One of the pieces of the education discussion right now is about encouraging all teachers to both attain and share media literacy within their classrooms. Many educators out there right now think teaching media skills rested solely with the media specialist in each school. However, this is quickly becoming outdated.  More and more, students interact with data, text, and visual information. Therefore, they need to know how to curate, credit and share.  We cannot limit our teaching of media literacy to the library.

Instead, we must embrace the idea and the strategies that embedding media literacy within the curriculum of each classroom (including the arts) is a best practice for all teachers.  That’s why they are such an important part of the 21st century skills development. And, why the Common Core literacy standards are so robust.

But what about social media literacy for educators?  Isn’t social media a part of media literacy as a whole?  If so, why do we avoid teaching how to use it effectively and better yet, why do educators themselves steer clear of these tools?  Well, many times teachers and administrators are weary of what will happen if someone “finds out” they have a facebook, twitter or pinterest account.  After all, many districts now search those sites to find out if you have a page.  But we must remember that it’s not about whether you have and use social media – it’s HOW you use it that is key.

Be Smart when you Start

I encourage all educators to have a facebook, twitter and pinterest page because each of these valuable resources allows you to expand your perspectives and build relevancy into your classroom.  However, before you go out and sign up for a page, think about how you want to use it.  If it’s for professional purposes, then outline your vision for using them that way and write it down clearly somewhere so that you remember it.  Don’t post pictures of your latest night out with the girls on your Facebook page or Twitter account.  Post pictures of your mad classroom organization skills or your finished portfolio.  And if you want to post those pictures of your night out – get a private, personal page and keep it that way.

Find Good People to Follow

Once you set up your professional social network, start following a few really good people that you enjoy reading.  Then, take a look at who they follow.  Start to follow each of those people and you’ll be linking in to some high-quality, relevant, personalized content that you can use immediately.  Beware, though – don’t start following everyone you see.  You’ll build your network over time, and those “extras” you added will start to clog up the information you really want and need to see.  Take it slow and be intentional – it works.

Keep Your Eye Out

Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest aren’t the only social media resources out there.  I’m really loving right now, as well as Diigo for organizing the articles I read and sharing them with others, as well as finding some great educational resources.  Claco is also a rising start and LinkedIn can be very useful if you’re spreading your wings a bit.  When you find a social media resource, don’t be afraid to explore it.  You just might find it to be a key piece in your social media literacy toolkit.

Engage with your Students

Be careful with this one.  I never recommend friending your students on Facebook or following them on Twitter.  It’s bad form and can lead to issues later on.  However, with that being said, I think it’s critical that we engage our students using the platforms that they are most comfortable and invested in.  My solution has always been to use student-friendly versions of these social media platforms.  For instance, Edmodo is a great alternative to Facebook and  Today’s Meet is very similar to Twitter.  You can leverage the power of social media in a way that is safe and engaging to students.

We can’t bury our heads in the sand when it comes to social media and hope that our students can leave it at the door before they enter our classes.  With the rate of cyberbullying that is happening with students, it’s imperative that we teach them how to use these tools safely and with integrity.  But in order to do that, we must embrace using these tools ourselves, perhaps even alongside our students.  Until then, we’re stuck teaching in a 21st century world using 20th century tactics.