Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Twitter for Personal Learning Networks (PLN)

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young."

--Henry Ford

Yes, the word "Twitter" sounds funny, and it does not help that 13 year old girls love to Tweet about the Beiber. It is also true that every technology tool known to man at some point has been used for totally wasting time... remember solitaire for Windows 3.1? 

Twitter offers the opportunity for like minded people to find common interest and share what they know. If you follow me on Twitter you will get information about education and technology, no Justin Beiber here. Some of the best things about Twitter is its ability to shorten the conversation. The person Tweeting only has 140 characters to make the case for the person following them to find out more. This is done by clicking a link in the Tweet. If you like what they are saying and find it interesting then you have the option to follow the links.

One of the most intimidating things about Twitter that educators constantly tell me is "I have nothing to say" or "who would want to 'follow' me?" The answer is simple. You don't have to say (Tweet) anything. You can be a casual observer of topics of your interest. For example, the first year I had a Twitter account I rarely Tweeted, I just listened.

Twitter for PLC and PLN

I am the instructional technologist/facilitator for my building. Only one of the teaching staff is on Twitter. I want to change that in the new year. Twitter can offer targeted professional development to struggling teachers immediately wherever they are. I am going to propose that each member of the Professional Learning Community (PLC) by grade level and department level be required to have a Twitter account. For example, each teacher is required to attend two PLC meetings a week for +/- 30 min. In these meetings teachers express concerns about students, plan interdisciplinary units of study and the Instructional Facilitators talk about instructional strategies that could improve instruction. In these meetings the facilitators also discuss informal observations and offer help to teachers that are struggling. Here is where Twitter can be a great asset for these meetings. For example, during the course of a month the facilitators and principal noticed that Mrs. Smith is struggling with a particularly unruly class and is in need of some classroom management strategies. In the old way the facilitator would maybe search a journal and find an article on classroom management, print it and hand it to the teacher. Twitter is a much better format for this. Instead of one person printing one article, the educator should follow that author on Twitter gaining access to the latest information about classroom management and quick tips and tricks for that particular teacher. Doing this will expose the teacher to articles that will offer real value, because the author of the Tweets must convince her of the importance in 140 characters. Educators may be exposed to 100's of articles instead of one. In following the classroom management person, Mrs Smith may also look at other classroom management rock stars that she wants to follow. On her time between the PLC meetings she has the opportunity to study the content wherever she can access the Internet (Phone, PC or Mac). This gives her a reading list that matters. She can come prepared to the meeting and share the great things she found during the week.

Here is how we are going to set it up.

  1. Each educator is going to setup a Twitter account.
  2. The instructional facilitator is going to assign 5 people for the whole group to follow
    • this could be a list of educational gurus like Marzano, Howard Gardener etc. 
  3. Each will start off with the assigned 5 people and seek out to get 5 more
  4. The instructional facilitator will find 3 more people to follow for each teacher in the group based on their weaknesses. 
    • Harry Wong for classroom management, Sir Ken Robinson for creativity etc. 
  5. The teachers will casually read their Twitter feed and come to the meetings prepared to discuss what they have learned.