“You must leave digital footprints so people know you’re treading among them and part of the community”
Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher, ‘Global Education by Design’
I joined Twitter in July 2012 and I honestly can’t tell you what prompted me to join. I had been in a school in Malaysia for a year and that had been my first exposure to teaching with technology. We were a 1:1 Mac school just starting to implement GSuite for Education (or Google Apps for Education as it was then). At that time, the apps were limited, tables for example, in Google Docs, didn’t work properly and the formatting options were limited. There was no Google Classroom either.
However, it revolutionised my teaching and I began to write websites as schemes of work that had my learners as the audience and focused on what they were doing, rather than a list of instructions that I, as the teacher, should do to them. I also began to use Edmodo to share all my resources and lessons with my learners online for 24-hour access.
This article originally appeared in the July 2017 edition of UKEdChat Magazine
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Perhaps it was the acknowledgement of my success as an enthusiastic teacher who used technology effectively in the classroom that spurred me on to start building an online Professional Learning Network (PLN), to begin building “an online presence that works to [my] advantage” and help “create a culture of creativity” (Lindsay & Davis, (2013). Whatever it was, I have not looked back since. It has allowed me to “easily connect” with teachers from across the globe who share my ideals and teaching philosophies making me feel “less professionally isolated” no matter where I am in the world.
Twitter, by its very nature, is short and snappy. The limit of 140 characters per Tweet works to the busy educator’s advantage; I can spend two minutes scrolling through my feed and be guaranteed to find a couple of blogs or resources I want to check out. This is every time I go on to my Twitter feed, which is daily. That adds up to a lot of inspiration and new ideas.
A study conducted in 2014 (Visser et al) found that 40% of the teachers surveyed reported using the mobile phone as the primary means of connecting. The ubiquitous nature of the smartphone two or three years later means this percentage is probably much higher in 2017. This ease of seeking and “learning about the latest research, pedagogical strategies and best practise” at their own convenience means the practice has become “embedded” as part of a daily routine of PD, as mine has, which overall findings suggest has lead to “improved classroom practice” (Davis, 2011; Gerstein, 2011).
Twitter is invaluable as a resource for ideas, support, news, and as a “tool for meaningful communication, sharing, and collaboration” (Visser et al, 2014) and truly addresses the need for an effective “alternative to conventional models of professional development (PD)” (Visser et al, 2014). At the start of 2013, Kristen Swanson released her book, ‘Professional Learning in the Digital Age’’ via a three-week Virtual Book Club, which I took part in to advance my understanding and use of an online PLN.
She advocates multi-layered contributions as digital educators, ranging from Tweeting (or even more basically, Re-Tweeting) to speaking at conferences. Tweeting is easiest – it is a “pull technology” which “helps you syphon manageable sips of meaningful, useful information” (Lindsay & Davis, 2013). In addition, the use of hashtags in Twitter, first coined by Shelly Terrell in 2009 for the now huge, #EdChat, (Herbert, 2012) means it is easy to search for AND post about certain topics, as well as follow conferences even when you are not attending them.
Twitter is an essential tool in being connected with a global network of like-minded educators – and if you are not connected, you are missing out. Creating a handle is not enough. You have to use it. It is ok to “learn and lurk” but we really need to be contributing. In ‘3 Reasons Why the School Principal Needs to Tweet’ Mark Guay (2013) suggests sending out “3-5 daily tweets that stay on the positive”. We all have something to give, we all have something to share – whether it is anecdote or expertise – and we can all learn from each other.
I think that, whilst “many in the general population fail to see [Twitter’s] relevance” (Visser et al, 2014) the power can really be seen only through use. Go. Get out there. Tread softly among the others educators and leaders who are learning and sharing. Create a digital footprint and follow a path – or go off and start your own. Let the community know you are there and try to give as much as you take.
ReferencesDavis, M.R. (2011). Social media feeds freewheeling PD. Education Week, 31 (9), S13-S14.
Gerstein, J. (2011). The use of Twitter for professional growth and development. International Journal on E-Learning, 10(3), 273-276.
Guay, Mark W. “3 Reasons Why the School Principal Needs to Tweet.” Visibli, 12 June 2013, knolinfos.sharedby.co/share/hBvYn9.
Hebert, M. (2012). Why all the chatter about #EdChat? District Administration
Lindsay, Julie, and Vicki A. Davis. Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds: Move to Global Collaboration One Step at a Time. Boston, Pearson, 2013.
Swanson, Kirsten. “Virtual Book Club.” User Generated Learning, 7 Jan. 2013, www.usergeneratedlearning.com.
Swanson, Kristen. Professional Learning in the Digital Age: the Educator’s Guide to User-Generated Learning. 2013.
“#Satchat.” Evolving Educators, www.evolvingeducators.com/satchat.html.
Twitter, Inc. (2013). Retrieved from Twitter: Twitter.com
Visser, R. D., Evering, L. C., & Barrett, D. E. (2014). #TwitterforTeachers: Implications of Twitter as a self-directed professional development tool for K-12 teacher. Journal for Technology in Education, 46(4), 396-413.