Because teaching is such an isolated profession it often falls under scrutiny. The Department of Education and politicians at the national, state and local levels impose upon teachers requirements, standards and/or benchmarks on student achievement to substantiate effective teaching. As such, standardized testing is imposed to "ensure" student learning ("sarcasm" just in case it wasn't obvious). That's fine, some mode of data gathering is needed and typically the external requirements fall far short of our self-imposed standards anyway. The disconnect in the education system is that outsider imposed standardization coupled with an isolated working environment drives Educational Professional Development (PD). Without going off on a long rant about teacher PD troubles it's suffice to write that it has BIG issues. We've all endured our time wasted at bad PD work shops. PD needs to be teacher driven. The goal here is to provide a self-cure to the PD woes, not list its countless problems.
Technology allows for teachers to connect and collaborate with colleagues anytime, anywhere with anyone in the profession. What teachers need is the opportunity to learn how to do it. Teachers Tweet Mastery: is the title of a blog we wrote many months ago. The main gist of the entry was to promote the fact that there are teachers that use Twitter to share all the incredible lessons, strategies and concepts they employ; and you can be part it. Creating a Teacher Twitter-based PLN is easy. Once established it allows for the teacher to control their own PD.
The benefits of teachers controlling their own Professional Development through developing a Twitter PLN are:
- Collaboration with colleagues from everywhere in the world.
- PD on your own time, when it works best for you from the comfort of your own home.
- Unlimited access to every education related topic with control over picking and choosing which ones will benefit you and the students the most.
- Ability to communicate with other teachers about pedagogy as often as needed.
- Discover the creative things other teachers employ in their classrooms and try them out yourself.
Here's how to get started:
- Get a FREE Twitter account.
- Choose a Twitter Handle. (This is your title. It will appear as @example. It's our suggestion that you spend some time thinking carefully what you want this to be; once you establish the handle to an account changing it later on will alter your PLN completely. Develop a catchy, unique label. It should be short; or as few characters as possible to allow for your tweeting experience to be more user friendly.)
- Choose a Twitter Name. (This is where your name will be placed; but if you're uncomfortable using your real name choose something else.)
- Write a Twitter Profile. (Choose your words carefully because you are limited to the number of characters available. Make sure to include in the description that you are a teacher or educator which will allow others in the profession to view and connect with you. We also suggest providing your home state for more localized PLN opportunities.)
- Follow others in the education profession. (Start by finding an account that has a quality following already in the field of education. Click follow; then go through their list of followers, read their recent tweets and then choose some educators to follow by clicking again.)
- Get involved in Chats. (There are many education related chats available. Here is the best chat schedule available hosted by Jerry Blumengarten @cybraryman1 and Tom Murray or use the AskteacherZ chat list. Chats use hash tags or a "#" symbol in front of a term.)
- Use Direct Messages or DM. (Once you follow someone and they follow you back you have access to direct messaging with one another. These messages are private between the two accounts. This can allow for more depth of collaboration.)
- Create Lists. (Twitter users are able to create lists of other users to better organize their tweeting experience. Likewise, you can access your followers' lists to further discover and expand your PLN.)
- Be a polite and safe Twitter user. (When you encounter a quality tweet; Re-tweet it. This is the twitter equivalent to a "like." You can also "favorite" the tweet. This is a "like" that is then placed and saved on your twitter profile "favorites" list. There's also some web sites that offer Twitter safe tutorial help and assistance like HayThere.)
- Share, share and share. (Twitter allows you to attach links, photos and video. When you encounter anything of educational value attach it to a tweet with a little description and pay-it-forward to your PLN. Use an occasional hash tag with a key word to get the tweet out to other listing/s.)