Session 212: Pros and Cons of Using Twitter for Professional Development

Date: Thursday 24th July 2014 - Hosted by @UKEdChat

Twitter was created in March 2006 by Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams, Biz Stone and Noah Glass and by July 2006 the site was launched. It took a while to gain popularity, but it was clear by 2010 that many educators across the globe had taken to the service to share ideas, discussions and resources related to their profession. UKEdChat was formed in July 2010 and over this time we have witnessed thousands of educators engaging with each-other using Twitter as a platform.

As UKEdChat is now into its fifth year, we wanted to see what educators thought about the pros and cons of using twitter as a means of Professional Development.

The aims of the session were to focus on the following:

  • To share examples on how being on twitter has helped / hindered your classroom practice and/or career.
  • Concerns about staff using twitter (and other social media) – Interpretations of conversations – Schools using tweets as a means of surveillance.
  • How schools are managing staff using social media – Social media policies – examples of colleagues who are clearly not allowed to use Twitter. What is the problem with twitter and hashtag conversations?
  • Examples of how colleagues view staff who use social media – is this changing?
  • Share examples of people on twitter who are an inspiration to teachers – what makes this so?
  • What is the future likely to be like for networking teachers and twitter?

[pullquote]Twitter is one of the most important developments in education so far in the 21st century” @Jivespin [/pullquote]

Possibly to be expected, there were a lot of positive comments from contributors as the session took hold, concentrating on the advantageous aspects of being a tweeting teacher such as making wonderful connections and thinking – generally a feeling that professional life is changing for the better because of Twitter.

Obtaining global connections and resources for the benefit of students is also a main benefit of engaging on the platform. In fact, @kidmathtalk celebrated the fact that a question can be tweeteed and quickly receive a variety of answers and perspectives – kind of like an authentic, advanced, interactive google search for teachers. Other key advantages for educators engaging on Twitter included receiving historical advice direct from experts; connecting with people where contact would have previously been difficult; exchanging resources and ideas; new ideas, projects and strategies; and bringing education technologies into the classroom – one such example being plickers.com.

The general positivity of networks on twitter was noted helping teacher gain a better outlook in areas and helping enjoyment return into their practice.

So, with all this positivity, what is holding other people back in using twitter as a means of professional development? A few people shared concerns about Facebook and these issues have been tarred with the same brush for Twitter as these contributions mainly be good for professional discussions/ideas. A few told that they were the only tweeters in their schools, but there is likely to be a push to get more involved in the new school year. Staff need to be aware that there are some very polarised, unforgiving contributions and debates online, so a thick skin can be needed in some cases. Sharing ideas gained from Twitter conversations was seen as a good way to ‘sell’ the platform to colleagues.

The ‘Big Brother’ surveillance aspect was explored, with casual posts / photos potentially having serious implications. Taking comments out of context was seen as a potential, and real, issue – paranoid times indeed. If people have a complaint about a comment/s, these issues should be dealt with directly.

There are now a multitude of hashtag twitter conversations for all facets of education, so the question was posed focusing on the downside of such chats. The speed of such chats was seen as an issue, as sometimes you need a moment to form a clear answer but then get distracted as some other comment pops along. Other negatives include the ease of tweeters jumping into conversations to gain notoriety or followers, as well as spamming behaviour. The character restrictions can be a challenge, but makes you think carefully about constructing your tweet to make sure you get your key message across. Understanding how to engage with hashtag discussions can be a challenge to new tweeters, but time, experience and some support can help overcome this.

The conversation moved on to consider how twitter is perceived by fellow teachers. Annoyingly, some shared that is it still regarded as “one of those things the kids use”, but it’s changing slowly with ‘geeky’ or ‘techy’ viewpoints still evident. @KSmithcrallan observed how they are often greeted with blank looks, especially when talking about Twitter’s use for professional development. @BentleyKarl (slide 144) likened twitter to Papini’s imagery of the Pragmatists’ hotel corridor, allowing each of us access to each other’s education rooms. One head-teacher is reported to be thinking of allocating non-contact twitter time for CPD purposes (slide 156).

In concluding the session, using twitter for Personal Professional Development was viewed as highly positive, in that hierarchy does not matter – anyone can participate and the participation rate is likely to widen more and more. You are able to connect your classroom and share learning globally – @TeachBoost commented that it is a piece of a large puzzle as professional growth is multifaceted. Indeed, as @GrahamAndre concluded (slide 219) Twitter should be promoted as CPD for staff and recognised as a valuable tool. What will supercede Twitter?

Notable Tweets


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Using Twitter for Professional Development


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About UKEdChat Editorial 3089 Articles
The Editorial Account of UKEdChat, managed by editor-in-chief Colin Hill, with support from Martin Burrett from the UKEd Magazine. Pedagogy, Resources, Community.

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