Why do I use social media for professional development?

I often get blank looks from teachers when I discuss the use of Twitter for professional development. Blank looks from the teachers who haven’t “got it” yet that is! I am the only teacher in my school on Twitter but the population of teacher Twitter users is growing. I’ve been a Twitter user for over four years and initially, like everyone, there was the confusion and worry about what was going on. I was luckier as Twitter was quiet back then and now it must be a minefield for new people.

Let’s use an analogy to help. Imagine Twitter as a newsagent’s shop. If you go in and pick up the celeb magazines, you’ll find out about celebrities and their life. You can also go and find magazines on sport, film, education and a whole host of other niche areas. Twitter is the same. You can follow celebrities, pop stars, sporting heroes, or for the purpose of this post, teachers.

Twitter in itself is not professional development, but it facilitates communications with some amazing people with truly amazing ideas. Where else can I chat to Pie Corbett or discuss blogging with David Mitchell? For me though, Twitter isn’t just about the popular teachers with thousands of followers, it’s about the trainee teachers, the fellow year 3 teachers and the ones that are keen to share their ideas with an audience. There are many enthusiastic teachers sharing links, resources and suggestions all of the time. Finding them is often part of the challenge.

Who should I follow?

One way to begin is to follow a few people, look through who they follow and then follow those too. Following someone on Twitter doesn’t have to be a mutual thing, you can follow them without them having to accept or be your friend back.

For primary teachers, I’d start with:
@ianaddison – that’s me!

That gives you ten to begin with. Have a look, what are they saying? Is it useful? Sometimes a tweet that they send will be a re-tweet. This means that a user has seen a useful message from somewhere else and wants to share it with their followers too. If the same names keep popping up, then follow those as well. It is also worth going to Twitter.com and clicking on ‘lists’ on one of those users’ pages. Twitter users often have lists to keep up with the most useful information so that they don’t get overwhelmed!

Many users start by following, 10, 20, 50 people and then slowly this grows over time. Remember, it isn’t email; you don’t need to read every tweet. If something gets missed, don’t worry! There will be plenty more tomorrow.

I would guess that most Twitter users access it via an app on their phones, but you can also get Tweetdeck for Chrome and use the Twitter website too. Many of the apps are free or offer free versions so you can try them out.

But I have nothing to say! Why would people want my ideas?

There are many teachers who have this feeling and I know of lots that ‘lurk’ or browse through the tweets without posting any themselves. Think about the things you are doing in your classroom, could someone else use this or adapt it for their children? When I have trained teachers they have often told me that their ideas aren’t worth sharing, if this is the case, why are they being shared with the children in their class? Every idea will be useful to someone. Think of the main resource sharing sites online, there are lots of ideas that are brilliant but maybe ten-times more than need adapting or ignoring entirely!

There is also the brilliant Bring a Teacher to Twitter campaign here: http://batttuk.wordpress.com/

Written by Ian Addison on May 16, 2013 14:20

How do you use social media in the classroom?

We’ve been using Twitter in school for a while now. Our main school account @stjohnswaltham is there as a way of posting blog posts. Every log post from www.stjohnsblogs.co.uk is automatically tweeted out to our 500+ followers. We don’t use this for news or important information, but we do occasionally post links to the school website. Importantly, anything that is sent to Twitter is already on our school newsletter and/or website.

In class, it’s a bit different. We are followed by 350+ people including teachers and other schools and classes. This account also posts blog posts from our class blog but it is there as a way of us sharing our learning in a more instant way. Blogs are great and we blog a couple of times a week, but using Twitter, we can post a short snappy update in seconds. We have a Chromebook that is always available in class and this has the Twitter application loaded. The children can use this at any point in the day to share a message with “the world”.

We use various sentence prompts, inspired by Simon McCloughlin’s blog post and these help to focus our tweets. Sometimes we get replies and we can then form a bit of dialogue with the person we are messaging. Often, our tweets are just little moments in time that a child wanted to share.

I don’t think that these children would always share these nuggets with me, but they are happy to share it with Twitter. Not everyone tweets, but they can if they want to. Certain children, such as Finlay, will tweet a few times a week as he wants to share what he’s been up to. Others tend not to do it at all, which is also fine. The only rules we have are that we have to (try to) remember capital letters and full stops and that someone has to check the tweet before it goes live. This doesn’t have to be me, it could be another child. Also if they see a reply that they are unsure about, they tell me. But then this is the same rule for their school email or any website they might be using in school.

So how do we keep it safe?

I am often asked about the safety aspects. We are followed by a range of different people and I do scan through these now and again (by clicking “followers” on Twitter.com) and I would block anyone that I thought looked inappropriate, but I don’t want to limit our followers to just our parents and teachers. The replies we get are often from teachers and classes in different parts of the country and this is an exciting moment for our children. Why do these people reply to us? Who knows! One person is an ex-teacher and wants to stay connected to the classroom; others know that a reply might spark a line of discussion and enquiry.

I would say that using Twitter in the classroom hasn’t been a revolution and it hasn’t changed the way I teach or the way the children learn, but it is an interesting addition as it gives the children another avenue with which to share their learning with others.

So give it a go, follow @stjohnsclass8 and say hi to my Year 3/4 class!

For more inspiration and ideas, Teacher’s Pet~ also have a set of display resources based on Simon’s prompters.

Written by Ian Addison on April 23, 2013 08:47

5 rules for teachers using Facebook

Like the majority of people, you're probably using social networking sites on a regular basis to keep up with friends, share your holiday snaps and tell people what you've just had for lunch.

However, as an educational professional it’s important to realise that pupils will naturally be curious about your personal life outside school and may try to find out more about you. The internet and social networking sites can make that very easy and leave your information and images at risk of being misused.

Here are some basic things to do to protect you from abuse of your privacy and personal information.

  1. Firmly decline student-initiated friend requests and do not initiate any yourself.

  2. Manage your privacy settings and keep these under review, particularly in regard to photos.

  3. Ensure your settings prohibit others from tagging you in any photos or updates without your permission.

  4. If you're just starting teaching and taking up a new post it could be a good idea to audit and re-evaluate the information available about you online and who has access to it.

  5. Consider that conversations held online may not be private – be aware of who may have access to what you post.

Written by Safeguarding Essentials on March 26, 2013 16:00

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