This is a difficult question to answer. I think I’m particularly hung up on the word effectively. I’ve been using my online identity to support my offline teacher identity since 2009, but have yet to feel that I have done so effectively. The idea of being effective is elusive, and following people online who appear to be doing it better than you has pros as well as cons. On the one hand, if you’re anything like me, seeing what others are doing will push you to want to be better. On the other hand, if you are also like me, you will always feel that your version of better isn’t good enough. This creates some sort of paradoxical feedback loop, in which you are at once inspired by the awesomeness that surrounds you and you strive to soak up as much of it as possible, and also paralyzed with enough self-doubt to want retreat into your shell and never seek out change again. In my case, self-doubt (much like the dark side of the force) is more powerful.
When I joined twitter in 2009, the current deluge of #chats was almost non-existent. I followed a few people, checked out their follower/following lists and picked people who seemed interesting or could help advance my knowledge and skill set surrounding technology in the classroom. As I began to try to engage folks and build a true connection, I ran into some roadblocks. But ultimately it was my presence on social media that led me to a conference that changed my career - and I have not looked back since. It’s funny, now, re-reading these old posts, to reflect on how far I’ve come, how long it took to get here, and how stymied I became along the way.
Ultimately, the big take away is that being present online and active with social media will not automatically transfer to offline classroom success. It is certainly a place to start - but alone it will not have tangible impacts on you and your practice. Simply being a “connected educator” does not make you a better educator. Being open,self-reflective, inquisitive and critical of yourself and others will make you a better educator. Being an educator who possess the aforementioned characteristics while also being “connected” will undoubtedly have the most impact. The connectedness serves to supplement and amplify, it does not make you a better teacher in a vacuum.