Last Wednesday’s 15-Minute Forum was led by Assistant Principal Ben Hill (a well-known Twitter fanatic) and entitled ‘Tweet tweet! Why all the fuss about teachers using Twitter?” Here’s a quick round-up:
Firstly, this isn’t a technical article – my #15MF focused more on the ‘why’ than the ‘how’ of using Twitter as a teacher. Secondly, I’m writing this mainly for colleagues who don’t already engage with Twitter, so no apologies if others feel like they already know this stuff!
Things have changed
I began the forum with two diagrams to illustrate the recent shift in the model of teacher development. This is discussed in much more detail here, but the basic message is about not being the teacher left out of the loop!
“Best form of CPD I ever had”
Just one quote that sticks in my mind about teachers using Twitter. Others, from our own staff as well as the wider tweeting community: “you can share resources easily and quickly”, “it’s a virtual staffroom full of all the people you admire in the profession”, “it’s what you want, when you want it”, “a professional learning community that I can engage with on my terms, not anyone else’s”
Eavesdropping on as many conversations as you want
That’s really what ‘following people’ on Twitter is like. Don’t be shy either, it isn’t stalkerish – the whole point of tweeting is to have it read by others, it’s a deliberately public forum. Some teachers remain entirely passive Twitter users; only ever following others and absorbing information and ideas. This is completely OK, and if you don’t want to interact further, no-one is going to make you! One tip is that if you like what someone writes, have a look at who THEY follow. Chances are, you’ll find even more inspiration. If you follow the people I follow, for example, you’ll quickly see where I *ahem* borrow my best ideas from!
Like it? Read more
Many tweeters are also bloggers (don’t be put off by the word, a blog is nothing magic – just publishing your thoughts online for a wider audience). What often happens is that people will tweet links to their blog so that if you like the sound of something you can read much more than a 140-character snippet. Here are some ideas of where you might like to start, but more often than not, one blog will link to another and before you know it your head will be swimming with inspiration!
Join the conversation
Like any conversation, it’s good twitter etiquette not to wade in straight away, but if you feel you can contribute then go right ahead and reply. The result? More likeminded people will follow you, especially if they are interested by what you have to say. This is a really good way to build a personal learning network.
Once you’ve got a few followers, reach out to them and see if they can help you with any specific problems. You’ll not only get replies from your own followers, but if they retweet you then your question can be put to a much wider audience.
In the forum I showed some live examples of using hashtags – either simply as ‘markers’ for finding posts at a future date (like our #15MF tag, also used by a couple of other schools) or for following wider conversations or topics. I particularly like the current #NQTAdviceYou ReallyNeed hashtag – our NQTs who were at the forum were thrilled to find that this exists! Some are ad-hoc conversations but there are others (known as ‘chats’) that happen at particular times of the week. Here’s a great round-up of the most popular.
Blow your own trumpet
Sometimes the things we take for granted that we do every day, every lesson even, will resonate with someone somewhere who’s looking for a new idea. Don’t be afraid to tweet about what you’ve been doing in class. Lots of teachers all over the UK do this every Friday using the hashtag #PedagooFriday – read more here.
Expect constructive feedback too – many teachers on Twitter are only too happy to give it!
Find your own voice
Those of you reading who also know me in real life will know that I’m not *really* as cheesy as my Twitter persona (honestly…) Some colleagues tweet as themselves, others as a ‘teachery’ version of themselves, on behalf of a department or school, or to a particular class of students. It doesn’t matter – it all works. Don’t be afraid to find your own voice and what works for you.
What’s the worst that can happen?
Why not try it out, you’ve got very little to lose. I reckon it will take you less than ten minutes to set up an account and start following a few people. Give it a couple of weeks, see if you feel like you’ve gained anything professionally from the experience (I’ll be gobsmacked if the answer is ‘no’!) The worst that can happen? You decide to stop.
BATTT stands for ‘Bring a teacher to Twitter’ – their blog has some great ideas and resources. If you send a tweet to @BATTTUK, they will retweet you to a wider audience so that you can start to build your network too!