s all about keeping your intake manageable
For instance, we’re big podcast fans, so we pulled together a list for edtech podcasts:
It’s a good way to peruse new episode announcements without committing to subscribing to all of them and getting overwhelmed by a backlog.
2. Set high standards (and a timer)
Social media is a lot like television in that it’s sometimes hard to get a good, high signal-to-noise ratio, and a whole lot of shiny objects can suck you in and make you lose track of time. Valuable, valuable time.
Decide what makes a post, a tweet, a shared Facebook article or a Flipboard magazine worth your while. Are you looking for specifically tailored content? Do you prefer video content to longform writing? Are you looking for participatory things, like twitter chats or webinars, or do you just want to relax and read?
Set some standards for the quality of PD you’re willing to consume on social media, and stick to them.
If a content stream doesn’t measure up? Don’t be afraid to dump it. There are millions of virtual fish in this sea, and a lot of other fishermen for that particular fish. Don’t let poor content (too many ads, clickbait titles, poor writing) steal your time away.
Speaking of which, setting a timer, even a virtual one, at the start of your social media breaks is useful in two ways. One, you can use the stopwatch function to see how much time you’d spend on social media just left to your own devices, and two, once you have a value for One, you can be realistic about what you really want the number to look like.
3. Use a curation system to store articles and ideas for later
It’s a fact: the greater the number of tabs you have open in a browser, the slower the browser will run. Not because it has an effect on the code, but because once you get past a certain number of articles, you’re going to lose track, get distracted and have to quit out of it all anyway once your lunch period ends.
But what to do with all those great ideas that your PLN tweet at you?
There are a number of great tools that can help you save articles for later. Using a bookmarking service like diigo or Pocket or Flipboard means that you can quickly browse the titles of many shiny articles and choose which ones to take a deeper dive with later. With the ability to organize links by theme or tag ones with consistent themes, they’re the next step up from the Bookmark function in your browser, and much easier to keep from devolving into a long, disorganized list of things with incomprehensible titles.
Examples of amazing curated collections:
- This Pinterest board for general edtech articles
- This Flipboard magazine about fish, curated by one of our partner educators at The Cabot School
- This Flipboard magazine about iPad apps for the elementary classroom with “for POTENTIAL review and sharing” — meaning that they’re just ideas seen online that may or may not come to fruition, and may not even warrant going back to.
Which brings us to our last tip.
4. Just log off for a while
It’s going to be okay. Take a deep breath and click on the tiny x button in the top lefthand corner of your screen.
Sometimes being on social media can feel like standing in front of a professional development firehose. There’s just so much good stuff, it can be tempting to sit there, stunned and cobra-like in front of the screen for hours at a time. But that’s the other side of social media: when you come back, it’ll still be here, and there will still be tons of fascinating, intelligent educators to exchange ideas with, and there’ll still be a constant flow of incredible ideas for edtech integration that can help you with your teaching.
But recognize when you need downtime and take it. That bee garden isn’t going to weed itself, you know.