Social networking is becoming a buzz phrase for many teachers. After being warned about the dangers of Facebook, Twitter and online forums, we are now exploring the use of social networking as a professional development tool in the never-ending quest to raise standards.
Although videoconferencing can help to widen your professional circle, not all networking has to be online. Social networking sites are effective for developing initial contacts, but these can be deepened by face-to-face informal conferences such as Teachmeets or Show and Tell events.
So how do you maximise the impact of networking?
- Set up a profile, develop an awareness of other people's areas of experience and follow those with similar interests to yours. Social bookmarking sites such as Diigo are also invaluable for finding teachers with similar areas of interest and for sharing ideas and resources.
- Connect with teachers who have classes in the same age range as yours to exchange schemes of work and resources.
- Whether you are trying to get to grips with new specifications or have just started teaching a new course, networking will provide a wider range of strategies and resources.
- A good knowledge of the type of schools represented by the teachers in your network will make it easier to exchange strategies to support or engage different groups of pupils. For instance, if your school has a high percentage of pupils who speak English as an additional language (EAL), you may be able to help colleagues in schools where they are in a minority.
- Be flexible: some people still prefer email, so joining a Yahoo! group such as MFL Resources may feel less daunting to them than using Twitter. A site such as Dropbox allows you to share resources by saving them to a common folder.
- Go to national language events and join your subject association. Conferences such as ICT and Languages or Language World, organised by the Association for Language Learning are great for networking on a larger scale.
Once you have a good network and lots of tried-and-tested strategies and resources for your classes, you then have to prioritise what will be most effective in helping you to raise standards. All languages departments will have priorities highlighted in their yearly development plan, such as improving languages uptake at key stage 4 or developing Assessment for Learning. Using blogs, wikis or even Facebook can be an excellent way to encourage departments to showcase the work done to address these priorities and share good practice.
At a time when many language teachers are feeling isolated, networking is likely to have a strong impact in the classroom. Let's connect and share .
Isabelle Jones is head of languages at The Radclyffe School in Oldham and teaches French and Spanish. She blogs at http:isabellejones.blogspot.com
Start social networking with Teachmeet or Show and Tell events on Diigo. Visit www.diigo.com
In the forums
Visit the TES forums, where hundreds of MFL teachers are offering advice and support. This week, teachers debate AQA's alternative to the GCSE, currently in draft specification format.
Find all links and resources at www.tes.co.ukresources025.