Twitter as a Tool for Personalized Professional Development

Introduction

Professional Development (PD)  has changed drastically in the relatively short amount of time that I have been a teacher. PD no longer has to constitute a one-size-fits-all lecture model. Thanks to technology, teachers are empowered to take control of their learning. One of the most popular tools for teachers to communicate and collaborate in this fashion is Twitter.

“Teacher Twitter,” as some call the community, has become a valuable place to share resources and experiences. Teaching can often be a career that happens within the silo of your classroom. Twitter allows those walls to be broken down and for collaboration to occur on a global scale.

I’m not alone in my fondness for Twitter for teachers. According to MC Desrosiers, “Virtual communities make it easier for educators to engage in immediate, specific, and focused conversations with their peers” (Logan, n.d.). Not only does Twitter facilitate this focused conversation, it has allowed a much broader take on who your peers are.

In a 2014 study of 755 K-16 teachers, teachers reported their motivations for using Twitter as the immediate access to content, the personalized nature of the site, and the potential for building a positive network (Carpenter & Krutka). Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach to professional development (as assigned by school administration), Twitter allows you to interact with educators and resources that you find helpful. You might participate in a targeted chat or follow a hashtag that is of interest to you. Whether you choose to follow coworkers, authors, ed tech companies, principals, or teachers across the globe, the perspectives you see populating your feed are entirely self-selected. If someone is getting too political or no longer sharing resources you find helpful, simply unfollow and move on.

Workshop Presentation

Because of my belief in the power of Twitter to help teachers grow and become better educators, I chose to create a workshop presentation for teachers who were not yet members of the Twitter community. I submitted a proposal for the 2019 NCCE (Northwest Council for Computer Education). While I was initially focused on helping complete Twitter newbies join Twitter, I shifted the focus of my presentation to also accommodate teachers who had a Twitter but weren’t using it to the full extent possible. I am sharing my presentation here with the hope that it be useful for technology coaches and leaders hoping to harness the power of Twitter in their school or district. An editable link will be provided so that you may edit and use the presentation however you see fit.

My presentation includes a rationale for using Twitter for PD, a step-by-step guide to setting up a Twitter, components of collaboration via real-time hashtags, and a brief overview of the way teachers can tailor Twitter to suit their needs (including Lists, Likes, Polls, and Chats).

Since the nature of my project shifted, what was originally meant to be a 10-minute Ignite Session grew. If I were to present this at the NCCE conference, I would bypass the tutorial aspect and assume that audience members had a basic understanding of Twitter. If I were to use this presentation as a PD offering at my school, I would allow for 30 minutes in order to ensure that all participants could set up an account and get started. The benefit of sharing a link to your resource is that teachers can refer back to it and review anything they missed.

Meeting ISTE Coaching Standard 3

Twitter is a powerful way to connect, communicate, and collaborate with educators at your school site, district, county, state, and country. Twitter makes it easy to connect with educators across the globe if you choose. I cannot think of a better way to satisfy ISTE Coaching Standard 3 which asks technology coaches to “create and support effective digital age learning environments to maximize the learning of all students” (Iste.org, 2017). More specifically, Twitter allows teachers to meet substandard G: “Use digital communication and collaboration tools to communicate locally and globally with students, parents, peers, and the larger community” (Iste.org, 2017).

Meeting the Needs of Teachers

Technology coaches and leaders are wise to spend time teaching fellow teachers about the benefits of Twitter and how it can provide personalized PD. Unlike many PD sessions which offer a single strategy or tool, a session on Twitter enables teachers to access an ongoing resource that can be used again and again for ideas, collaboration, and resources.

When creating my presentation, I considered the article, 5 Things Teachers Want from PD, which I discovered through Liz Ebersole’s blog.

  • Relevant: Many teachers use social media in their personal life, but many haven’t made the jump to “teacher Twitter.” Because it’s such a familiar platform, adoption is natural. Through the use of hashtags and chats, Twitter has the ability to create a highly personalized experience for teachers.
  • Interactive: Teachers at a PD-session want the opportunity to practice the content then and there. Utilizing a document camera, coaches and leaders can walk newbies through the process of creating a Twitter account and getting started. My presentation also uses hashtags generated specifically for the presentation which allows for immediate practice and connection between participants.
  • Delivered by someone who understands their experience: As someone who is currently in the classroom, I know how valuable a teacher’s time is. There is a desperate need for PD that can be quickly and easily accessed. Twitter is the perfect tool for that. The presentation is also intentionally short and to-the-point to honor teachers’ time.
  • Sustained over time: Due to the social media element, Twitter is a constantly updating stream of information and ideas. It’s not a once and done strategy, but rather a tool that can be tapped as needed for ideas, inspiration, and collaboration. For this reason, it is very sustainable.
  • Trust teachers like professionals: This self-explanatory point is often neglected in the current PD setting. The beauty of Twitter is that you can curate lists of people and resources which result in PD that is done on your own terms.

Note on Accessibility

This quarter we also focused on accessibility and how educators can make sure their content can meet the needs of all learners. In order to demonstrate accessibility with my presentation, I’ve made the content available in a variety of ways. In addition to the presentation being projected on to the screen, the content is available online via a bit.ly link. This allows participants to focus on the content and not note-taking. It also enables me to link to additional resources. Multiple printouts of the presentation are brought to the presentation to support participants with vision issues. Additionally, the video I have made of my presentation is available with Closed Captions for those who may have hearing issues.

Links

Sources

Carpenter, J., & Krutka, D. (2014). How and Why Educators Use Twitter: A Survey of the Field. Journal Of Research On Technology In Education, 46(4), 414-434. doi: 10.1080/15391523.2014.925701

Iste.org. (2017). ISTE Standards For Coaches. [online] Available at: https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches [Accessed 17 Aug. 2018].

Logan, L. 5 ways tech has changed professional development. Retrieved from https://www.amplify.com/viewpoints/5-ways-tech-has-changed-professional-development

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