Recently I had the opportunity to have dinner with high school science teachers from our college's district. Our department hosted what we call a Science Dinner, which was an open house and a meal after the teachers had a chance to visit labs in the department.
During dinner, the conversation drifted from one topic to the next, including how schools were implementing Next Generation Science Standards, how to implement AP Physics, and the lack of funds for professional development.
I asked the teachers (including a department head) if they had ever thought of exploring online options for professional development such as twitter or facebook. I explained that there are teachers from all over the country on twitter who are asking similar questions and discussing issues which traditional professional development funds would typically cover. I offered to put all the physics teachers in touch with physics teachers on twitter all over the country if they were interested.
The teachers all listened politely and said that they had never considered online professional development. One of them said that another teacher at her school had quit last year over an interaction that happened on social media. Another teacher said that she would never want to be on twitter because her students might be on twitter, and she would not want to interact with them online.
I was stunned at how quickly the conversation turned to pointing out the dark sides of social media. I had this naive idea that interacting with other teachers from around the country would be really attractive. I guess I underestimated the fear of the unknown.
Next time I have the opportunity to plug social media, I'm going to suggest starting with The Global Physics Department first. Perhaps that is an avenue to getting teachers to interact with each other online.