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Saturday, 8 February 2014

Twitter as a professional development tool

I am a tweeter! I only tweet however in my role as a teacher, mine is a professional as oppose to a personal account. That's not to say that occasionally a tweet will be about something I am watching such as The Voice or Elementary but on the whole my tweets relate to my day job, my role as a teacher. 

I have been teaching for 16 years and on the whole still enjoy my job. I have always seen it as a vocation. But this is something which in our present climate that is challenged constantly. 

Despite being one of the more mature teachers I keep reviewing my practice and my teaching toolbox is constantly evolving. I refer to myself as a pragmatic teacher because I will gve anything a go. 

Twitter has, alongside Pinterest provided me with a huge range of ideas, resources, educational research and contact with people from all over the world. It or should I say they have opened up my world giving me access to a huge staff room full of diverse interesting and often like minded people. 

I have delivered staff training on both Twitter and Pinterest and also blog regularly something which was actually inspired by some of the wonderful blogs I follow on Twitter. 

I believe my practice as a teacher is enriched due to my online contacts. However, and it is a big however Twitter does have its dark side. 

We all know and hear regularly about how we must teach our own children and our pupils about safe surfing and use of social media. The same though needs to be said of anyone using social media. I think as professionals we know and understand the etiquette of Twitter and if we don't initially it becomes clear the more you use it. But it is not the etiquette that is or can be the problem. 

The first area to be aware of comes from those we follow. In order for Twitter to be effective professionally you need to build a bank of people to follow. These people will provide you with lots of advice, tips, information etc. They are invaluable! These people are by definition hugely successful otherwise we wouldn't want to follow them but you must proceed with caution. 

Picture the scene - it is a cold, wet morning in October, you have had problems with a parent the day before, the childrens behaviour is challenging and you are about to have a lesson observation with pressure to deliver 'Outstanding' against an ever changing list of criteria. You unwittingly seek solace in Twitter, you come across those hugely successful people. Does it help? Maybe but the likelihood is probably not. In that state of mind all you see is how good they are and how crap you are. It adds to your low self esteem, you question yourself, doubt your own abilities. We and probably they have all been there but at that moment you can't see that. 

The next area in which we need to proceed with caution comes from the 'Twitter cliques' and trust me they do exist. It is similar to the playground parent  clique or the clique church even your own staff room cliques. On Twitter they reply only to each other's tweets, they send personal tweets to each other rather than direct messages and you rarely get invited to join their little group. This can be deflating, you tweet away thinking at some stage they will acknowledge what you have to say but you get no reply at all not even a retweet or favourite. The only way to get them to acknowledge your Twitter presence is to disagree with something they say and then boy do they pounce! 

These things may seem trivial but I do know teachers who have been put off Twitter as a result of one or both of these things. So the only way to deal with it is to be aware if it. You need to know when to back away, to leave it for a few days and go back. 

I will continue to preach the use of Twitter for professional development but will also make those that use it professionally aware of its benefits and it's drawbacks. This is because without Twitter we cannot create that professional digital footprint that potential new employers seek. But perhaps more importantly without it we lose a huge professional development tool.