Jump on board

As I browse Twitter and read blogs I am inspired and amazed by the enthusiastic members of the teaching profession who take the time to share their feelings, knowledge and skills.  I know there are wonderful teachers who do not appear in my Twitterstream or RSS feeds, but I am struck by those that do.   I realise that the ‘on-line’ world is not familiar to everyone, confidence and interests vary from person to person.   People make their own personal decisions about how to spend their time.   Many wonderful words of wisdom cross the staffroom tables everywhere, and wonderful things happen in every classroom.  But the world has changed, teaching is no longer private.     It is common place for staff to observe  each other, work collaboratively, share challenges and successes.  Different school communities make this happen in different ways but I notice it IS happening everywhere to some degree.  Our school world must mirror the world that our students inhabit when they walk out the school gate.   Teachers being involved in connecting and communicating is a vital cog in the wheel.  

Anyone who knows me, will know that I am far more introverted than extrovert.  This has not stopped me from feeling quite comfortable in an on-line professional world.   In fact, it is probably why I enjoy this learning style – I can lurk, browse and choose to contribute when I feel I have something to add.   At a face-to-face meeting with strangers, I will not be the quickest one to add my 2c worth to a discussion.  Although, I am developing confidence as I become more passionate and experienced on some subjects.

Every teacher I know has something to add to the conversation, how can we make those more reticent feel more enthusiastic to join in? I know that writing a blog post is not the way some people reflect (although I heartily recommend it), but I believe everyone could benefit from joining in, even if it is by simply reading and adding odd comments.   In a world, where we are encouraging, if not requiring our students to become more overtly reflective learners, I believe teachers can benefit from this too!

I don’t think it is going too far to suggest, that teachers who do not pursue some form of connection, further education/stimulus, awareness raising or self directed inquiry learning are doing themselves and their students a disservice.  The level of that involvement will naturally vary according to interest and time.   The time element is often the excuse, but when I see the involvement of those I follow and read I think, “If they can do it….”

As discussed in previous posts, Twitter is a tool that takes time to learn and master, but I think you will have resounding agreement if you ask teachers who have taken the time about the benefits.    Blogging, similarly can take time, time to develop a core library of relevant writers, time to feel confident to post your thoughts.

How do we convince those not yet convinced to jump on board?  I get frustrated that it is all here and could be much richer with an even wider contributing audience.  I prepared this graphic a while ago for another purpose but it summarises the benefits I receive from my involvement in an online network.

2000 Tweets

If anyone had told me a few years ago that as of December 2012, I would have accumulated a story of 2000 tweets, 1166 followers and be following 883 others, I would have seriously doubted it. But here I am today, and these are the statistics.

It has been an amazing journey and I have enjoyed every bit. I followed what appears to be the traditional route – sign up, lurk, follow a few, a few retweets and then getting in to the full swing of it and encouraging others to participate too.  As a professional, I think differently because of the potential Twitter has opened up for me.  I now have connections and in some case new friendships with an amazing network of educators – educators from all over the world, from all sectors of education and involved in leadership, as well as all levels of education – primary, secondary and tertiary. I follow a few of the ‘celebrity’ educational tweeters, but draw more support from the every day teachers who so generously participate in this global staffroom.

It has been very encouraging over the past few months to see positive stories about the use of Twitter as a tool to enhance our learning.  Hopefully this is un-doing some of the bad reputation Twitter has accumulated by the poor use of a few celebrities.

When you are so convinced that something is great, it is easy to be evangelistic and suggest that everyone should get involved, but I will not be that idealistic.  I do hope however, that all teachers in some way accept that our profession is no longer private, we should be looking for opportunities to share our questions, or ideas and our passions. Whether they join a Ning, read blogs, participate in online learning opportunities or at the very least talk to the teachers in their school and share ideas and thoughts. We owe it to our students to model this style of learning.

There are many other posts on the value of Twitter – a few below

Again; Relevance, Why Twitter by Tom Whitby

Are you ready 4 Twitter? Another wonderful post by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano.

Does Twitter improve education? or “Does the USE of Twitter Improve Education?” by George Couros

A video from AITSL’s Teacher Feature Collection

Finally a wonderful post by Bec Spink, about her use of Twitter with students as well as a professional learning opportunity.

Thanks to all those who have been part of this journey and in particular to the State Library of Victoria’s PLN program that was the instigator for my original connection. I wonder what I will be tweeting about in 2 more years or 2000 tweets away?

Twitter – starting to get there

Interesting day in today’s newspapers – three positive articles about the positive use of Twitter by teaching professionals.   I am heartened as it was only last week that I found myself having to defend Twitter in a room of educators.   I am very aware that teachers are busy, that they are often overwhelmed by the pressures of the classroom and  they cannot see an opportunity in their lives to open the window to this opportunity.   I am also very aware of the many who do open the window and wonder why they took so long to join this amazing group of people.


Articles like these in today’s national press (SMH and The Age and again The Age) can serve to whittle away at all the negativity that a few poor users of Twitter create.

Blogging as part of the learning

Any reader of this blog will know that I love blogging and often use it personally to ask questions and explore issues.  I have been lucky enough to introduce personal blogging to a group of 10 – 12 year olds and used the Student Blogging Challenge to launch this process. They very quickly applied new skills: adding widgets, commenting, navigating the dashboards and adding posts.  Most did only what was required while a few seemed to ‘click’ with the notion that their blogs could be an added tool in their learning.  The ‘showcase’ element of blogging is easy: create a product, publish it, get feedback (always positive).

Listening to and reading the work of Ideas Lab, I was keen to explore another facet of blogging.

Rethinking Transparency

Communicate the whole learning process not just student achievements.
Schools also need to reimagine what students publish. Rather than simply showcasing student achievements and reflections upon the process as a whole, students should be encouraged to share the entire learning process.
Schools should teach and encourage students to share their project ideas, their reflections, their progress and their achievements. School should also consider whether every student should have a blog, a journal where they have the freedom to plan, share and reflect.

http://www.ideaslab.edu.au  – Understanding-Virtual-Pedagogies

An opportunity arose recently when a student published his ‘unfinished’ narrative.  He put a note on the class Edmodo page,  explaining that it was not finished.  Having developed a wonderful PLN (including one author), I immediately thought, here was an opportunity for our young author to connect, to get feedback during the process.  I contacted an author (thanks Kelly) and within minutes, the student had a beautifully written commentary on his draft story.  Lovely feedback and constructive suggestions for improvement from a credible, experienced writer.
It remains to be seen, as this was only yesterday, how this translates directly to the piece of work in progress.  But I cannot see, how this intervention cannot have a positive effect on the young writer.  He knows he has an audience, he knows there are people with skills that can assist his growth and that they are not all in his classroom or school.

At a recent day with other educators including Alec Couros, we discussed how teachers can be the nodes for our students learning, how we can create a network around ourselves and consequently around our students.  This was a perfect opportunity to prove this concepts value.

How can we help our students to develop their own Personal Learning Networks?

That’s about it … social learning

students teaching learning with students
teachers  teaching learning with students
students  teaching learning with teachers
teachers  teaching learning with teachers

In “So many opportunities”, I  wrote about the plethora of  opportunities to be inspired to think about education.  Stephen Heppell says  “It’s a very exciting time for learning. It’s the death of education, but the dawn of learning.”   Alan November’s message at #ictev12 was and I para-phrase,  “peer tutoring is in the upper echelon of what will make a difference. ”   The obvious value of the social side of learning is coming through in so many of these conversations.  Will Richardson, says  “it is about what you do with others “ – not about learning alone.

The value of engaging a network of other learners, whether face to face or by on-line interactions is becoming a greater force – not simply as an end product but as part of the learning routine. I spent yesterday with a group of highly networked educators at the State Library of Victoria,  It was exciting to hear the questions and issues in the minds of those in the room. Hamish Curry conducted a wonderful dialogue and Alec Couros brought some of his vast experience to the room as well.

As I see it, the shift is in the use of the internet, from merely publishing final products to involving others in the process of creating the product.   The web was a place to publish, now it is a place to collaborate and create.  No new ideas here really as Web 2 products have been available for many years.  The idea is that good ideas are the consequence of the melding of many other ideas into something new and our sharing can make that happen.   Being open to risk sharing your thinking, despite your doubts that there are many who may think differently or know more is something many adults shy from, this I believe is a great challenge for adults but perhaps not for our younger students.  The concept is described as  ‘learning collectively’  in the Ideas Lab “The Collective Knowledge Constructive Model”.    This collaboration, importantly face to face is enhanced by the use of the tools at our finger tips – nothing beats the personal relationships.

Whilst I love the sound of all this, questions keep arising in my head

  • How do we shift the thinking of people who have a complacent comfort in continuing their isolated existence?  or for that matter should we?
  • How can collaborative learning ‘fit’ the current exam focused assessments our students are required to complete?
  • How equipped are many teachers to become ‘nodes’ in a network to support their students learning?
  • How do we learn and then teach others to filter the enormous wealth and diversity of thinking and knowledge?
  • Is social media a leveller – allowing conversations between people of all ‘levels’ of knowledge, skills and ability?
Luckily I will be able to continue these discussions and ask more questions next Friday, back at the State Library but this time it will be Will Richardson as our    ‘carrot’ offering his perspective.  If this taster is any example, it should prove to be another thought provoking experience.


iste-presentation from Will Richardson on Vimeo.