By: Billy Krakower & Dana Sirotiak
You are a teacher in Anywhere, New Jersey and this has probably happened to you:
You receive a district-wide memo stating that your school district developed multiple professional development opportunities for teachers. About halfway down the memo, you read the different professional development opportunities each teacher will be required to do. Several of the topics listed do not relate to your current position, the content you cover, and you can lead a few of them because you’ve received that particular PD multiple times. You wonder aloud, “When will this ‘one size fits all’ approach to professional development end?”
Educators know that each child comes into their classroom at a different emotional, behavioral, and academic developmental stage. We measure our students’ prior knowledge with yardsticks, then monitor, adjust, and differentiate our instruction to meet those needs. You say to yourself, “When will we treat professional development as we do differentiated classroom instruction, supporting lifelong learners based on where they fall on the yardstick?”
We experience these same types of approaches to professional development and are left wondering like the educator in Anywhere, New Jersey: how can we, as educators, take ownership of our professional development? Because, isn’t that the highest level of differentiated learning — understanding our academic needs, and finding opportunities to solve them?
Social Media has blown the doors off traditional PD. Educators can become active participants in their own learning, connecting to other passionate and knowledgeable educators around the globe. Twitter is one of the great social media equalizers, simultaneously leveraging and leveling the playing field, while doing away with the top-down approach to professional development.
For example, every Tuesday evening at 8:30 PM EST, New Jersey educators come together to discuss topics and trends that are relevant currently in education. Topics discussed have included: SGOs, Teacher Evaluations, School Safety, Increasing Family Involvement, HIB, and more. Topics vary weekly and are developed by chat moderators (who are current NJ educators). What’s most surprising about the #NJED chat are the many participants from other states or countries who participate in the global conversation, all with the same goal: to take control of their own professional learning experiences, thereby creating a Professional Learning Network. The “one size fits all” becomes the “size tailored to fit you.” In a world where everyone seem to have a SmartPhone or other mobile device, Twitter allows for autonomous professional learning for free.
The hashtag developed to connect educators from New Jersey is #NJED. Twitter Newbies can use multiple tools to connect in Twitter chats. One website you can use to participate in an online conversation is to use Tweetchat.com In order to participate, you will need to create a free Twitter account called a handle. It is recommended to develop a Twitter handle that represents who you are as an educator. Your Twitter profile should also reflect your role in education; a brief bio, avatar, and link to your blog or ePortfolio. This gives people the opportunity to learn who you are and vice versa. Many educators who connect on Twitter also meet in person at conventions, conferences, and Edcamps. Establishing a transparent Twitter profile makes it easier for people to connect in person.
There are a few push factors with using Twitter as a professional development tool. The fear of using social media as a means for professional growth could turn an apprehensive, novice technology user away. Another fear is your thoughts are now visible and your tweets are forever in cyberspace. You do control your digital footprint, so it is important to pause and reflect prior to pushing the send button.Social media graces still reflect common social graces. These graces are appreciated by those looking to connect, collaborate, share successes (and failures), and learn from the experiences of others. Just in case, add somewhere in your profile that tweets are your own and do not relate those of your district.
So throw on your pajamas, grab a cup of coffee, and get comfortable with your tech device. Own your professional developmentexperience through each stroke of the keyboard. Be the change you want to see in your professional development. We look forward to connecting with you and having you in our PLNs. And, stop talking to yourself outloud, you can talk to us.
To learn more about using Twitter as a Professional Development Tool, please contact Billy Krakower at @firstname.lastname@example.org or Dana Sirotiak at @Sirotiak02 email@example.com. We would be happy to assist school districts with professional development on using Twitter.
Billy Krakower is a 3rd/4th grade Computer Teacher in the Woodland Park School District. @wkrakower
Dana Sirotiak is a High School History Teacher in the Hackensack School District.
Image 1. Credit ImagineLearning