Using Social Media for Professional Growth and Collaboration

The issue

For generations, the teaching profession has been one of isolation. Teachers entered their classrooms, closed their doors, and taught. Sure, they may have come out of their rooms to eat lunch in the teachers’ lounge and attend faculty meetings. However, working collaboratively and sharing lesson plans and resources was not something teachers did. They worked in silos, lived on islands.

Recently, a slow shift in mindset about the teaching profession has occurred. Educators realized they are more powerful in numbers. Developing lessons, resources, and assessments collaboratively benefit every child. When you put a group of experts together, the resulting products are of higher quality than when developed alone.

Although collaboration between educators is now a common practice, including the use of Professional Learning Communities (PLC; a formal, regularly scheduled meeting of educators to discuss students and data and for job-embedded professional learning), what about Teachers of Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing students (TODHHs)? Because most deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) children are taught close to their homes, it is common to find a TODHH working alone in a school district. For these teachers, who do they collaborate and develop lessons with, as well as learn from? How are they able to continuously grow? The feeling of teaching on an island perpetuates in deaf education despite the leaps and bounds in professional collaboration made in general education.

What we know

Social media is being used by educators across the globe to connect to one another. It is a 24/7 one-stop-shop for all things education. Teachers share research articles, post links to teacher-created materials, ask questions, co-design, and learn from each other. Hashtags are used to identify the common content, grade level, or specialty areas in which these conversations flow. Facebook is bombarded by education-related groups. There are numerous education Twitter chats happening every week. Educators use Pinterest to save links to resources that can then be viewed and shared with other educators. Social media is a global version of PLCs. No longer is professional learning and collaboration limited to the four walls of a school building.

One platform that has really taken off for deaf education is Twitter. What began as a class project from students at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at the Rochester Institute of Technology, the monthly #DeafEd Twitter chat has been going strong for four years. Each month throughout the school year, a guest host leads a discussion around a particular topic. Examples of previous topics are literacy, identity, language deprivation, STEM instruction, mass incarceration, Deaf leadership, and anti-bias education. The question and answer nature of the chat leads to deep dialogue among the hosts and participants. Chat participants include teachers, interpreters, Deaf professionals, Deaf youth, college students, college professors, parents, and allies. Not only do participants come from across the U.S., but some have also been from Canada, England, Saudi Arabia, and Australia.

The #DeafEd hashtag is being used in tweets by those affiliated with the field who may not have joined a chat. For example, teachers spotlight classroom happenings. Researchers share links to recent articles surrounding various aspects of deaf education. Deaf community members advocate for accessibility. Conference attendees tweet about the impactful information they learn. Parents ask for advice about upcoming IEP meetings. In the past year alone, the #DeafEd hashtag has been used in over 5,000 tweets!

What we don’t know

 Although the use of the hashtag #DeafEd among deaf education professionals has increased, there are still many who do not use Twitter. They have concerns surrounding privacy and information overload. As an alternative, professionals often seek out deaf education Facebook groups where rich discussions happen.

In order to further the reach of the #DeafEd movement into this untapped group of professionals, a new Facebook group was created. In the #DeafEd Slow Chat Facebook group, one question is posed to the group each Sunday. The members are then encouraged to answer the question and to comment on each other’s responses. Rich dialogue happens throughout the week. Although this group is relatively new, there are already over 500 members ready to learn from each other.


There is no evidence that #DeafEd ultimately leads to increased student achievement. However, providing educators with an avenue to network, collaborate, and learn from other like-minded professionals may have a positive influence on the instruction that students receive.

Posted on Oct. 4, 2019 by
Heidi Givens
#DeafEd Twitter and Facebook Chats Administrator
Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing


Further reading