Prompted by comments in this thread on the TES forums, I’ve been challenged to come up with “10 indispensible/extraodinarily useful piece of information that you gleaned from your CPD time on twitter (please not just a list of sites) but things/ideas that have transformed your ( an will transform our) teaching.”
First of all, I wouldn’t say that any one tool or communication method has transformed my teaching – but Twitter has enhanced it. A tool doesn’t have to lead to a renaissance in order to be valuable, and this is as much an exercise in reflection as it is anything else.
So here are 10 semi-random1 things I can think of that have been beneficial to me (as I’m my primary conern when evaluating my use of any CPD resource).
1. EdTechRoundup – I suspect many on the TES forum wouldn’t be impressed at this, but through using Twitter I discovered ETRU; a weekly FlashMeeting of teachers and educators interested in using technology. Discussion topics have included Copyright (leading me to set up a Wiki on the topic with Theo Kuechel (@theokk)), relative merits of different (indeed, any) VLE, semantic web search engines (e.g. Google Squared) and much, much more besides.
2. Assessing Pupil Progress – I have been involved in a number of discussions about APP and how to improve the way we assess, record and feedback progress to students with the likes of Toby Holman (@tobyholman) and James Greenwood (@jpgreenwood). As I result I have found a couple of Moodle Blocks (Progress and Criteria Reference) that need a little tweaking but will help to make it simple for staff to flag passed criteria and feedback will be automatic, allowing students to better understand where they are – and why.
3. Wouldn’t It Be Great? – Thanks to Andy Field (@andyfield) I discovered a fantastic idea that I could steal and have just today finished a 6-week unit of work researching ideas on how technology will affect our lives in the future and then using different tools to present their ideas to the rest of the class.
4. Google Docs – Through Twitter I have met people like Mark Warner (@markw29) and Tom Barrett (@tombarrett) who have started off collaborative Google Docs presentations – and idea that I’ve borrowed as a way of collecting ideas in a sensible place, and in a nice format. Equally, I have met people like Drew Buddie (@digitalmaverick) who did something similar with a Wiki listing dozens of online tools. You can see some of the presentations at Ideas To Inspire and some at my website (mwclarkson.co.uk).
5. Checking policy – I have had a lot of discussions in which I have been forced to defend my standpoint, notably with Karl Goddard (@karl_goddard) about the use of Macs in schools. It is good to have our ideas challenged and although I didn’t change Karl’s mind, I went away from that discussion with more confidence that I’m doing the right thing.
6. Supporting others – I really enjoy sharing resources, websites, links and ideas with colleagues in other departments. I made the decision to produce a monthly newsletter to distribute amongst staff and thanks to Mark Berry (@markbezza) I managed to get more ideas and a better sense of audience as his magazine ideas were much better than mine.
7. Gifted and Talented – Thanks to an idea I got from a video shared on Twitter (I forget precisely who) I am in the process of setting up an after-school Digital Media club, the first project for which will be to interview people in the local community from ages 1 to 100 and present the data in meaningful ways. There are possiblities for citizenship, data handling parts of ICT and much more besides. In addition, Andy Wallis (@andywallis), a teacher on the isle of Islay, is planning on running an identical scheme. This should be a nice opportunity to compare results and see how our communities are both similar and different.
8. Everyday advice – This one is a little harder to quantify, but I get ideas, inspiration, feedback, suggestions and much more every day. I get to find out what ideas other teachers have come up with, what they’re doing in their lessons, what their students are particularly proud of and much more. And I like to think I give the same back in return.
9. Resources – I’ve discovered a multitude of websites, online tools, software and much more. I now use Celtx for all of my media pre-production (scripting, storyboarding, etc.) for example. A tool I had never heard of until someone mentioned it on Twitter. The same could be said for dozens of applications that have not revolutionised my teaching, but have provided me with better, more efficient and more engaging options.
10. Support – Of course I have only met a fraction of the 500-odd people I follow in person, but they are people I recognise and have what might be considered a friendship with. I’m looking forward to attending a TeachMeet next Thursday (guess how I discovered that was going on!) at which I will be meeting two more Twitterers I have been conversing with (Helena Butterfield (@langwitch) and Doug Belshaw (@dajbelshaw)). If I’m in a bad mood or have had a crap day then I know I can talk to these people about it. I know that if one of them has had a bad day then I will return the favour. I’m not claiming to have this relationship with all of the people I talk to, or even many. But there are enough and it feels nice to have the support of people in similar situations – who have bad lessons occasionally, frustrating students, annoying filtering policies and more besides.
11. Feedback for students – When my students produce a piece of work that is publically accessible online then I’ll sometimes post a link on Twitter and look for feedback. My Y7s thought this was marvellous just before half term and it kicked off some really good discussions. Their argument that we should allow IM during lessons so that they could improve their writing skills was soon shot down when one of my followers questioned the value of that given the txt speak used in that medium. So a Y7 student in Teesside got involved (indirectly) in a conversation with a Science teacher from Surrey and agreed that he needs a better justification if he wants to have access to those kinds of tools during the school day.
Should everybody reading this rush out, sign up and feel compelled to stay online for 18 hours a day? Of course not. But the question was asked, can I justify my high opinion of twitter as a CPD tool with 10 practical uses. I feel I can – at least to myself. And that’ll do for me.
1 Semi-random because my memory is appalling and I’m not prepared to look back through all of my previous messages for ideas and benefits that don’t spring to mind immediately.