Social Media Series: LinkedIn

To Link In, or not to Link In? It's one question among educators when it comes to investing time in social media for professional development. While not typically considered among the top social sites for teachers, LinkedIn is not without its merits. The career-oriented service can be useful if you're looking to build your teacher portfolio or join a professional group. Most importantly, LinkedIn has become an invaluable tool for job-hunters. According to a 2016 recruitment survey, up to "60 percent of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates," and other figures suggest that over 90% of recruiters use LinkedIn for this purpose. Whether or not you're looking to switch schools or professions, learning to navigate the platform will help you teach your students how to use it in their future job hunts.

The case against LinkedIn

(Yes, this an article on how to use LinkedIn for professional development--but the reality is that the platform's general reception in the education community is lukewarm.)  For the past few years, there's been a general consensus among educators that LinkedIn isn't "for them." For a generation of teachers that is typically more receptive to tech and social media, forums and articles are surprisingly filled with a lot of negative feedback about LinkedIn. Some find it cold and corporate, while others suggested that the "who you know" aspect is frowned upon in public education--that your merits, not your mates, should speak for your professional abilities. "As a teacher I did not really think that I should get caught up in this sort of net. Education is getting pseudo-corporate enough without school teachers 'networking' and writing 'self-profiles.'" said teacher Stephen Petty in an article in Tes.

Educator and BU Doctoral Fellow Walter Fernando Balser explored this pseudo-corporate culture and it's impact on the field of teaching in "What LinkedIn Taught Me About Being ‘Just A Teacher’." The piece addresses "a new LinkedIn culture obsessed with trendy titles, reform-focused hyperbole, and “transformative” practice—not in schools but preferably in the private sector." In trying to describe his skills and experience on the platform, Balser found that words like "'Strategic,' 'Consulting,' 'Directing,' 'Diversity,” and 'Engaging' are in," while "'Counseling,' 'Classroom,' 'Students,' and just plain 'Teaching' are out."

Building your portfolio, presence, and PLN

All that being said, there are ways that many teachers use LinkedIn to keep track of their professional achievements and share news with their network. In addition to uploading your resume, you can list your strongest skills and ask others for recommendations and endorsements. Much like digital badging, these endorsements offer a way to 'show evidence' of your skillset (and speaking of badges, LinkedIn is a great place to display badges you've earned).

Work on building your PLN by "linking" with your colleagues, and exploring potential connections. Join groups and conversations relevant to your professional interests. For a list of education-focused groups, check out The 6 Best LinkedIn Groups for Teachers from STEM Jobs.

If nothing else, having a LinkedIn profile is an easy way to establish your web presence. This way, when that new acquaintance you've made at a local conference looks up "Your Name, Your Town, Your School," they'll be more likely to stumble across your LinkedIn page than an outdated article from your local newspaper, or an old blog you started but have since forgotten.

Teaching tech

Regardless of whether or not LinkedIn helps you meet your personal professional development goals, it's important to understand the platform for your students' sake. In addition to acting as a hub for potential hires, the site also released a LinkedIn Students App to help college graduates "discover jobs that are a best fit for graduates with their major, companies that tend to hire from their school and the careers paths of recent alumni with similar degrees." And LinkedIn is becoming important for an increasingly younger audience. The site provides tools for high school students to build their profiles, and it's likely that digital portfolios and resumes will be accepted, if not required, in the future for college applicants. Check out "The New High School Essentials: LinkedIn, a Resumé, and a Digital Portfolio" for a look into how LinkedIn is influencing the way secondary education students are showcasing their skills and experiences.

With rapid tech growth, there are always going to be more tools available to us than we'll ever have time to test or implement. Regardless of your PD preferences, LinkedIn is here to stay--and it will likely play a critical role in your students' future job hunts. Whether you hate it or embrace it, there are ways to make it work for b0th you and your students.

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