Session 263: The Power of Twitter for Developing Teaching Practice

Thursday 30th July 2015 via @UKEdChat

As part of our 2015 research project (see…/…/23/ukedchat-2015-twitter-use-survey/ ), ?#?UKEdChat? explored how online networks (specifically Twitter) can help to support practice of teachers and leaders in schools.


The session asked:

1. To you, what are the main benefits of using Twitter for professional development purposes?

2. How is it possible to convert more colleagues in understanding the benefits of this form of professional development?

3. What are the real, or perceived, dangers of using Twitter for teachers? How do you deal with this?

3a. Have you noticed any changes in how people use Twitter since you started? If so, how?

4. How does the CPD you gain on Twitter compare to ‘traditional’ routes of training received?

5. What specific ideas/resources have you used from your Twitter PLN, and how did you adapt them into your classroom?

6. Three words please…’The good’, ‘the bad’, and ‘the ugly’ side of Twitter, for supporting professional development.


The Twitter Teaching Community is a thriving and positive community, with this being clearly evident in the course of this #UKEdChat Session. The session supported our 2015 Twitter Use Survey, with comments collected in the Storify below.

The first question posed what the main benefits of using Twitter for professional development purposes are. The themes were similar among several responses: sharing ideas with people outside my school; Networking. Learning & debating; The power to connect; being ‘plugged in’ to so many great ideas and some challenging perspectives; debates about practice rarely seen in schools; education research, sharing good practice, or keeping up-to-date with the latest announcements.. In fact, @funASDteacher declared, “it’s like having a staffroom full of inspiring passionate people who always want to talk about the things that matter”. George Gilchrist added, “you completely control your PD and extend your PLN so that it is worldwide, rather than just local”

Phil Ruse shared, “There is no other CPD like it where cost, time & distance are made irrelevant”. Being a personalised form of professional development was also noted by various contributors, where individuals usually have little say in ‘traditional’ forms of professional development.

The session progressed to explore how it is possible to convert more colleagues in understanding the benefits of this form of professional development. Rebecca Foster told that she is…”going to ask to lead one of the whole school weekly mini-CPD meetings to ‘convert’ some colleagues into tweachers.” But some of the main obstacles were highlighted by Phil Ruse who added, “Sounds simple but understanding the power of the #. Without that twitter feeds can seem random & off-putting”. Forcing colleagues into engaging can not be a positive experience to them, so Gary King advocated, “Feature tweets/share via email but not force it, let staff explore at their own pace. Colleagues soon share the benefits.” Indeed, it has to be fully experienced it to fully understand it.

Gareth Lewis revealed that he was one of those who converted, “Just show others how it has helped me. I had to be converted that way after years of refusal on my part.”

It’s not all positive, and the next question explored the real, or perceived, dangers of using Twitter for teachers and how this can be dealt with. Some dangers shared include: Saying something people disagree with & getting trolled; it’s addictive and it can take over your brain if you let it; hard to tweet candidly knowing colleagues and parents may view. Joe White added, “Can become all pervasive if you let it. Personally it helps me deal with stress as I am able to focus my thoughts & gain support.” Consideration are needed about pupil and school information especially when giving opinions, so maintaining a professional account & status is cruicial as well as managing followers and think before you tweet. As Mary Meredith reminded the session, “Truth is, easier for schools to get rid, so everyone can feel standards are upheld. Only principled leaders resist this.”

We asked whether people had noticed any difference in how behaviours on Twitter have evolved, with an interesting observation from Andrew Old, “Yes. Used to be mainly heads, people aspiring to be heads & consultants. Now it’s mainly the frontline.” This was confirmed by Jennifer Bulman who added, “More advertising and job adverts. More classroom teachers sharing ideas.”  

In comparing CPD gained on Twitter to the more traditional routes, the flexibility and personalisation of the medium was celebrated. Joe White declared, “No need to book, worry about cover, costs, or transport. Twitter is like CPD when you need it.” Jennifer Bulman decreed, “Flexible and self-directed. I can select things that are useful from people who still teach reasonable timetable-loads”. The contrast between the two approaches was noted by Helen Ralston, “It’s more “drip feed.” So it slowly, consistently enters & influences my practice.The v opposite of traditional conference days that @informed_edu tells are so lacking in “transformative” impact.” Julie Thomson shared that she…”was flooded with advice and links after a request for help,from people who just wanted to help. Don’t get that in trad. CPD”

So, what specific ideas/resources have teachers used from your Twitter PLN, and how were these ideas adapted? Some responses:

  • Would never have heard of Learn Like A Pirate or of the many ICT techniques I’m now trying. (@funASDteacher)
  • Rotation Square essay planning from @mollyrose54 adapted to use as graffiti tables (also from twitter but not sure who) (The Hectic Teacher)
  • no #tlap for me if it wasn’t for twitter (Joe White)
  • Skype calls with experts @hpitler and @jen___williams. Great resources on Evidence-Based Teaching from @GeoffreyPetty etc. (Eoin Lenihan)
  • WW1 xmas truce Sainsbury’s advert lesson from @MrAllsopHistory Made some worksheets but otherwise shamelessly stole the key idea. (Peter Mannion)
  • Created an anthology of readings to help HoDs w. our “life after levels.” approach. 5/8 chapters came from blogs found on Twitt (Helen Ralston)
  • Too many to list! My Ss are used to me saying ‘I got this idea from Twitter!’ (B Yusuf)

To close the session, participants were asked to provide three words, each describing the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of using Twitter as a means of supporting Professional Development. Responses collated in the image below. Scroll down further to see the Storify from the session.



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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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