First published in the October 2014 Edition of UKEdMagazine, we revealed the initial findings of our extensive research on how teachers are interacting with twitter for means of professional development. Our research is ongoing, exploring in further depth some of the issues raised in this article. If you would like to help with this research, please contact us here.
Rightly or wrongly, social media took a hammering during its early conception into the minds of the mainstream cognisance. Mainly due to ignorance and hyperbolic news reporting, many blamed the start and co-ordination of the London (and UK) riots in 2011, following the police shooting of an unarmed man. People were imprisoned for Facebook, Twitter or Blackberry Messenger (BBM) messages which threatened rioting, looting or any hint of social disorder – and so, the foundations were established in the minds of the population that Social Media sites were evil.
That may still be true to various groups of people, who buy into the stories which distract from the overall and potential good that social networking has to offer. One group of individuals, across the globe, that have taken this networking to a new and sustained level are educators who, according to the Twitter Account Executive Brett Baker, account for 4.2 million tweets from half a billion tweets posted each day. Hashtag conversations, such as #UKEdChat, have sustained continued popularity among the education community, with many other country, subject or regional specific chats continually popping up on timelines.
However, not all teachers who engage on Twitter participate in hashtag conversations. Indeed, many admit to quietly lurk – watching their Twitter feed come up with educational resources, ideas and conversations, which provoke individuals to change an element of their practice within their own classroom.
We are very aware of an engaged, generous and innovative group of educators on Twitter who are desperately keen to share and develop resources and classroom ideas. Whilst many teachers had chance to reflect and relax during the summer, we conceived a research project to explore some of the behaviours of teachers primarily using Twitter as a means of professional development.
As many schools across the globe are seeing their funding and training provisions being cut for their staff, it is becoming clear that individual teachers are personalising their own professional development needs, with their Twitter network central to that requirement.
Five key questions were asked, with over 450 responses received within a two week period. We were not focused on the demographics of one particular group of teachers, so the responses represent teachers across the globe.
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