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Saturday, 12 April 2014

A plea to all professional tweeters

This is an updated post for 2017. Sadly all of what was originally written remains unchanged as it still applies and as a long standing professional tweeter, professional student mentor and NQT mentor this both saddens and concerns me. The alterations have come about as a response to a new, more sinister type of professional tweeter who I feel are permeating Twitter and are bad for newbies and oldies alike, Read on to see if you can spot the latest edition: 

I am a great advocator of Twitter as a professional tool! I have delivered staff inset in my own school in an attempt to encourage my fellow staff to create a professional twitter account and to show them the true value of twitter as a professional development tool. I have also blogged about Twitter and the impact it has had on my own professional development. Twitter as a Professional Development Tool

After all the possibilities of a professional Twitter account are mind blowing! Twitter connects us with other professionals from all around the globe, it informs us of the views of other like minded people on the current educational issues, it supplies us with a never ending list of educational resources to use in our classrooms and keeps us up to date with and involved in current educational research and debate.

However, I do have my concerns about Twitter. As I mentioned in my blog above, it can have its dark side. The reason I feel compelled to mention this again and to make my plea to my fellow tweeters is that I genuinely feel that those more reluctant, maybe cynical but still potential tweeters, and also the complete Twitter newbies are being turned off.

So what are they being turned off by? Several things but potentially the biggest turn offs are:

The Show Offs - you know the type, you may have some of them in your own staff rooms. They are the 'look at me I'm outstanding all of the time' people, or the 'everything in my garden is Rosie people', or the 'I am Alright Jacks'. They spout incessantly about how wonderful they are, which is fine, good for them I say but where it becomes a nuisance is when they cannot see beyond themselves or indeed acknowledge the people who are having a bad time. The realists, the teachers on the chalk-face know that it is not possible to be outstanding all of the time, but that new potential Twitterer doesn't. They are turned off immediately, after all they think who is going to want to hear about what they are doing when they are not outstanding? It would be more useful for the 'Show Offs' to share the ideas from their 'outstanding' lessons, acknowledge what hard work it was etc...

The 'In Crowd' - I thought I had left the in crowd behind in high school but sadly not, they are alive well and tweeting. They may be people who I don't actually know and have never met but what I do know about them is that they are 'too cool for school'. You know who they are because their messages are the ones that contain at least ten @mentions naming all of their crew. They don't actually say anything of any use in their tweets other than  'so great to catch up at the pub tonight' or  'anybody up for meeting this weekend?' They should maybe keep these type of tweets to DMs or emails. Nobody wants to join Twitter and be made to feel like an outsider!

The Secret Society - They are the people 'in the know', nudge, nudge, wink, wink. They Tweet using only secret coded messages that only they the 'in crowd' understand. They could tell us what they were tweeting about but they would have to kill us. They have meetings with Ofsted, the D.F.E and merely use twitter to send photos of themselves with Michael Wilshaw or even just on the train on the way to their 'top secret' meeting. What is worse is they actually think they are talking for 'us' the commoners, the plebs. What would be better would be to either keep it a secret and not tweet about it at all or ask the plebs what they would like discussed at these meetings, set up a poll etc. For a twitter newbie the secret society are again a complete turn off. They fear and dread the name Ofsted and would feel totally constrained about their tweets because 'big brother' may be listening.

The Obsequious Tweeter - You all know the type, the person who will do or say anything in order to climb that ladder. Their tweets tend to have lots of 'great to finally meet you in the flesh' or 'your cause was awesome, where can I get your book?' Now if you have been on a useful conference there is nothing wrong with giving the deliverer of said conference a mention after all it lets other tweeters know if it would be useful for their professional development too. Where it goes wrong though is when it is clearly just a way of showing off or blatantly 'boot lick' in order to gain something for themselves.This type of tweeter is again a big turn off. We meet people like this everyday and lets face it will do whatever we can to avoid them.

The Contentious, Pugnacious Tweeter - this is potentially the most dangerous type of 'professional' tweeter. I add the quotation marks because the way they behave is in my opinion far from professional. The whole reason for their existence on twittter seems to be contentious. They love an argument and will incite arguments and join in debates between others. They have a full arsenal of put downs which they use to tear to shreds anyone who dares to take the opposing opinion to theirs. If  their argument is waning they will bring in other fellow pugnacious tweeters and the assault continues. The barrage of 'intelligent' insults is shameful. When they are done and their victims have for the sake of decency relented they still continue until finally they retreat blocking, unfollowing and muting as they go, totally ungracious in what they see as victory. 

I know that the argument lots of people would give is that its a bit like watching a television programme you don't like, you can always turn it off. Or likewise you can block or 'unfollow' the irritating people with nothing to add to your Twitter experience, but it takes time to find your way around Twitter as a newbie and often they are put off before they even know how to unfollow or block. Also it is not just the newbie who suffers. The seasoned tweeter can also be put off and retreat. After all our jobs are stressful enough without having to contend with more unecccsary stress on twitter. 

The point is Twitter needs newbies whether they are in the form of experienced teachers new to social media or N.Q.Ts and students. They bring with them new ideas, experiences, views etc and that continues to fill up the twitter pool for us all. We also need the experienced professionals who have so much to offer to us all. 

So my plea to you is to keep Twitter professional, full of ideas, discussion and healthy debate and lets encourage those who bring nothing to the table but their own egos or agendas to be more considerate, polite and perhaps change their ways. Encourage your own staff, fellow educators onto to Twitter and lets keep that pool full to the top!