Why use Google+ and Twitter for Professional Development in Higher Ed?

Last October, I began my journey as the Coordinator of The Center, a new social online learning community, part of @ONE‘s suite of  professional development services designed to support California’s 112 community colleges. It has been an amazing ride! In June, I will be leaving my role as coordinator, but I will remain a contributing community member.

The Center was very much an experiment.  Utilizing social technologies to cultivate a professional development environment for higher education institutions is not exactly commonplace today. Yet, the need for educators to understand how to foster relationships through social tools, create value through collective exchanges, and realize how much more we learn together, as opposed to being individual people, organizations, districts, states, regions, nations, etc. is quickly becoming essential to our shift into the social era.

Fostering relationships through social technologies (which is distinct from using technology — as anyone can learn to use a tool) will continue to define leaders in the future. And in the social era, a leader is not a position. In the social era, everyone is a leader.  And this is one reason why cultivating one’s own professional online presence and developing a professional learning network (PLN) is essential for educators. If we aren’t actively engaging, learning, and sharing to understand how social technologies transform the nature how knowledge is constructed and valued in the 21st century, how are we to model this essential skill to our students?



The primary outcomes of The Centery are to improve sharing and increase innovation across California’s 112 community colleges. The Center attempts to achieve this goal through inviting members to join a Google+ Community and/or follow The Center on Twitter.  Google+ Hangouts on Air are held every two weeks, featuring faculty, staff, and/or administrators from CCCs who volunteer to share innovative practices using technology to improve learning. All Hangouts on Air are archived and shared on @ONE’s YouTube Channel.

Joining The Center’s community or following The Center on Twitter is open to anyone, as is viewing the Hangouts.  Therefore, The Center has the potential to be a global collective, while showcasing innovations from within the CCC’s 112 campuses — aiming to dissove the physical boundaries of campus walls.

A sampling of the Hangout on Air topics have included:

The Center’s Spring Survey Results

This spring, I shared a link to an online survey in The Center’s Google+ community and Tweeted it from The Center’s Twitter account (@Center_Ed).  At the time, we had about 220 members on Google+ and 250 Twitter followers.  50 people responded to the survey. That is about a 22% response rate.

Here is a summary of the some of the findings from the survey:

  • 75% of respondents are employed at a California Community College 
  • 52% are a CCC faculty members
  • More than 3/4 (80%) of respondents strongly agree or agree that The Center improves awarness of innovations occurring on campuses other than their own.
  • More than 3/4 (78%) strongly agree or agree that The Center improves the sharing of ideas across campuses.

The open ended prompt, “Share a specific improvement or benefit that has been an outcome of your experiences” with The Center,” generated some exciting qualitative data.

  • “I started a Google Hangout for a campus club meeting. Planning to use for online office hours, as well.”
  • “I have changed the way I respond to student work (using video) as a result of several hangouts and the resulting discussions.”
  • “Having a topic active for several days has led me to spend enough time thinking about it to feel comfortable trying something new in my classes. Also, having a channel to share how it went with others encourages me to do it and improve upon it.”
  • “With my new awareness of what colleagues at other colleges are doing, I am helping my college to revise our Distance Education policies and training programs. I could go on and on — The Center has had a huge impact on my teaching life!”
  • “I’m so impressed with the use of social media that is displayed. It is a great way to build community among educators.”
  • “I’ve been inspired to do more videos and screencasts with my online classes for more instructor presence.”
  • “I have created a personal faculty web page. I have started using new programs like Haiku Deck and introduced new programs to colleagues.”
  • “Have found the thoughts of other faculty very helpful to my online teaching and my work with our Committee for Online Learning…”

I don’t know about you, but when I read these statements, I get pretty excited. I see evidence of more faculty willing to take risks in their teaching. Today, fostering a culture of experimentation in which pushes college professors into vulnerable places.  A social community built with free tools that offers ideas, support, and reflection opportunities for instructors, staff, and administrators — both part-time and full-time, regardless of one’s physical location — seems like worthy initiative. I look forward to seeing what continues to develop with The Center and am grateful for this opportunity!

Thank you +Micah Orloff for supporting this leap. 

Learn with The Center This Summer

  • The Center’s Hangouts on Air are now on summer break but will reconvene in the fall.
  • Learn more about The Center here, includes links to all Hangout video archives!  Archives are a great way to learn this summer! And the Google+ community and Twitter are always open!

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