Tag Archives: Twitter

Still twittering but what changes? 3 years on.

Twittering in the classroom, that was a long time ago.

The cohort that I wrote that blog about left school last week. They were just starting S4 at the time.

It has been a fair fast flowing few years and we have seen social media grow over that time.

Am I going to be annihilated by the bosses for using twitter? Well no, I wasn’t.

Still, some colleagues gently patted me on the head, smiled and said something along the lines of “The GTCs would fry us!”

So I contacted the GTCs and got a very supportive response. Essentially telling me I am not going to be in trouble with the GTCs, so long as my bosses are ok with it.

The framework we were using was approved and, these years on, I think we are safely using twitter appropriately.

How has it developed?

Now, several parents follow the feed

This is a very important, if unexpected, development. Some children tell me they are not permitted to use social media. By using this life skill in our work, parents are letting go a little but also following themselves. The fact we can help pupils understand when they make a mistake and tweet something poorly thought out.

In fact, in that time, I have had two pupils make comments that were a bit “off” but nothing major. For most people, Social Media is rather self-regulating.

We link with local community

So, imagine when the local MP or councillors tweet a link or comment about Pay Day loans. My local MP, whose office is right across from the school, is Fiona O’Donnell who is a big campaigner. The numbers are interesting, the links to poverty and to modern studies etc.

This lets us get that message out to the kids. Maths is awesome (stop singing that song!)

I also follow the local sports teams of every sport, it gives me a heads up when a pupil gets a gold medal in a swimming contest or similar. I can’t rely on the kids telling me (they ARE teenagers after all) but they do love getting praised, so long as thy can whinge about it too.

Banter is good

Banter, or “Bant’r” with a strong east coast accent. This is important for teenagers. We don’t instigate Banter with kids, but we do with other departments. When the English department tweeted a photo of the debating team standing in the Disney store with kermit and Miss Piggy. It was my DUTY to tweet “who is the muppet on the right?” And yes it was a DHT and no I didn’t get sacked. Maths and English having a laugh together. Suddenly pupils see the maths and English department are not great enemies. This stuff matters to some kids.

24/7 support when it is needed

That is not a by-product of the experiment. It is the reason for being.
Pupils don’t panic about my homework, they don’t worry about what day a test is one. And as three teachers now use the same account, I no longer have to answer all the queries by myself, and I also get to help kids I don’t know. It is like a Quality Assurance exercise, and it helps children.

A little nuclear weapon in parental discussions.

“I have had to get a tutor as he struggles with his maths homework”
“He knows he can tweet me any time for help. Take a photo of the page and…”

“Wait ’till I get home and see him!”

Every department has it now

Culture has changed. The pedagoo power of positivity became a critical mass. No longer am I the geeky one (I never was geeky, mind!)
Some people were afraid I was letting kids use their phones in class. This was not true, because it was against the school rules. If I wanted people to trust me, I had to use their familiar boundaries in general. Once they realised I was not against the grain, really, people joined in.
Now we really have feeds for parents from the main school account and kids can “tune in” to what ever school feeds they feel helpful. No point in getting chemistry feeds if you don’t study it or find it interesting.
PE, Sport, RE, Maths, English, Chemistry, Physics, the list just kept growing. That is fab.

Keeping up foreign relations.

I don’t mean the other side of the world, but other maths departments locally. Most teachers don’t see the council boundary lines as reasons to avoid talking either so tweets to and from maths departments in the region and beyond just enrich the learning experience. It also builds up resources and links. “See how you tweeted that you had just finished a Nat 4 homework book….”

Just interesting to see how it all changed.

And now from being the hunter, to being the hunted. This is the first pedagoo post that I have had to await approval of. #pedagooAdmin (RTD)

Teacher Learning via Twitter – part 2

So after being left with a series of questions and problems at the end of research paper two (handed in, in May) I was trying to solve the methodological issues of exactly how to capture informal learning in action between individuals.

At the time I was writing up research paper 1, I had reactivated my Twitter account and begun to follow teachers and others who were tweeting about teaching and learning. Here, I discovered a group of individuals interacting and sharing knowledge and ideas informally. What made it really special was I could see it happen on the screen in front of me.

When my supervisor – the wonderful Prof Alan Dyson, was presenting a workshop to us he stated ‘this paper is where if you want to try something different, you can, even if it all goes wrong’… never say that to me… I love doing something different…

Research paper 2 has focused on using a problem structuring method to illuminate the complexity of the interactions between individuals in the virtual community. Soft Systems Methodology conceptualises a situation where people are undertaking purposeful action as a system. As a group we are undertaking purposeful action – trying to improve our practice, to solve that problem of teaching better and better. Soft Systems structures this process in that we get involved in this action, but we are unable to predict the outcome from undertaking this activity. We cannot say predict what will happen to each individual in the system, merely that there will be an output – whatever that may be for the individual.

Without overloading you with the whole method and its underlying assumptions and ideas, there are two main stages that I undertook. Firstly, the building of a rich picture about the situation and then building ideal ‘systems models’ or ‘human activity systems’ that show the steps to achieve the transformation (in this case, the teacher’s practice).

So with this in mind, I had to spend rather a lot of time on Twitter watching the interactions and discussions that flowed through my timeline. What I was looking for were people sharing their ideas, knowledge, skills, or advice with others and then other picking up and using the ideas in their own schools. Sometimes the final stage was that the second person then fed back into the community how successful an idea was, how they modified it and what they saw as the benefit. I also looked at the types of things that were retweeted and the general discussions that happened. When I chose to tweet it was as a teacher, not as a researcher and I often forgot that I was researching this community as well as being a member of it.

What interesting tweets did I see? Well @oldandrewuk always provided an alternative viewpoint and caused at least one debate over teaching pedagogy. There were the stream of ‘fish jokes’ that also appeared and yes – I got them in the research paper. There was a lot of sharing little tips of knowledge but more importantly people then took those tips, used them, modified them and tweeted feedback into the community. This was brilliant for letting me see the impact of a particular idea on someone. Often it was modified, sometimes it set people off to produce new resources using a template, but was important was the feedback that showed that this had impacted on your practice.

What appears as a stream of tweets actually has more patterns than I ever expected. I used those patterns to construct a ‘rich picture’ of some of the things that were happening in the community. This can be downloaded here…and notice that it is version 7 – it was modified with more and more data. This rich picture helped me see what key processes and actions were being undertaken by people in their ‘purposeful action’ to improve their teaching. That is not to say we all agreed about how to go about it and that we all viewed everything the same way.

The main idea is that we are all acting purposefully in trying to improve our practice. The next stage of SSM is to construct model of human activity systems – ideal models of how to carry out this activity.

For our network to be successful we have to share what we know, have tried or understand and for someone to pick up and use an idea that someone has shared, they have to evaluate it and implement it in their classroom against the criteria they set for success. If we did not share our knowledge then it wouldn’t be passed to another individual, equally not all pieces of knowledge are collected by others and used – there is a selection and evaluation process at that end.

However, from all of this there are more questions…

Kenny Pieper and I had a discussion at Pedagoo Christmas Party about some of these models and he commented about ‘do I trust the source?’ – this was something that I had never considered. How do we build trust in our network? How do we decide who to follow and who we don’t?

Further on in this, more questions emerged.. how do we know that we know something and then decide to share it? Why do we choose to share in this community? How do we choose what ideas to use and reject? How do we evaluate the tweet responses to our tweets?

So just as I finished research paper 1 with a stream of unanswered questions – I’m left at the end of research paper 2 with another bunch. But this is the great thing about EdD research – it takes you wherever you want to go with your interests.

This was perhaps the hardest piece of academic work I have EVER done. I had to read up on a new methodology, apply it in a setting that had not been done before, with a new data set (tweets) and make some sense of it… in the words of my supervisor – ‘you made it difficult for yourself’.

Yet the feedback from my supervisor and second marker has boosted my confidence – original and exciting – the two things you want to hear about your doctoral research. That said… I’ve still got lots of work to do.

If you want to read it… try here.. http://purpleelf.edublogs.org/2013/04/07/teacher-learning-via-twitter-part-2/

Teacher Learning via Twitter part 1

As many of you know if you follow me on Twitter I am studying for an EdD (Doctorate in Education). My route through this consists of three research papers in the first two years before the final research and thesis taking the remaining four years of the course.

Research paper one was a literature review; a scoping exercise to see what the current research says about the area I was interested in – in my case – teacher informal learning. So what was out there? Not very much that focused on how teachers learn from each other in informal settings, most research on teacher learning focuses on traditional or formal CPD. This meant that I had to widen my search to look at informal learning in other contexts including engineering and nursing.

Out of this came two main theoretical approaches – the work of Etienne Wenger and the communities of practice theory and Engestrom’s activity theory. Honestly, I didn’t read that much into the activity theory as it didn’t focus on informal learning so much as collaboration between professionals. While the communities of practice framework provided a more fruitful avenue to venture down. This is where as a doctoral student you start realising that no research is perfect. Research comes with assumptions, from particular viewpoints, sometimes to describe and sometimes to explain phenomena. Any method has its advantages and disadvantages and a good researcher takes this into account when selecting a particular approach.

So then I started picking apart research papers, looking at those assumptions, viewpoints, advantages and disadvantages, finding gaps that have not been explained or described, bringing together multiple papers to synthesise into a whole that then generates yet more questions. Wenger’s communities of practice framework came from the idea that ‘if learning is not the result of teaching, how does it happen?’ and while unpacking the research in this area I was somewhat unconvinced by it. Wenger’s website now describes it as

‘A community of practice is a group of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do, and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly’

but at the time I read the book and papers – he hadn’t put it quite so clearly! This still left me with the question – how do ideas move from one person to another?

I looked outside this to research into workplace learning and found the work of Michael Eraut, whose research projects have interviewed and analysed different activities that individuals undertake in the workplace. They learn from many of these and more importantly for my research, many of them involved interactions with others.

So I reached the end of paper 1, unconvinced that communities of practice really existed, with a list of workplace activities that help people learn, but with no real explanation of how, when and why ‘knowledge’ was transferred between individuals. If I was to capture interactions between individuals to see ‘knowledge’ transfer – how could I do this as most interactions are informal, casual and often fleeting in a school day? Diaries? Observations? There was a problem I needed to solve to look at informal learning…

Then I joined Twitter….

to download the full paper go to http://purpleelf.edublogs.org/2013/03/24/teacher-learning-via-twitter-part-1/


The future of CPD

We have come a long way in our understanding and experience of CPD. When we began teaching, our experience of CPD was sitting in a bare, draughty hall at the end of the school day, preparing to be enthralled by whatever speaker the head had decided we were going to listen to for an hour and a half. Since we didn’t know any different, we attended these sessions dilligently, taking notes and trying hard to maintain focus for what seemed liked an eternity. After these CPD sessions, we would come back to work the next day, scan over our notes and vow to try out the latest thing we were told would make us outstanding teachers – except we never did. This thing called ‘teaching’ got in the way, and besides, no one ever seemed to check to see if we were following up on the CPD we’d received so it fell to the bottom of our pile of things to do.

Once or a twice a year, we would be lucky enough to go on a course. We always tried to get ourselves on courses run by Osiris. First, they always had the best presenters and, secondly, they had great lunches. N.B. Never underestimate the power of a great lunch to make teachers choose a certain course provider! We have been lucky enough to experience fantastic CPD led by thought-provoking and knowledgeable educators: Jackie Beere; Andy Griffith; Zoe Elder and Claire Gadsby to name the very best. These were always great days out and we would return to our schools brimming over with ideas and determined to implement them with gusto. However, there are serious drawbacks to these one-off events. They are expensive (and there is precious little money left at the moment in most school budgets) and it’s still a version of sitting in a big room listening to someone tell you how to be better with the aid of a whizzy PowerPoint.

So that led us to our next CPD model: twilight sessions. When we were working together, our school got rid of INSET days and opted for after school twilight sessions that staff could sign up for and attend throughout the year. The school championed this as ‘personalising CPD’ and giving teachers ‘autonomy’ over their teaching needs. On the surface, this model seemed much better; groups were smaller, teachers had chosen a particular session so they were semi on-board already and there was much more discussion amongst teachers. However, we couldn’t help but have this nagging feeling that something was missing… Eventually, we worked out that there was still no way to judge whether teachers were getting anything out of these sessions; in jargon-speak, we couldn’t ‘measure impact’.

After spending a long time sitting down and thinking where we could go from here, we decided on establishing a group of Lead Learners. These teachers had been chosen because they were excellent practioners who were always happy to share their ideas with others and wanted to seek out new ways to develop their practice. We looked at the school’s development plan and decided that we would focus on the following areas: AfL; Stretch and Challenge; Marking and Feedback; Inclusive Classrooms; and Independent and Collaborative Learning. The idea was that teachers would sign up for one area run by two Lead Learners, stick with it for the year and track their progress by experimenting with different strategies with their classes.

Although we were much happier with this model of CPD, it still felt like CPD was something that happened a few times a year and could be ticked off to show you were meeting your performance managament targets. We were looking for something less top-down, less formal, more frequent. And then we found Twitter.

Twitter has been a revolution for the pair of us. At first we felt a bit hesistant: ‘What do we do?’ ‘Who are we allowed to tweet?’ ‘How can I say what I want to say in just 140 characters?’ ‘What do these hashtags mean?’ We are eternally grateful to our former colleague Aisling Cowan @CaldiesEnglish who persuaded us to dip our toes into the world of Twitter. She said we wouldn’t regret it and she wasn’t wrong there! So far, we have been on Twitter for  just over two weeks and we have not felt this level of excitement for a long time. We can’t wait to read the blogs of @LearningSpy, @Fullonlearning, @ICTEvangelist, @shaun_allison, @HuntingEnglish@Joe_Kirby and @TotallyWired77 to name but a few. There are literally thousands of great ideas being shared by teachers for no other reason but for a love of teaching and wanting students to get the best possible educational experince. There is something rather humbling about being part of this Twitter community.

Back to the original premise of this post: what is the future of CPD? We believe that teachers are missing a trick if they’re not on Twitter. Schools should be actively encouraging all members of staff to sign up and receive free, daily inspiration from like-minded professionals. There is still a place for more traditional forms of CPD but there is also plenty of room for quick bursts of CPD provided by Twitter. Twitter has also led us to Pedagoo and TeachMeets. We are looking forward to attending our first #TMLondon in May and putting faces to some of those names on Twitter!

Finally, the notion of the Flipped Classroom is being discussed by many teachers at the moment. The larger question of what role technology has in improving learning is asked by tweachers every day on Twitter. What we would add to this discussion is what role technology has to play in teachers’ CPD. Perhaps we should be flipping CPD and offering videos and other multimedia resources to our staff. After all, students appreciate being able to pause and rewind the videos as many times as they so wish – we’re pretty sure a library of videos made by teachers for teachers would be much appreciated for those who may just have nodded off for a brief moment at the back of the room after a long day in the classroom!!! – [Check out our new sister site for this, TeachMeet TV! Ed.]

Although we don’t have all the answers on what constitutes as influential CPD, we are confident that those teachers who find inspiration on Twitter, talking to supportive colleagues across the globe, will ultimately be getting a lot more out of their CPD than those who are sitting at the back of the hall waiting for the slideshow to begin.

Tweet tweet twoo…

After recently conversing with the History teacher in my school I found out she had pupils creating facebook and twitter profiles of famous people from the past. What an awesome idea, I thought, for meeting the CfE Maths outcome MTH 3-12a. A few days passed and as all teachers do, I played with how to make the idea even better… After some mulling I decide that for my next S1 lesson I will use twitter as an exit pass.  I searched for a tweet template online for a while but nothing was catching my eye so with the help of an S3 pupil I created this template:

I put 3 on an A3 sheet, printed off, laminated (yes, I’m one of those folks!), guillotined and hey presto everyone in the class got one for themselves along with a wipe-off marker.

Firstly, I asked my S1s to tweet a fictional professor (@prof – I don’t think it’s in use!) to help him find the circumference of any of the planets from a given table.  Worksheet here.

Kids loved it and there was so much maths as a by-product (we discussed hashtags/trending, counting characters, how many re-tweets/favourites, advertising). I tweeted a #pedagoofriday post with a picture of them making their tweets which was favourited and re-tweeted.  When I showed the pupils they were so chuffed they have asked if @prof has any more questions they can help him with! They are desperate for more favourites and re-tweets next time.

I also used the tweet template for S3 pupils to summarise individual lessons and used with the S5/6 Higher class to try and get them to summarise a topic in 140 characters as a revision technique (this proved difficult in the end but hilarious frustration resulted in good fun).

In the future I plan to something similar, as requested by the pupils! … I also think that I might choose the best of the bunch and allow them to really tweet it if I create a class or school account.  I guess the possibilities are endless…

The tweet template mentioned in this post can be found here.

Hope someone finds this useful.  Any comments/suggestions/questions are gratefully received, especially the constructive ones…