Paul's Place of Musings and Insights

the reflections of a techno-meddling teacher

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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.

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Connecting

In my last post, I spoke about my goal of connecting my students figuratively and literally through their learning. 3 weeks in, I have made some real gains, and surprised even myself with how making connections can enrich our learning experiences.

We have started using Edmodo across our Year 6 classes to the utter delight of our students. This online learning environment has allowed students to engage with each other and the content of our inquiries far more fluidly than before. To see our shy and under-performing students embracing this new way of interacting with their learning was a literal buzz for us, and made it clear to us that we were on to a winner.

In attempting to model the power of YouTube to spread a message, we looked at the plethora of Call Me Maybe parodies and covers that had begun springing up all over the place. Some of my students instigated the creation of our own parody, initially just for fun. What I realised was that this was an ideal opportunity to put my ramblings about connecting over the Internet into action – the finished video was posted on our class blog, and the comments it received were overwhelming for both the students and myself. We had stumbled across a way to spread our message (admittedly, it was us just having some fun) and effectively connect with others around the world. (The post in question can be found here.)

So, in three weeks, we have managed to begin connecting quite effectively – bring on the rest of the year!

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