This summer, I enrolled in a course offered by EdTechnology Specialists, entitled Connected Educators:  Harnessing the Power of Social Media for Professional Development, moderated by Shelly Sanchez Terrell.  The course began with a review of "andragogy," the methods and principles used in adult education.  A brief summary of these principles is offered by Knowles[i] who observed that adult learners:

  • Learn best in informal, collaborative and networked learning environments

  • Learn most effectively when directing their own learning

  • Learn through active practice and participation

  • Need to be involved in the planning and evaluation of their instruction

  • Need to have a purpose or reason for learning

  • Prefer problem-based learning

  • Respond to internal rather than external motivation

  • Want guidance, but also to be considered as equal partners in the learning process

[i] Knowles, M. (1975). Self-directed Learning: A Guide for Learners and Teachers. New York: Cambridge Books.


As part of the course, we explored ways in which a personal learning environment (PLE) might be used to support adult learners.  PLEs consist of applications, web tools, platforms and resources of the adult’s choice that help him/her to organize information, co-learn, communicate, collaborate, and create.  Numerous tools are available, one of which is Twitter.  If you have not explored the capacity of Twitter to serve as a PLE, you might want to consider visiting the Education Calendar and attending a Twitter Chat.


Education Calendar

To help manage chat protocols, you may want to use a tools such as "Participate."




While social networks are excellent mechanisms for educators to share information and instructional strategies, ask and answer questions, collaboratively address problems of practice, and create unique approaches or “next” practices, they do require constant attention to privacy concerns and professionalism.  Tips for safely using these sites include:

  • Know what privacy settings are available on each platform and how to use them

  • Schedule regular reviews of your privacy settings

  • Monitor activity logs

  • Join "private" or "by invitation" groups

  • Be aware of your District’s computer use policies.  These policies usually include restrictions on interacting online with students, posting pictures of and/or text about students, and posting information or images that compromise one’s professional reputation.  

  • Avoid geo-tagging your school location as this action makes it easier for students to find teacher posts

  • Never post any type of job-related grievance online.  


The following documents provide additional information:

11 Tips for Protecting Your Privacy on Facebook

10 Social Media Rules for Teachers


Co-learning is a collaborative method for constructing knowledge, engaging in research and creating products.  The method has existed for many years, but access to the internet has created an explosion of opportunities for engaging in productive and meaningful co-learning experiences.  Author, Howard Rheingold has developed a handbook to guide co-learners.[i]  He provides the following tips for strengthening the co-learning process:

  • Provide structured activities to organize the learning, including: clarifying the goals, defining challenges, researching past practices, and identifying what needs to be learned

  • Co-create the curriculum to encourage both individual intellectual pursuits and collaborative reflection

  • Co-facilitate online discussions and sharing tools (e.g. virtual meetings, blogs, wikis, bookmarks, etc.)

  • Introduce “after action reviews” or other mechanisms that allow the group to review progress to date and revise processes and goals

  • Accept that participation may follow the “90/9/1 principle (lurkers/editors/authors),” and that membership and roles may need to be fluid

  • Create forums that allow the co-learners to engage in asynchronous discussions

  • Define roles for co-learners when they engage in synchronous conversations (e.g. searchers, summarizers, curators, etc.)

  • Provide online tools to facilitate the sharing, evaluation and revision of content


Co-learning environments may be found in venues such as virtual presentations, online conferences and MOOCs.  By participating in these types of co-learning activities, educators expand their knowledge of “best” and “next” practices, share their expertise with the field in order to improve educational outcomes for students, identify areas of shared concern and opportunities for growth, and create new instructional approaches based upon shared research and development.

Samples of Virtual Seminars


Simple K12

Webinars for English Teachers Facebook group

Science Webinars

The ELT Calendar

Twitter Webinars


Sample MOOCs:




Stanford Online

Harvard Online

i.  Somerville, MA.: PubDomEd/Pierce Press. Retrieved from



Chris Sessums provides a compelling case for educators to blog.  By gathering articles, instructional tools, research data, resources, and sharing them with others, we help to ensure that all students benefit from our collective efforts.  When we move a step further, and synthesize this information in order to generate new ideas, curriculum, and instructional approaches, we ensure that our profession remains vibrant.  For information about Sessums’ “Four Cs Model,” please click on the diagram below. 

Denise Lutter is a NYS Teacher Center Director, and the Professional Development Coordinator, District Performing Arts Department Curriculum Leader, high school orchestra director, and AP Music Theory teacher for the Bronxville School. She holds a doctorate in music from Columbia University Teachers College, a professional diploma in educational administration from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, and is a National Board Certified Teacher. 


Denise served on the NYS Music Learning Standards Revision Committee, chaired the NYSSMA Manual Viola Committee, and is an active solo, all-state and major organization adjudicator. 


A recipient of two Fulbright-Hays Scholarships, Denise has studied educational systems in India and Egypt, and she received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to attend a J. S. Bach seminar in Germany.  Her interest in global education issues is the impetus for her current inquiry into the development of individual and collective creativity. 

Professional Development that focuses on:

  • Student Outcomes

  • Professional Collaboration

  • Local, State, National and international Best Practices

  • Educational Research​

  • Creativity


T: 914-395-0500


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