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Social Media & Teaching English Abroad

I am in the data analysis phase of my dissertation, and one of the best benefits of doing this research is learning about the impact of social media on English language teachers abroad.  To clarify, my research is about the adjustment process of sojourning English language teachers, and I intend to complete my research and to publish my findings in peer-reviewed journals.  However, I wanted to share my enthusiasm of the learning process through social media.  This is part of my attempt to bridge the gap between researchers and practitioners.

Through my research and my job as instructional designer at Kirkwood Community College, I have discovered many practitioners learning more about teaching and learning through social media than through peer-reviewed research journals.  This is completely anecdotal evidence as I am witnessing teachers sharing what they learn through their practice more than teachers sharing what they learn through reading research articles.  It's difficult to share research articles on social media anyway because many of them are not free, so it would be discourteous to share a link that asks teachers (most of whom don't make much money) to pay a great deal of money first before reading an article that may or may not help them.

For my research interest, there aren't  many research articles about the adjustment process of sojourning English language teachers.  However, there are many blogs, YouTube channels and videos, social networking communities, and Tweets (microblog updates from Twitter) that provide evidence of the adjustment process.  Through following a few blogs, YouTube channels, and Tweeps (people on Twitter), I have discovered that English language teachers following their experiences teaching abroad have helped others make decisions about traveling overseas to teach English.

One reason I wanted to do this research is to help American undergraduates and graduates prepare for teaching overseas.  Although there are many books that offer this help, there aren't many research articles that these teachers are getting the help they need to teach overseas.  However there is a growing number of bloggers, YouTubers, and Tweeps that are demonstrating that advice is being given, received, and used both effectively and ineffectively.

I would like to give you some examples from my research but that will have to wait until I complete my dissertation and the university publishes it.  However, I can direct you to some bloggers, YouTubers, and Tweeps that did not participate in my study.  My only relationship with some of them is that I had invited them to participate in my study and they either turned the invitation down or they never replied. 

English Language Teachers in Japan
  • http://thisjapaneselife.org/ - This blogger has a good style of writing and a great sense for social media.  This has been one of my more enjoyable blogs to follow until I got bogged down in my own research.  He no longer teachers in Japan.
  • http://www.thejapanguy.com/ - This blogger is someone I have a great respect for as I have observed him participating with others on their blogs.  His blog has changed since the last time I visited.
  • http://www.youtube.com/user/jlandkev - This YouTuber and Tweep is more active online than most others.  He seems to be well connected with both the Japan and South Korean blogging community, the latter of which he used to belong.  He also seems very good at engaging his audience by answering their questions.
  • http://www.locoinyokohama.com/ - Through my perspective, he seems to be the most famous blogging English language teacher in Japan right now.  He's well connected and he's published a couple of books already about his experiences.
English Language Teachers in South Korea
Because my research project focuses on Japan and South Korea, I have found a lot more connected bloggers there.   I was going to share with you a shorter list of English language teachers sojourning elsewhere, but most of them didn't seem to be as well connected or as disciplined as the bloggers I shared above. 

I excluded a great deal of bloggers from the list above too for a few reasons.  One is that I didn't want this post to be too listy or serve as a blogroll within a post.  I wanted to show the better examples of well-connected bloggers who describe their experiences teaching and/or living abroad.  The second is that many other English language teachers who blog write almost exclusively about how to teach English or about their professional development.  They clearly maintain a professional presence online, so it is difficult to know them apart from their job.  Since I'm still learning more and more about social media and personal learning networks, I am not sure if this is a good strategy for social media.

I'm interested in what others know or feel about social media's role in connecting teachers and sharing cultural and teaching experiences.  How can this online evidence help improve teaching and learning?  And how can this public data work alongside findings from peer-reviewed research studies?

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