Building a Community and Establishing Your Online Presence as an Educator


Stephanie Martinez

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Stephanie Martinez is the ITBE Higher Ed Special Interest Group chair.  Contact her at with any comments or suggestions relating to how ITBE can better serve those of you who work in higher education.
Many of us are familiar with social media sites Twitter and Facebook, but the idea of using these web applications for professional reasons other than social networking may be a bit foreign. As a newbie to this concept myself, I’ve decided to try a few of the web apps: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Vitae and see what all the fuss is about. As an adjunct teacher, I am constantly on the Internet looking for open positions to apply to, even when I’m happily employed. Online branding is an important part of landing jobs in most other professional fields. Yet, it doesn’t seem as though most teachers, at least that I interact with, use the internet for more than social networking here and there. Blogging isn’t for everyone, but building an electronic portfolio, if done well, could land you your next big job.

Getting connected to ESL, TESOL and EL groups was very easy using the sites. It is always a relief to learn that there are other ESL programs in the world where teachers are adjuncts like me, who have the same teaching questions and struggle with the same kinds of problems both inside the classroom and with university administration. Get out there and get connected to ESL groups! There are plenty of options to choose from, of course I’ve only listed a few here, but be bold and go explore! This is what I learned after joining a few groups through these three social media platforms:

  • Sifting through profiles: A good way to see how others are formulating or presenting their job experience.
  • Joining groups: A good way to interact with others and build your network.
  • Friend-ing organizations of interest: Helps you to stay informed of job openings.
  • Following groups/ organizations: Helps you to be aware of current issues and topics related to our field.
  • Following ESL organizations/individuals: Leads to other organizations/individuals you could follow and connect with.
Sites like Wordpress, Weebly and Squarespace have made blog and website building accessible to the masses. For a minimal cost or nothing, you could be displaying your work on the global stage. Of course it would take some time and wouldn’t look immaculate from the start, but it may even be a skill that could be incorporated in your classes and passed down to students once mastered. Many people may be intimidated by the process of using the sites I mentioned. However, please keep in mind that these sites were made for people, like you and me, who don’t know how to build websites. As a result, all three of these sites are very intuitive and, in all honesty, a joy to use after spending some time to learn them.

Vitae is a little different than the other blog/webpage builders as this site is dedicated specifically for higher education professionals. It is powered by the Chronicle of Higher Education and is very easy to use. The advantages of this site are that you can store multiple documents, and it gives you options to connect with others and build a community. On Vitae, you can also get tips and use online tools to find jobs and connect with future employers. All of these sites will help you to build your online presence, but all the sites do require effort and time to familiarize with.

My personal evaluations of the ease of use for each are as follows:
  • (more widely known) For novice users, free
  • (lesser known) For novice users, free
  • (more widely known) For low-intermediate users, not free
  • (lesser known) For novice users, free
In the end, we all need to face the music and change with the times. In the coming years, everything will be digital. You might as well get a jumpstart and begin familiarizing yourself with what is out there now so that what lies in the future doesn’t overwhelm you and make you feel left out.  So, I urge you fellow ESL teachers to explore what the Internet has to offer to you and to our field. Let’s help each other and advance our field through connecting on social media and building e-portfolios that showcase our growth and worksheet-making talents. Together we can bring our field into the digital age, and if nothing else, stop killing trees in our quest for that full-time, tenure-track position. Good luck!

Stephanie is an adjunct faculty member at the Illinois Institute of Technology and Purdue University Calumet. She has been teaching at various IEPs in Chicago since 2011.

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ITBE Link - Spring 2015 - Volume 43 Number 1