Paul's Place of Musings and Insights

the reflections of a techno-meddling teacher


Passing it on

I have just undertaken to provide some training at my school for teachers to use Twitter for professional development. As any edtech type will testify, it is a good thing. What I am contemplating now though, is how to convince those non-believers.


From my initial chats with staff as well as my own devils advocate hat, the biggest barriers to having a staff take on something like twitter are;

“Twitter is just for mucking around”

One of the beautiful things about twitter is that it can be used by many different types of people for many different purposes. I had a conversation with my friend, who uses Twitter as part of her PR business, and told me that I didn’t use twitter properly. What I responded with was ‘neither do you!’ The reality is that both of us use it very effectively for our own purposes. I find it amazing that a tool can be so versatile.

“This will just add to my workload”

I’ll concede this point. Maintaining a Twitter account certainly takes some extra time, especially in the early phases. Once a fair amount of proficiency with the tool has been reached, aggregators, hash tags and the like can help narrow and refine what can metaphorically be ‘a lot of noise’.

“What’s a #?”

The syntax of Twitter is what makes it both beautifully simple but also intimidating to the uneducated. The analogy of the fotball stadium worked for me. At any given stadium, there might be 100 out of the 100,000 that you are interested eavesdropping in on. That’s what hashtags are; you choose to listen to anything anyone says about a particular topic.

“What about security?”

I like to refer to the maxim – if you don’t want it out there, don’t put it online. Twitter in this sense is a professional tool, and those concerned about privacy need to be reminded that you only put out there what you want people to see.

What I am presenting is in some ways counter to these points, but mostly is spruiking the benefits of getting on board.

“Developing a PLN through Twitter will improve your teaching practice”

It’s true. I can reflect on my teacher career as existing in two parts, PT and PT. Pre Twitter and Post Twitter. The idea that there is an entire community (an active and generous one at that) experiencing the same things you are was an amazing realisation for a young teacher. Being aware that support can come from collegial mentors as well as the wider e-community allows a heightened level of sharing that can only improve what we do. That little bit of inspiration that takes you down a new path, or an extra resource that just ‘makes’ the lesson work can all come from an extended Professional Learning Network.

“Modelling appropriate use of such technologies is part of our job as teachers”

Responsible digital citizenship is something that does not come from nowhere. We learn it through making mistakes (yeah, that would be me) or we learn it from observing others. I am a huge beliver in educating rather than restricting technology, and our use of a tool like Twitter is part of that process.

“Interacting with a resource like Twitter will open up your practice to new and innovative approaches, regardless of their source.”

It’s true. Being on Twitter and accessing a PLN makes you a more open learner. As teachers that is something that is vital to our practice. We learn with our students every day and that approach is habitual; After reaping benefits from your networking efforts, it inspires further growth. It makes you want to connect more meaningfully. It forces you to constantly ponder…”What’s Possible?”

This is a little bit ‘pie in the sky’ but tells a good story.

9 Responses to Passing it on

  1. JAKnipe says:

    I had this experience with some of the staff at my school. The general consensus was Twitter was just for following celebrity gossip. One PD day when we wanted to know where to find a web resource that wasn’t easily Googled, I showed them how we could “ask the twitterverse” and by using some handy # and @ we had an answer within minutes!

  2. Sue Waters says:

    Convincing the non-believer can be hard work and even if you do convince many as to why you should use twitter it doesn’t mean they start using — which is what you really want to achieve.

    Perhaps not achievable, and maybe a crazy idea, but I’m wondering whether some how you could run a month Twitter challenge with them where they have fun challenges to do. By actively using it you may find the value suddenly clicks.

  3. mrhuebl says:

    Sue, that’s so crazy it just might work! Great idea for engaging staff – I’ll definitely give it a go.

  4. Louisa Guest says:

    Hi Paul – love this post – I am broaching the twitterverse at techie brekkie next Weds! I am going to set some challenges and then all who complete the challenges will be in the draw for a XXX (havent decided yet) What would make a good prize? What would make some good challenges?

  5. Sue Waters says:

    Hi Paul and Louisa, I think for some you will need a prize as incentive to participate (wish it didn’t have to be that way). If they see value eventually the prize becomes not what it is about and they will realise this.

    I would see if you could do it over a month because more likely to continue using if becomes part of what they do.

    I would set up simple tasks maybe posted to twitter three times a week? For example, task 1 would be set up your twitter account, add you avatar, add your bio and maybe add your twitter details in this Google form. Task 2 would be compile the twitter list and use it to teach how to follow. i.e. add everyone as a follow and maybe give some simple tasks practicing @ etc. You could be writing the steps on blog then tweet the link with a hash tag (so will need to teach hash tags early).

    What I normally do with challenges is work out how many tasks per week, and for how long, then quickly create a list of tasks then put it into a logical order. For example, like we have one here – except in case of a twitter challenge your posts would be really small compare to the ones for the class blogging challenge.

  6. mrhuebl says:

    That’s fantastic, Sue. This is the type of collaboration that I want to show the staff is possible using a tool like Twitter. I’ll be sure to follow up with how it goes!

  7. Pam Thompson says:

    Hi Paul. Good on you! I know how difficult it can be to convince people about the benefits of twitter. Sad to say only 1 of my staff is on twitter & they’re not actively using it at the moment. I think it’s a battle I’m not going to win just yet – a
    Though we will have a new coordinator this year so I’m keeping my fingers crossed:-)

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