Love it or loathe it, social media is here to stay. Many see Facebook, Twitter and others as distractions or just as ways of keeping in touch with their friends. But there’s another side to these platforms, and one that can be highly beneficial to ELT teachers.
So let’s look at the top 3 ways you can improve your teaching through social media.
1. Join local and international teaching groups on Facebook
When you first move to a new city to teach English, you can feel a little lost – especially in big places like Madrid or Barcelona. On top of this, TEFL can be quite a solitary profession, and new teachers can feel isolated. Joining a local TEFL Facebook group can kill a few birds with one stone.
Not only do these groups open up social and job opportunities, but they offer a good space for professional development, too. Alongside job postings and questions about grammar, you’ll also find teacher workshops, lesson planning groups and more.
The Barcelona TEFL Teacher Association, for example, now boasts over 10,000 members and runs regular events and workshops.
With more than 212,000 members, Innovative Teachers of English is an international Facebook group, which also promotes professional development. The community’s mission is to provide a space where “English teachers, can exchange ideas, experience, tips, and materials to help improve our classroom teaching and achieve our professional objectives.” It’s a highly active group, with a wealth of experienced teachers willing to help and mentor others.
Join up to a local group and some international communities and you will soon see your network grow and opportunities for collaboration, mentorship and learning will open up to you.
2. Take part in #hashtag discussions on Twitter
In case you were unsure, Twitter is a social media platform that allows people to share short thoughts, links, images, video and more. All posts are called “tweets” and are limited to a maximum of 142 characters. It’s not a lot of space, but you’d be surprised at how much information you can convey. You can follow and be followed by other people, and see their tweets appear in your feed.
But that’s not all there is to it. There are several regular education conversation groups which run through #hashtags on Twitter. If you’re not sure how it works, hashtags (that’s a ‘#’ followed by a keyword, e.g. #ELTChat) allow you to tag and channel your conversations on the platform. This means that rather than having to navigate endless streams of tweets, by clicking on a hashtag you can see all related tweets grouped together. It also means you can see tweets by people you are not following.
#ELTChat is a popular group which meets every Wednesday at 12pm and 9pm GMT.
Members meet up to discuss topics which are suggested and voted on by other teachers. These topics can be as varied as professional development, teaching methodology, working conditions and equality in the industry. Conversations are always interesting, sometimes contentious, and can become quite lively. They are also always summarised and shared with participants – see it for yourself here: ELTChat.
#ELTchat & other chats prime tools for – ongoing discussions & free CPD -can lead to connections on other platforms & reflection & action
— MarisaConstantinides (@Marisa_C) June 6, 2017
You can also check out Korea ELT Chat (#KELTchat) UK ed chat (#UKedchat). and #k12 chat. While not all entirely TEFL-related, you can find many helpful classroom management techniques and tips, teacher resources, and online tools.
Also be sure to explore hashtags on various specific TEFL topics, such as Content and Language Integrated Learning – #CLIL, Business English Special interest Group – #beSIG and English Language Teaching – #ELT and #TEFL.
Of course, there are many dozens of other related hashtags. While less organised than the ELTchat group, you will find them to be an invaluable help to you on your professional development journey.
3. Reflecting on your progress through blogs and social media
There are many excellent TEFL bloggers out there who use platforms such as Blogger and WordPress to write in-depth reflections on their teaching practice and development. These posts are invaluable resources for teachers both new and experienced alike – and of course, social media then provides the space for us to interact and exchange ideas.
TEFL Reflections from Marek Kiczkowiak and Rob McCaul is a great place to start looking. The two cover a range of different TEFL-related topics, from reflections on teaching listening, to IELTS dos and don’ts, and they even provide some example lesson plans.
Rachel Roberts’ blog, ELT Resourceful, is another interesting source for teachers of all experience levels. As well as sharing resources and reflections, Rachel’s blog features thought-provoking articles, such as this one from Claire Venables, 5 Ways to Celebrate Women in ELT.
Five against one is another regular blog from Adam Beale, an English teacher based in Madrid. His posts cover anything from equality in ELT, a series of learner diaries, and book reviews. It has an active comment section and often sparks debate and reflection.
Chia Suan Chong’s eponymous ELT blog has a more academic focus and is certainly interesting to those heavily involved in CPD, and with a focus on English as a lingua franca.
I highly recommend starting a blog of your own and using Facebook groups and Twitter to interact with other teachers. Not only does writing force you to examine and analyse your own teaching practice, but by sharing your experience you feel more accountable and focused. You can meet some great new people too.
I hope I have convinced you that social media can also be a place for debate, learning and development. There is a huge international TEFL community just waiting to be tapped into. Good luck with your journey, and stop sharing cat videos.