Eighteen months ago I wrote an article for SecEd on how educators are using Twitter to develop their practice and collaborate online with others.
The article offered a basic introduction to Twitter for beginners, and provided an insight into how an online presence for educators can be a powerful thing.
In the challenging current educational climate I felt compelled to write about this again, especially considering the growth I have seen in the number of teachers who are using Twitter for educational purposes.
If you have never used Twitter before, then you should refer to my first piece on this before reading any further (see further information for the details or click here).
All teachers I interact with on Twitter invariably say that it is the greatest CPD they have used in their career, and I wholeheartedly concur. Furthermore, there are so many contentious topics and new policies within education at the moment and if it was not for Twitter I would not have been able to keep up-to-date and fully informed about all this change.
So how exactly is Twitter developing the knowledge, skills and practice of teachers around the world?
The support network provided by my Personal Learning Network (known as your PLN) is invaluable. My PLN is the educators I follow on Twitter.
If you have a problem, issue, query or uncertainty on any aspect of education then the answers will be out there, provided quickly and efficiently by your fellow professionals.
There is a plethora of teachers on Twitter who provide guidance, experience and expertise from around the world. And there is no hierarchy here either – I have seen NQTs and trainees interacting with headteachers about many different aspects of education.
Teachers who use Twitter commonly post links to articles and blogs that are prominent and relevant to current educational issues. And media such as SecEd (@SecEd_Education) also provide a wealth of useful information. This is an extremely effective way of keeping apprised of educational developments, both at a classroom level but also within the wider political context.
Teachers are busy people, but it is our duty as educators to keep ourselves up-to-date. I use an app called “Pocket” to store articles and links I find and review them at a later date.
I would estimate I spend on average about 15 minutes per day on Twitter, mostly saving articles that I will read properly later, or “favouriting” tweets that I find interesting. This is time well spent when I consider the amount of high quality learning I have personally experienced since starting to use it as a means of CPD.
Discussion and debate
Every Thursday from 8pm to 9pm is the fast-paced #ukedchat discussion where a question or issue will be posed by the host, with contributors offering their thoughts, experiences and resources by tweeting, and including the hashtag #ukedchat in their tweets.
Topics of debate are voted for during the week before each debate so that users have an influence on what is discussed.
Elsewhere, each Sunday, Ross McGill (@teachertoolkit) hosts #sltchat where school leadership issues are discussed. This is not just for school leaders, however, and is also extremely useful for teachers who aspire to apply for school leadership positions, and for those wishing to gain an insight into the mechanics of working in such a team.
Interestingly, a group of school leaders called Heads’ Roundtable (@headsroundtable) has gathered significant support and momentum on Twitter recently as they attempt to influence education policy.
This non-party-political group of headteachers and principals formed following a meeting facilitated by Ian Gilbert (@ThatIanGilbert) and was borne out of frustration with current government educational policy.
The group contains Passmores Academy principal Vic Goddard (@vicgoddard) and one of my favourite tweeters and bloggers, John Tomsett (@JohnTomsett).
Without the connectivity with other like-minded professionals that Twitter offers, then this group of leaders who have the potential to influence educational policy would not have formed and developed at such rapid speed. It will be fascinating to see the outcomes that this powerful group of visionary school leaders can achieve.
As can bee seen from the above, the most beneficial aspect of using Twitter as a CPD resource is the interaction with other professionals. It can be a challenge to find the time to share good practice with colleagues during a hectic week, but Twitter facilitates collaboration with practitioners from all over the world and this is extremely powerful.
Furthermore, you will not find many teachers on Twitter who adopt old-fashioned chalk and talk styles of delivery, or endorse worksheet-heavy styles of teaching. The fact that they have an online presence as a professional educator suggests they are innovative in their nature and approach to education and Twitter allows you to tap into their approaches.
There is huge potential for sharing innovative resources and teaching ideas and the opportunities to collaborate with like-minded professionals from around the world are plentiful.
I would encourage any teacher to use Twitter to develop their professionals skills, practice and knowledge as I firmly believe there is no better form of CPD out there.
The creative @Pekabelo created a “Tweacher Tube Map” which is an excellent and visual guide to the educators who you can follow on Twitter (see further information for the link).
So if you are truly a reflective practitioner, who embraces technology, and who, mostly importantly, is a lifelong learner themselves, get yourself tweeting! Further information