14 Apr 2010

Coming to terms with Twitter

I never really bought into Twitter at first, I'll be honest. I dabbled, and then left, only to rejoin about a year later.  Now it's a integral part of my job, and yet when I speak to colleagues at school about it, many of them still give me that look.  It's the look that says, "I thought you were alright, but now I reckon you're a bit geeky."  

This blog post should explain why I stuck with it, and how it has had an actual impact on the performance, opportunities and development of staff, how it has been used effectively and how school inspectors, still very much in the dark on Web 2.0 opportunities for students, can be impressed.

I'd heard a lot about Twitter through other language teachers I'd met on courses.  A few teachers had Twitter accounts, and were singing the praises regarding how they could get in touch with each other, share ideas, and give advice.  My first real experience of using it was merely to ask other teachers to point me in the direction of resources for a topic I was teaching.  I was being very lazy, yet knew that if I asked, there was a good chance that someone would reply with an idea.  I was right, and they did.  

In working at a Specialist Language College, I also felt a professional obligation to try and keep up to date with what was going on in language teaching across the country.  What started as a few language teachers 'tweeting' about what they were doing has become well over 100 from around the world.  It's quite hard to comprehend having a virtual staffroom of that many people with good ideas and opinions.  It has led to teachers publicising articles on their blogs which ordinarily I wouldn't have seen, I find out about events for professional development that I wouldn't have known about, and it has, without doubt put me into contact with some very influential educationalists who have taken time to give me guidance and advice.

When Ofsted came to inspect our school last year, I knew the lesson that was going to be observed.  So by planning the lesson on a wiki, I asked for suggestions and constructive criticism on my lesson plan and resources.  I got more than a dozen replies and messages, all of which made a difference to the lesson I delivered.  I have also gone back to Twitter when delivering presentations, looking for things that I may have missed, or things that might be of relevance to someone else.  I have found that the virtual audience can be both more supportive and more constructive than a real one! 

In recent months there have been a number of articles and blog posts -  about why teachers should use Twitter, but uptake amongst us is still slow.  I'm of the belief now that most ideas that I would pick up from a CPD course, I could also pick up from talking to the right person on Twitter.  However some people have found Twitter too focused on the educational technology side of teaching, but I would argue that it's a case of getting in touch with the right people.  Edtech is high on the twittering teacher's agenda, for obvious reasons, but there are plenty of people who just want to share good practice, talk about ideas, strategies and methodology.  From experience, the connections I have made on Twitter have enabled to try out new ideas in the classroom, to get new, different resources and have seriously inspired me to take risks in the classroom to further students learning.  Sharing the ideas I get from the people I follow on Twitter has also been rewarding, and it is amazing to see someone's reaction when you tell them that that great lesson idea came from a colleague on Twitter.  

From Thinking Skills to Primary Languages, and from assessment to subject leadership, I am now fortunate to be in touch with so many experts, across the whole educational spectrum.  It is true that the more people you follow, the more you can get out of the experience - most people you follow are courteous enough to follow you back - and for your information; no, I don't follow Jonathan Ross.  

The articles below will definitely help you in setting out on Twitter - 

Related Articles:

Joe Dale - Mustering the MFL Twitterati

1 comment:

Ykombi said...

I agree with everything you're saying. It's amazing that Twitter is connecting so many people all with a similar goal - improving what we do. Now, if only I could convince more of my Aussie languages teachers to get on board!