Teachers can gain so much from colleagues working beside them - teaching tips, strategy suggestions, resource ideas, planning pointers and simply the support of another professional in talking through issues or sharing experiences from day to day.
Most often these colleagues might be co-workers within the same school. But in some schools there may only be a small staff, there may be no other colleagues teaching similar ages or curricular areas for the same age-group. And, of course, in the busy day to day life of schools the time when you have opportunity to reflect on what you are trying to do, or to ask advice, or to look for resources on an unfamiliar topic, will be when you are finished for the day and are at home preparing for the next day on your own. In these situations this is where many teachers have found having a personal learning network to be particularly useful – a group of colleagues who may be far removed from your own location, but with whom you can share ideas together.
A tool which makes building a personal learning network very easy is Twitter.
Pernille Ripp has created a short video explaining what Twitter has meant for many teachers around the world. This video lasts just a few minutes but in that time shares in a succinct way how teachers can make use of this free online tool to connect, in whatever way they find is most useful to them, to other teachers both near and far.
Click on the video below to watch a presentation created by Victoria Olson explaining why a teacher might consider using Twitter to develop a Professional Learning Network.
Sue Waters has created a superb guide for teachers thinking of getting started with using Twitter. Her guide takes you through an explanation about what Twitter can do and how it can help you, as well as step-by-step guidance to taking your first steps into using Twitter to find other teachers to follow, and how to then build your own network of colleagues from near or far from whom you can learn or with whom you can share ideas. Sue says on her post:
“And for those of you who have heard of Twitter and have dismissed it thinking ‘”Twitter is for people with too much time on their hands” — think again. Educators are connecting with each other on Twitter and using it like a big teachers lunch room that’s open 24/7 whenever they need help, assistance or just want to connect with others.”
Jeff Thomas on his Tech the Plunge blog as created a series of resources aimed specifically at introducing teachers who have perhaps been wary of considering using Twitter. So for them this blog post has a series of links to resources presented in easy to digest categories, from a video introduction showing how Twitter works, to how to get started, how to find other like-minded colleagues with whom to build a supportive network, and tools which will help teachers get more out of the Twitter environment.
Connected Leadership – Harnessing ther Power of a Global Learning Network is a presentation by Chris Wejr which provides a series of examples of the transformation in how pupils, teachers and school leaders now use online networks to change how they work.
Crowdsourced Twitter guide for Teachers - a series of very short videos by teachers who use Twitter, explaining why they use Twitter, how it helps them in teaching, how to go about getting started and how to make it work for you. The site was collated by Jess McCulloch
Pooky Hesmondhalgh of Creative Education has created a links to a series of resources specifically to support UK teachers using Twitter. These include Twitter for teachers – a guide for beginners, Top twitter hashtags for teachers – which also explains what hashtags are, and why and how to use them;
advice about how to find relevant people to follow and how to get relevant people to follow you to make your network really valuable; and a series of 20 top education tweeters, in categories such as eLearning enthusiasts, primary school leaders, new Twitter users, educational technology, and maths teachers. In addition this resource provides a beginner guide to Twitter’s UKedchat – a public online Twitter discussion between many teachers which takes place from 8-9pm UK time every Thursday using Twitter.
UKEdChat has a site of its own which explains what UKEdChat on Twitter is all about, provides a step-by-step guide to making use of UKEdChat and brings together resources shared each week by participants on the weekly UKEdChat. The site shows how to dip in, or contribute – there are many ways to make it work for you – this site provides the place, the ideas and the tools.
Listorious is a tool for searching for Twitter users or topics based on what users have stated about their interests or on the topics they regularly tweet about. The education lists here let you narrow down searches to specific events or topics or to groups of teachers teaching similar age ranges of pupils or curricular areas, or from specific geographical areas. A similar tool is WeFollow.
Jacqueline Foster has collated 28 Creative Ways Teachers are Using Twitter. This describes ways teachers are using Twitter, with its 140-characters and its perpetual haze of pound signs. These ideas, described in more detail on the blog, include such things as using Twitter to gather real-time feedback, to use the Twitter’s unique 140-character structure to create writing in a variety of genre, to follow conferences, to Communicate with professionals, for Taking notes, to Share a story, to Set up a poll, to Keep up with current events, and to host a Twitter scavenger hunt or have fun with historical figures.
Larry Ferlazzo has created a whole host of links to resources which not only support teachers thinking of starting to use Twitter for the first time, but also provides links to many resources to make their use of Twitter even more productive, whether it’s finding folk to follow, searching for information on a given topic, collating and displaying information from any events where people are tweeting about that event, or creative ways to display information found.
Matthew Brewer has created a Livebinder of links to resources about building a Personal Learning Network using Twitter. This has a series of pages with different headings under which there are then links to a variety of resources on that topic.
TweetGrid is a tool that lets you follow your chosen topics or people in Twitter without you having to have a Twitter account of your own. This means you can follow the postings by many others who might be sharing ideas and resources in public on Twitter on any given topic, or following live notes from people attending events where they are posting updates using the event hashtag.
You may also find the Educator’s PLN a useful site to visit. This website combines public Twitter conversations between teachers with with ever-growing lists of weblinks, videos, resources and links to blogs of educators. Here you can find groups of teachers teaching similar age-ranges or areas of the curriculum. You can follow ideas being shared there and, if you wish, join in the conversations.
Twitter for Teachers is a sliderocket presentation aimed at showing teachers what they can gain from using Twitter as a tool to develop a PLN/TLC.
Tweeting for Teachers is a comprehensive document looking at how social media can support teacher professional development by Julie McCulloch, Ewan McIntosh and Tom Barrett, drawing on additional evidence, insights and case studies from Fraser Bedwell, Mark Berthelemy, Philippa Cordingley, Mike Coulter, Marc Faulder, David Gilmour, Neil Hopkin, Sharath Jeevan, Laura McInerney, Oliver Quinlan, David Rogers, Michael Shepherd and Craig Taylor.
Twitter Advice for Schools is not a “how to use Twitter” guide, but briefly goes into suggestions for policy, liability to the school, and the safe usage along with some tips and advice.
Twitter for Twitchy Teachers is a guide by Alan Mackenzie to practical advice for teachers using Twitter in a professional and safe way.
Twitter for Educators: A Beginner’s Guide has been written by Amber Coggin with Alison Flowers and Deana Nunn. This is in the form of a very visual, graphically-engaging set of poster-like pages in booklet form, guiding teachers through getting started with Twitter.
12 Reasons to Get Your School Tweeting is a post by Joe Mazza describing reasons for tweeting by education professionals, schools, and Local Education Authorities. The descriptions also include a host of useful links to further resources as well as advice.
Slightly More Advanced Twitter tips for Teachers is a presentation by Maggie Vorster, who has also created and made available a whole range of presentations on the use of Twitter and other online tools in education.
The Twitter experience : the role of Twitter in the formation and maintenance of personal learning networks is a Masters thesis by Clint Lalonde on the use of Twitter specifically by teachers to develop their PLN.
Jason Renshaw on the English Raven blog has provided useful tips for teachers on why they should use Twitter to engage with other educational professionals, as well as practical steps to getting started and making the most of Twitter for teachers, and also advice on the etiquette of using Twitter as a professional.
When anyone sends a message on Twitter they can add a hashtag (this symbol #) to denote a keyword or topic. This helps group messages from different users on the same topic. The A-Z Dictionary of Educational Hashtags provides a list of commonly used hashtags by those working in education. Some of these are used for regular discussions while some are for grouping on topics such as curricuar areas. The 2012 A-Z List of Educational Twitter Hashtags may also be useful.
For a comprehensive guide to using Twitter for any purpose the Mashable Guide Book to Twitter provides a host of helpful guides on a variety of uses in different contexts.
Daily Tekk Top 100 Tools for Twitter groups 100 tools which can help users make the most of Twitter. These categories are grouped according to task, what you are trying to do with the information, whether searching, displaying, extracting, messaging to groups, or many other roles to which you could put Twitter.
Twitter Resources, Apsp and Tools is a collation by Eric Sheninger of resources which would help Twitter users, from A-Z listings of Educational Twitter hashtags, to tools which aggregate Tweets of others or your own and pull them together into a pdf, and other tools which automatically post your Twitter messages to other applications of your choice.
Guide for Civil Service to Using Social Media - published in May 2012 this provides helpful guidance for any professionals using Twitter or other social media tools.
In whatever way you use Twitter, once you have started to use it, you will find you’ll never walk alone!