Social networking is hardly a new phenomenon, but teachers have come a long way in their use of sites like Facebook and Twitter. These forms of communication and collaboration have become so common, it’s easy to forget that even a social networking heavyweight like Twitter only gained popularity in the last three or four years.
Results of a survey conducted by MMS Education show that between 2009 -- when the survey was last conducted -- and 2012, teachers have significantly increased their use of social networking for both personal and professional use. According to a Survey of K-12 Educators on Social Networking, Online Communities, and Web 2.0 Tools 2012, the percentage of educators who replied that they were part of at least one social networking site went up from 61 percent in 2009 to 82 percent in 2012 -- a significant 34 percent gain.
It’s not too surprising that Facebook is still the most popular site, with 85 percent of respondents saying they are members, but educators also favor Google+, Twitter and Pinterest, a surprise write-in. Even more impressively, participation on education-focused sites, some of which didn't exist during the 2009 survey, has increased dramatically. The most popular is Edmodo with 27 percent, but more established sites like edWeb saw significant increases in participation as well.
While teachers understand how important social networking sites are to students' lives, most indicated that they haven’t been able to capitalize on that energy for the purposes of learning. Access to sites is still a huge problem; 47 percent of educators said they felt the rules were too restrictive for their students and even for themselves when at school.
“When educators do find value in an education-based site, they visit frequently,” said Susan Meell, CEO of MMS Education in a webinar explaining the survey results. Many educators reported getting a lot of use out of their interactions on social media sites, especially from free professional development and sharing ideas.