Inspiration in 140 Characters (Twitter as a PLN)


Excited, connected educators are contagious. But their unconnected colleagues don’t know what they don’t know. They haven’t experienced the power of Twitter. Some see professional learning on Twitter as a one-sided conversation since all participants are obviously connected, but there are plenty of self-reflective, continuously learning teachers not on Twitter. Don’t treat unconnected teachers like they are doing something wrong. Reflection doesn’t have to be done online to be effective. Being a connected educator is just another opportunity for inspiration and lifelong learning.

There are great unconnected educators just like there are ineffective connected educators. You don’t need social media, like Twitter, for self-reflection, but shared reflection can thrive in an online environment. Encourage colleagues to explore the benefits of being connected. Bringing in new ideas from social media can transform a classroom for any educator. Teachers can’t wait for professional development on social media, but they can create their own through their personalized learning network (PLN). The key to connected learning is collaboration. Connected educators can work together and share ideas that better the classroom experience of their students.

Being connected isn’t about finding time, it’s about making time. Everyone has the same  24-hour day – it’s just what you do with it. Not everyone has to tweet though, there are many effective means of connecting these days. Promote the concept of being connected in faculty meetings and interactions with other teachers. If people see value behind being connected, they will connect. We all learn differently and PD on Twitter is just another method of professional learning. Great educators don’t need to be connected to be effective. PD on Twitter just happens to be a fluid space for reflection and learning that can happen anywhere at any time.

Being connected is more than connecting online. There are many great teachers who are not “connected”, but are clearly plugged into the needs of their students. A connected educator is not a better educator. Being connected is just another way for an educator to be an empowered and informed leader in their classroom, school, and district.

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4 responses to “Inspiration in 140 Characters (Twitter as a PLN)

  1. Good thoughts. Twitter is a better means of PD than a means of gossip, complaints, and belly-aching. Thank you for this post.

  2. Sean, ,

    A story I’ve been wanting to pass on, and you look like the right person. Don Cook of Talking Typewriter and Educational Research Associates, later bought out by CBS, was a friend of John Dixon, whose secretary I was for his church work in 1968~69. As a result, later when I was writing legislation for the Congress (for John Brademas, D-Indiana) I interviewed Ben Wood, then living in retirement in an apartment in the Widener Library at Columbia.

    In his childhood Ben’s family had had a ranch next to the ranch of Tom Watson Sr., the founder of IBM, so when it came time for Ben to do his PhD at University of Pennsylvania in 1937, Tom Watson gave him 4,000 (!) electric typewriters, which he in turn gave to kids in schools across Pennsylvania. His PhD thesis was on how the kids took to writing with these machines.

    35 years later he still burbled with joy over the whole thing. The problem was, more or less in his words, “kids’ bandwidth is too broad for the narrow point of a pencil,” and “stuff you write by hand doesn’t look real to kids. They see writing all the time, in print, and what they get with the typewriter looks like the real thing.”

    Anyway the general point was that the children simply exploded into literacy as soon as they had machines that let them write “the real thing,” i.e. type.

    IBM was still keeping all the writings of those 4,000 children in a warehouse someplace in 1971~72, when I was in Washington. Subsequently I went to Japan (where I introduced the coin laundry, building 400 stores all over the country) and I lost track of Ben. Still, I treasure his memory, his joie de vivre, and the good work.

    I think you (and I, and everybody thinking about tech in education) are in part Ben Wood’s (and Thomas Waton’s) heirs.

    Best wishes,

    David Lloyd-Jones

  3. Sandra England

    Thank you Sean for this post. I’ve only just found YOU @sjunkins and your blog through my twitter connections, and by intermittently watching the #ISTE2013 feed from afar! I’ve only been using social media and twitter for about 9 months @ASVLandT but I’ve learned so much! But I agree that not all need to use twitter or other social media to connect, learn and reflect on their leadership in their roles. My colleague and good friend is one who develops her practice in other ways. I respect the way she grows in her practice – she is indeed a lifelong learner! Nevertheless, two other colleagues, also good friends have followed my example and are now also ‘hooked’ on twitter for developing their PLN.

  4. Very thoughtful post Sean.

    The idea of shared reflection is a really powerful one for me. I had not heard of that term before, and I really like the possibilities that it holds for teachers. Recognizing that reflection is a key component of being an effective teacher/administrator/leader, it is exciting to consider the potential to be had by “plugging in” an already self-reflective teacher to a digital PLN.

    Your post also makes me think about what it really means to be a “connected educator.” In the networked world in which this term it typically used, it is often automatically assumed that connected means “online.” As you point out, this is certainly not the case. Faculty meetings, breakfast with colleagues, casual conversations by the copier machine, are all instances of being connected. A teacher that makes use of these moments to reflect/collaborate/ideate with colleagues is in fact creating their own personal PD. No doubt it looks different than what is typically viewed as PD, but these moments can be often be more effect than traditional sit-and-get PD events.

    This leads me to other questions… that I don’t have the answers to. If you were to look at the most effective teachers that you knew from the days prior to the internet, what did they do to connect? Are there similarities between those teachers of yore, and the effective teachers of the Internet Age?

    I might not know the answer for sure, but my suspicions is that they are more alike than different.

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