Social networks seem to me to be an as yet untapped resource for me. I have steadfastly avoided joining twitter so far, checked into facebook just to see what it was all about and didn't find it all that interesting and mostly time consuming if I was too keep it up properly. Since that time, most of my family have made facebook pages and lately I have been thinking I should make one again if only to help me keep up to date with my relatives and let them hear from me without having to send each one an email. I also see how it might be a way to connect with students, though it doesn 't seem to have nearly the following here in Japan as in the USA. On the other hand, to some extent I still worry about privacy issues, and about mixing work/teaching me with family me. I think I would actually have to maintain two different accounts, one oriented to friends and family and one to professional stuff. I am actually not sure that the latter gives me significant enough benefit to warrant the time involved.
On the other hand, being part of a more specific online community like the MACUL space seems to have more merit. It seems like it is a huge multiplier of people I can turn to with questions, for advice, and as I get more proficient myself, to give help to. Interestingly, I was trying to figure out how to join a group on that space and couldn't. I waffled between asking on the CEP Q&A forum (I checked and no one else had posted the same question) and on MACUL. I looked for "help" or "FAQ" on the MACUL site, but finding neither and exhausting all the trial-and-error options I could think of, I decided to start a discussion in the group I wanted to join by asking the question of how to join. Well, as it turns out, by requesting to start a discussion I was told I had to join first and prompted to join. Viola, task accomplished. Though there has to be some more direct way, I would think.
Also, the idea of building my own networks for classes seems fantastic. It is basically what I have wanted to be able to do for a while, have the facebook-like and/or twitter-like model but with a closed, specific group. Students can manage their own profiles, work on building the network, use it for class-oriented stuff, and then keep it/stay in it if they want even after the class ends. I'll really be looking to use this kind of thing as I move forward. I see it as helping manage communication between me and students outside of class time, a way to accept assignments and have them share projects with each other, and to increase the amount of time they have to interact using English. I wish I had been aware of this three or four years ago, as it would have been absolutely great for the "homeroom" kind of class I have had for the past few years but will no longer have once I leave this position. Still, I can envision using it in other types of classes as well.
I think that for my peers (age-wise) that use some of these tools, it is probably mostly for things like I mentioned about using facebook for feeling more in touch with family, especially since many of us English-language educators live so far from where our families are. I think more of the younger educators, 10 to 20 years younger than me especially, probably are more comfortable and familiar with this kind of networking and therefore more likely to adapt it for their classrooms as well as their own learning and professional development. That certainly seems to be the case from anecdotal experience.
Next up, being busy and getting things done.