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I have learned more by using social media for professional purposes, professional development, than I have learned from most of my professional development trainings from the past years combined. Why? Should this be a concern?  Should this make us rethink how we offer professional development, and drive our attention and awareness of old-fashioned and out of date professional development techniques and offerings to more modern practices? Are employers out of touch with the 21st Century worker’s needs and modes of learning? What does this mean? What should professional development in the 21st Century look like? Is time at work on Twitter or other social media sites seen as waste or seen as professional development…if the employee is using social media for professional purposes?

Employees know what will help them best with life-long learning and with tweaking their skills. The employer doesn’t always know what’s best for the professional development of the employee. Sorry to burst your bubble with this comment. I’m not saying all employers are out of touch with their employees, however many are.

So, why have I learned more in just a few months of doing social media for professional purposes than in five years or so of taking traditional professional development trainings and offerings? Below I have listed the reasons why I think the professional development system is out of touch with the times. I will also address why I think social media is the new professional development and what that could mean.

Why are employers out of touch?

  1. Professional development offerings are offered in brick and mortar locations.
  2. Professional development offerings are designed for employees of brick and mortar employment.
  3. Although brick and mortar employment locations are dominant, these locations have tweaked their operations for the 21st Century.  Professional development offerings however have often not been tweaked to teach employees how to embrace new technologies and ideals.
  4. Many employers have not fully understood how to market and design professional development offerings to embrace new technologies and ideas.
  5. Social media is viewed as bad, and a disruption to the employees work.  The employee is assumed to be using social media for personal purposes on “work” equipment and therefore unproductive.  Social media is the evil that has no place in the “workplace”.
  6. Employees who use their personal Smartphones are viewed as doing personal business at work.

Why have I learned more from social media for professional purposes than I have from traditional professional development offerings?

  1. Twitter has been key to my professional development growth.  I can’t emphasize this enough…if you are not on Twitter for professional purposes, you need to join Twitter.  Take it step by step, learn how to use it and grow.  I have learned enormously from professional connections on Twitter.
  2. I have learned and networked with people who I otherwise would not learn from and network with.  Essentially I have learned enormously from these people and have learned skills and knowledge I otherwise would not have the opportunity to learn. I have networked with people in other fields and occupations.  How often would I network with people in other departments or other fields, other than music or ESL?  The likelihood is small.
  3. Even greater, I have learned from valuable people from all over the world.  I would not have these opportunities for professional development and learning without social media.  Different cultures and experiences bring renewed and refreshed insights to learn from.
  4. I was fairly good with technology before using social media, however by using it for professional reasons I have learned much more about technology.  I have learned more from social media than I ever did from the two computers for teachers courses and other professional development technology offerings I have taken.  Interesting huh?  The reasons I have learned more about technology using social media is because while using social media I am practicing technology skills, and most people who I connect with for learning on social media are technology savvy people.
  5. Social media has allowed me to tweak my professional development towards areas I think are most useful for my career and profession.  I have learned what I think is best for my professional growth and skills, not what someone else has thought is best for me.
  6. Social media has allowed me to learn anywhere and at anytime that is convenient for me.  This is huge, as I am basically able to learn professional development at times and locations I otherwise would not have the opportunity to do so.  I have been able to learn even when sitting in the doctor’s office waiting for appointments using my Smartphone.
  7. Smartphones are not just a phone that I carry with myself to do personal business for my personal life.  Smartphones are essentially portable learning devices just like a laptop, or iPad is.  I use my Smartphone for social media for professional purposes to network and learn “on the go.”  With my Smartphone I have access to a wealth of information that is key and vital to my professional performance and abilities.
  8. By learning and using social media skills, I am able to understand and relate to youth who are just entering the workforce. Keeping up with new skills and trends is important as more and more tech savvy youth enter the workforce.

Employers really need to wake up and change their outdated professional development systems. Course offerings should entail offerings that embrace social media:

  • teaching the skill
  • using the skill
  • teaching the options for social networking sites
  • teaching how to network using the skill
  • teaching how to tweak learning outcomes toward professional goals and interests
  •  teaching how it can be used during the workday
  • teaching new employer policies that actively embrace the technology recognizing its value
  • counting the professional learning an employee does on their own time using social media towards re-certification points, etc.
  • empowering the use of it in multifaceted avenues

(All opinions are my own and are not those of my employer or previous employers.)

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Beth Crumpler is the founder of adaptivelearnin. Beth is an educator who is passionate about platforms for adaptive learning and curriculum design. She earned her B.A. in music education from Southeastern University, M.S. in TESOL from Shenandoah University, and 42 graduate-level credits from several universities in California. Beth is an experienced teacher, curriculum writer, blogger, and elearning course developer in the fields of ESL and music education. She has written learning content for several major educational companies/institutions. Her strongest asset is in using needs analysis and thinking creatively to develop adaptive educational materials both through kinesthetic hands-on and technological platforms to meet the diverse learning needs of students regardless of age, learning need and content area. Beth has taught students of many linguistic, cultural, and socio-economic backgrounds. She loves her work, loves to bring positive humor to it whenever possible, and is seriously dedicated to the profession. Beth's experiences teaching for numerous content areas, diverse populations, and a wide range of age groups is what propelled her with the vision to create adaptivelearnin. Her vision has been to support educators in finding resources which support learning through modified and targeted experiences so that all students receive individualized learning to facilitate their educational growth needs. Adaptivelearnin is a place where educators can find digital and hands-on adaptive learning resources for planning and instructional purposes. Beth does freelance curriculum writing, article writing/blogging, and online course development. For inquires about hiring Beth for work, please email her at Beth@adaptivelearnin.com. Go to http://adaptivelearnin.com/beth-crumpler-publications to check out published articles Beth has written. Opinions are her own and are not those of her employer, or previous employers.

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