If have you haven’t noticed I have been playing around with the format of the blog. As well as changing the format and colours I have added something new in the right hand side bar, my Twitter feed. Every now and then I tell someone how awesome Twitter is for professional development and I have posted about it before. The ideas and resources that I get on an ongoing basis are not possible through any other professional development format. The reason behind adding my Twitter feed to the blog is so that other teachers who may not see Twitter as a PD tool can get a sense of what it provides me. The Twitter feed on this blog only shows what I post to Twitter and what I ‘Favourite’ in terms of other teachers posts, it does not show every tweet that I see in my account. My intention is to try and ‘Favourite’ a range of tweets across subject areas and year levels. The Twitter feed only shows about four tweets but you can scroll through as many past tweets as you like by clicking and dragging using your mouse. My Twitter feed is obviously tailored to me but it should give you a sense of what Twitter might offer you if you were to create an account.
Please note almost every tweet will have a link in it to a resource or article of some sort. The link my not be obvious within the tweet i.e. it won’t be blue and underlined.
Quite often when we think about professional learning/reading (T&D) we envisage reading from a book or sitting and listening to a speaker who for the most part is talking about something we often don’t want to hear about. My own professional learning is at times this sort of traditional T & D (and it still needs to be), however a large portion (95%) is made up of Twitter and blogs, the majority of my ongoing regular professional development is online. Online learning allows me to focus on what I want to learn about. It helps me filter the stuff that I don’t want to hear about and its regular and constant. It is not one day here and one day there through a year.
The following video featuring Will Richardson explains briefly at the start of the video the power of online learning which I guess is the message I’m trying to pass on to you through this post. He refers to its power using two examples of teenagers but at the end of the video also makes mention of the fact that if this learning is out there for students to access it is also out there for us to access. His discussion moves away from this topic in the middle section and discusses how poorly US education is going and the problems with ‘test prep’ compared with real learning – worth the watch.
“We have to see it for the networks and connections that are possible and each of us needs to be able to reexamine our own learning.” Will Richardson in reference to the online learning available to us.
Using Twitter and blogs as a source of professional reading requires you to consider the following:
1. Do I have time! – If you know you will not make time for professional reading/viewing/learning online then you might need to stop reading this post . Just before you do though can I just say that reading/viewing/listening about the latest educational issues/debates and being challenged by other teachers/educators views and philosophies on a regular basis is (I have found) one of the most powerful learning tools I have come across. Anything that makes you think more deeply about your profession has to be good. So …….you need to make time each day, every second day, each week, whatever suits you and your current hectic lifestyle. Decide how long at the time you have to read – be flexible with this as sometimes you will be busier than others.
2. I don’t like using computers/social networks etc – As our careers evolve more and more of our learning will be online (good and bad). Lots of the tools that will benefit our students with learning will be found online. Online technologies will only continue to grow and we either choose to get on board or we can choose to ignore it. If we choose to ignore it who are we doing a diservice to? Remember you don’t have to do everything but you might do something.
2. Do I have to contribute if I create a Twitter account? No. You can just follow educators and access their resources, thoughts and ideas for free without anyone knowing you have done so. Of course contributing back can be rewarding also. At the risk of alienating everyone except Tanya and Dave if you have an iPad/tablet you can click the Twitter app and spend as little as 5-10 min flicking through tweets to see what educational resources and ideas people are putting out there. Of course you can also do this on your computer it is just not as convenient. If you connect to a blog post through Twitter but have no time to read it you can email the tweet to yourself and read it at a later date.
3. How do I find blogs? Finding blogs that interest you and that focus on the area you want to learn about is the key. I have started to collect some blogs as starting points for staff. Just go to the page tab titled ‘Teacher Blogs’ on this site and look through the list to see if you might connect with any of them. As time goes on I will try to build this list. Of course it is also very easy to Google ‘blogs about insert topic here’ to find blogs on topics you want to know more about.
4. Aren’t blogs just other peoples opinions with no foundation or research? Yes and no. Some blogs provide personal opinion based on their experience in classrooms, some provide resources and ideas that have worked for them, others go more deeply into issues and will cite current research to support their position on a topic. All are useful!
I hope this wasn’t to preachy, it was not my intention. My intention was to make you consider or think about what else is out there in terms of professional development. At the very least I hope that you check out some of the ‘Teacher Blogs’ listed on this site which might spark an interest in regularly going to the Web for a ‘hit’ of professional learning on a regular basis.
For 20 minutes or so a day I go on Twitter and have a look at the ‘tweets’ the teachers I follow have made. Everyday I find something useful, it could be a website, a video, a blog post, a concept to use in my teaching, a conversation I can join in on (sometimes I start my own).
At the 7-12 meeting on Wednesday Ali Newbold made the statement that one off T&D is often not worthwhile as we never have time to implement or follow up the large concepts or programs that a 1 or 2 day conference provides. They often motivate us for the next week and that’s the end of that. Twitter gives me access to as many educators and their ideas as I like and I’m being drip fed those small useable pieces of information on a daily basis. A small sample of useful tweets/information that I have used from Twitter:
A PE teacher suggested I make links with the fundamental motor skills used in athletics to every day physical activities to try and demonstrate the importance of developing correct technique in athletics, not just to throw further, jump higher etc. This was in response to me talking about how I was running my athletics classes this year using a different approach to previous years.
The idea for ‘The Shadow Game’ came from a Twitter link. An inspired idea by a PE teacher (no jokes about ‘inspired’ and ‘PE teacher’ being used in the same sentence)! I tried it out last year and the R-3 students (plus some year 10’s) had a ball. Ed also came down and had a look.
A science teacher from Sydney and myself shared our sites that we created for staff in our schools. Helped us both.
I had a problem with an app on my iPad and through Twitter contacted the maker (another PE teacher) who helped me sort out the problem in 15 minutes.
Twitter has broadened my knowledge of education internationally. I have learnt about education systems like Finland’s through Twitter and the links to articles and video. I have read as teachers compare systems in the UK, Finland, the US and my understanding of these systems has grown.
Sometimes it’s just a statement someone makes that allows you to think more deeply about your educational beliefs like this one from @joe_bower “If tests & grades and creativity disappeared tomorrow which would you miss more?”
It has taken time to build up a ‘following’ list, but it has been worth it. The teachers I follow range from teachers of various subjects (mainly HPE) but also IT and the odd science teacher to JP and primary teachers to school leaders and internationally renowned educational theorists like Sir Ken Robinson. These people span the globe and cover over 13 different countries at last time I counted.
I know Twitter is not for everyone and the views we as adults have of social sites like Facebook and Twitter is not always a positive one. But I can honestly say that Twitter is the most useful Web 2.0 tool I have come across in terms of what it provides me on a daily basis. So if you think you might like to try Twitter, jump in, have a go – what the hell it’s free!