I have been a user of twitter for almost 4 years now although initially I just started to test the waters, finding little use for twitter at the time. Some months later a colleague got me back on twitter mainly due to the enthusiasm he displayed with regards the potential twitter had to help educators develop professionally.
I haven’t looked back since then with my involvement and use of twitter steadily increasing. My new years resolutions for this year included the intention to build on a 2015 average of around 1.9 tweets per day. My regular involvement in #sltchat, #mltchat plus involvement in #teacher5adaysketch, #29daysofwriting, #hacktheclassroom and #appsharelive sees me currently having posted around 370 times across Jan and Feb so far which amounts to over 7 tweets per day. I will admit that Buffer is playing a keep part in this as it allows me to schedule my regular tweets.
The question is why I am finding twitter so useful?
My first answer to this lies in the list of events above. Without twitter I would have never came across #appsharelive or #hacktheclassroom to name but two events. The events are also not limited to online events. I found out about the up and coming #tmbmth16 event in Bournemouth via Twitter.
A second answer would be access to resources and ideas. Educators are regularly posting about apps or teaching and learning approaches which they have tried or are planning. #appsharelive for example provided me a list of 5 or 6 new apps in each of its 3 sessions to date.
I also find twitter allows me to engage with other educators who may share similar or different viewpoints and beliefs with regards education. As such this leads to questioning and discussion allowing for reflection. Only the other day via #29daysofwriting a person who I would consider a colleague even although we have never me, questioned a sweeping statement I had made. This made me question my views and the statement I had made, which in reality had been a little sweeping. Next time I will try to be more careful.
My final benefit relates to the social aspect in that via twitter I have access to teachers and educational staff like myself who are engaged in trying to continually improve and to collaborate and share. I consider them colleagues! Events like #teacher5adaysketch serve to strengthen this bond, to provide support when I need it and encourage balance.
I continue to enjoy using twitter and look forward to continuing to share ideas and thoughts with you.
Was working with teachers today in a school during which time we were looking at lesson planning using the 5 minute lesson plan from @teachertoolkit. During the session I used my usual prompt for ideas as shown below:
Now a couple of teachers raised some issues with regards student behaviour and suggested that they had already exhausted their 26 available letters. My response to this was to suggest that as a group of teachers, together we may be able to share ideas. If each of us has 26 ideas, corresponding to the 26 letters in the alphabet, then there must be a high likelihood that as a group we will be able to collectively generate more than the 26 ideas which we can generate individually. It was at this point I realised that “if plan A doesn’t work” quote is only the first part of the process. The second part is if Plan A to Z fail, widen your pool of ideas. So at this point we seek the advice of our immediate colleagues for more ideas. I would suggest that this group of teachers would increase the available number of ideas however on reflection I would suggest that the increase would not be significant. All teachers in the group are most likely working in the same school and as such will have a shared perception of the issue at hand. As such they are likely to have approached the problem in similar manners meaning that the ideas generated will generally show high levels of similarity with only a small number of new ideas being generated by enlarging from an individual teacher to a group of teachers within the same school. Enlarging the group further to encompass local schools or teachers still within easy communication, or geographical distance would result in still further ideas however again if teachers are within the same national educational context, curriculum context, etc, there are likely to be shared perceptions which again will limit the ideas which will become apparent.
Enter twitter. Twitter allows teachers to contact and seek ideas from teachers across the world from totally different contexts. This means that there is a higher likelihood of original ideas which may not have been considered among the groups previously discussed. We have effectively widened our pool of ideas about as far as we can do. Now this advantage does not come without some disadvantages, namely those with polarised beliefs as to the “truth” and “fact”. Where people come from totally different contexts it is possible that one teachers “fact” may be another teachers “fiction”. Some tweeps are a little too forceful with their expressions as to their “fact”. This disadvantage, however, should be minimal as teachers are after all professionals and therefore should be able to have professional disagreements plus should be able to appreciate differing viewpoints and contexts which may exist.
Overall, twitter is not just about opening us up to more people and therefore more ideas, but about opening us up to ideas from totally different contexts. It opens us up to ideas we may not have been able to arrive at ourselves given the paradigm within which we operate. Access to these ideas may also in turn spark new ideas in us born out of the paradigm shift which may result from seeing a problem through a totally different viewpoint.
For some time now I have been suggesting to teachers the need to get connected. Through the use of twitter we can access a pool of experience, skill, ideas and talents which bt (before twitter) would have been impossible, using this pool to improve or maybe evolve our own teaching practice. As a teacher I can spend just a few minutes each day searching for ideas which I can use within my teaching practice, or I can spend a longer period of time when I have the time. This is very much different from how it used to be where I had to wait for the next professional development ( or Professional Learning) session which was often held at the end of the day when I was at my most tired having spent all day teaching. In addition these PD sessions were often expensive for the school as they involved paying someone to deliver the session.
Recently I read a blog post entitled “Why teacher should connect” which echoes my feelings. I also saw the below post on twitter (surprise, surprise) which sums up the reasoning behind why teachers should make use of social media such as twitter:
Another post I saw referred to the need for communication.
We are preparing students for a a globalised world where more and more people are migrating to work away from where they were born and grew up. As such do we not need to start considering a globalised approach to education? If we are going to consider such a globalised approach there is a need for discussion across the world and surely social media such as twitter provides just the tool needed to facilitate such discussion.
So, if you haven’t already, Get Connected!!
It wasn’t so long ago when the thought of me using Twitter on a regular basis was something I wouldn’t have considered as likely. At that point I considered Twitter as just another social media application, like Facebook, designed to allow people to post about what they had eaten last night (and I have a friend who does just that, insisting on photographing and posting any meal she has when at a restaurant, etc, prior to starting to eat), or for celebrities to show off, or in a number of cases embarrass themselves for the worlds media.
Then a colleague introduced me to the use of Twitter as a tool for professional learning and sharing teaching or other ideas around education with practitioners from around the world. That was around 6 month ago and I haven’t looked back since then. I have found myself regularly, and at stages daily, visiting twitter looking to see what ideas and discussions were out there. That said, most of my contributions to Twitter thus far have been in the form of retweets of tweets which I have considered useful, interesting, insightful or worth sharing.
So this blog entry marks my 1000th tweet. Not much when compared with veterans of twitter however for me it marks almost 1000 ideas, discussions or thoughts which, without twitter, I may not have had access to.
Thank you to all who have I have followed for the ideas you have provided and I look forward to further interactions with you. I intend to do as my colleague did for me, and encourage others to engage in using twitter for professional learning purposes. I also intend to contribute more of my own thoughts rather than just retweeting. If you are reading this, do you know of educators not using twitter and if so have you introduced them to the possibilities? How many professional development programmes can boast that they can provide as many, or as broad a range of, ideas as twitter can?
Keep tweeting, as I certainly will.
I recently worked with some teachers looking at how ICT could be integrated into lessons and how they might support this process. During the course of the session I made the point that the approaches which work best are likely to be different for different teachers. I also raised the fact that the context within which they operate may also impact on which techniques and approaches work. An approach that might work in an inner city boys primary school may not work in a rural girls secondary school. As such teachers need to be searching for ideas, experimenting and generally being proactive in their approach. They cannot afford to wait for a professional development session to deliver all the answers.
This got me thinking about the theories and models which we use in education, as well as about some posts I have read recently. I previously blogged about how a few people had raised issues with De Bonos thinking hats (http://educationandtechnology.me/?p=93) . Now personally I like De Bonos thinking hats in terms of a teaching tool which, in certain situations, can be very useful, however equally I can see that in other situations it may be inappropriate. I can also see that for some teachers it may not suit their teaching style however this does not mean that the tool is lacking in value. Equally where De Bonos thinking hats is useful, I do not see this is adding to its value. It is a tool and its usefulness or lack thereof depends on the context within which it is used and the purpose for which it is used.
Thinking about this further, I considered Blooms taxonomy which generally I have found to be treated as fact. An earlier discussion with a colleague, who introduced me to the SOLO taxonomy (http://classteaching.wordpress.com/2013/05/23/using-solo-taxonomy-to-develop-student-thinking-learning/) , led me to question this. Both Blooms and SOLO are just 2 of a number of models or tools which we can use to help us in our teaching. They may be appropriate in certain circumstances and inappropriate in others.
So to my point: We as teachers need to be open to new ideas and to listen to others suggestions. It may be that we disregard these new ideas as inappropriate however we need to remember that this is based on our personal preferences and on the context within which we operate. The idea itself cannot be considered as appropriate or inappropriate when devoid of context. Equally we need to apply different models at different times rather than relying on a single “correct” model. Teaching is a complex task, so the more tools and ideas we have available to us, the more effective our teaching is likely to be. Personal Learning Networks are a key part of this.