The Educator's PLN

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Every educator knows what their school is like, but few really understand what Twitter is like. The Twitter experience, like school, is different for everyone. One’s contribution to the effort in either of these endeavors has a great deal to do with producing the outcomes. Simply put, the more you put in, the more you get out. That at least is the theory.

I am fortunate to have a very large base of educators that I follow on Twitter and an even larger number of educators follow me. This affords me an ability to see a great deal of activity on Twitter in regard to how educators use it on a daily basis. I wish all educators had Professional Learning Networks like mine, but it is not a style of learning suited for everyone.  Nevertheless, I began wondering what it would be like if the types of sharing, collaboration, reflection and discussion that are continuing activities on Twitter could at least be attempted in the school building environment.

 A bulk of the information exchange available on Twitter for instance comes in the form of links, or URL’s, which are internet addresses to pages of information. They could be announcements, articles, posts, videos, podcasts, webcasts, personal opinions, or books. I guess in a school setting each teacher could take articles, videos and books to exchange and discuss with other faculty members. Admins could find education links run them off on paper, and insert them in teachers’ mailboxes daily. Of course personal opinions are the mainstay for faculty rooms.

Another thing that Twitter offers us is the ability to respond to ideas and have a general discussion about those responses. Often times the authors of the ideas participate in those discussions. In a school setting, I imagine that the administrator could offer ideas for discussion, or bring in speakers and lecturers for the faculty. This is usually done at the beginning of the year to get everyone pumped up for the New Year. It would need to be done more frequently however in order to emulate the Twitter experience.

Reflection is very big on Twitter. Many tweets cause people to discuss and reflect. After a short period of time some educators address those same issues on blog posts. That of course is shared, commented on, reflected upon, and the process repeats itself. I guess in the school setting the Admin could propose a topic for discussion and afterward people could respond and reflect and if they chose to do so, come back with articles they had written on the subject to present to the faculty or place a copy in everyone’s mailbox.

Twitter offers a great deal of variety in opinion. An obviously unique element to this is the fact that Twitter is a global effort. Educators from around the world offer their opinions on some of the many subjects that educators have in common around the world. As an example, I am amazed at how universally standardized tests are recognized by educators to be counterproductive in educating kids. In the school setting it would be difficult to get a global perspective on issues unless the guest speakers were flown in from other countries. Skyping might be a great alternative.

A big, big Twitter plus is the access educators have to education experts. Conversations are had between regular teachers and education luminaries on a daily basis. Many of education’s leaders actively participate on Twitter in order to stay on the pulse of education, as well as education reform. Many of the people forming the national and international education discussions are gathering and sharing information over the internet using Twitter. In a school setting Admins could probably make calls to these same education leaders and set up at the very least Skype calls. The faculty could be assembled in the auditorium for the Skype call. The discussion after would be great.

Twitter is a gateway to many free online webinars and online conferences. It also keeps educators posted on local and regional Edcamps and conferences. Edcamps are a product of social media and a great form of Professional Development for educators. In a school setting the Admin could post a daily, weekly, or monthly calendar of events for professional development. The mailboxes again would be a wonderful method of delivery for this.

On Twitter there are constant discussions and references to pedagogy and methodology in education. As one example Twitter has been discussing the Flipped Classroom for almost two years at this point. I imagine that admins should be the education leaders of their schools and be up to date on all things education. Once they get any new trends they could present the idea at a faculty meeting. Hopefully, the discussions of pedagogy and methodology will spill over into department meetings and faculty room gatherings.

I know that schools are doing the best that they can, given the restraints of time and money, to involve their teachers with as much as they can, but it is not enough in a world where new information is formed by the ton in a matter of minutes. The idea of using technology as a tool for professional development has not caught on. The idea of being a “Connected Educator” is too foreign to too many educators. If this post is to be effective it will have to be printed out, reproduced, and circulated in teachers’ mailboxes in order to reach them. In this age of technology, that should be an embarrassment to the most educated people this country or any country has to offer.

Twitter is only one source for teachers to connect. It is the easiest to use, and the hardest to understand. Teachers need to get started connecting to other teachers. If Twitter is too difficult, try Google +, or LinkedIn, or start a blog that accepts comments. If what we are now doing as teachers was keeping us relevant and effective as educators , the words “Education” and “Reform” would not be linked together so often in so much written about education today. We have a need to connect with other educators. It must be an imperative! In the words of Ben Franklin, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

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