Change continues to wipe out existing paradigms in education. Teachers of today have a job that looks VERY different from teaching just 5 years ago. With the advent of data-driven instruction, technology integration, and ever-increasing accountability, teachers are living in a “brave new world.”
With all of these incredible responsibilities added to an already time-intensive career, the need for teachers to collaborate is stronger than ever! So let’s take a trip back in time when I was a beginning teacher. 20 years ago (yes, I am a D-I-N-O-S-A-U-R), I started teaching. I had a mentor on campus who met with me about once a month. I was a fairly strong new teacher, so we just met after school when we could both find the time. After that year, I continued to fly on my own, and there was no more mentoring. It was part of our district’s plan at that time to provide new teachers a mentor during their first year. Then, each year afterwards, I would have a department chair who guided me and all department members in important calendar events, lesson planning protocols, and other school priorities.
Fast forward to the future. Teachers now have virtual mentors available to them at a mere click of the mouse or a swipe of the touch screen! There are personal learning networks on Twitter, tutorial videos on how to teach anything on YouTube, and ideas on how to teach anything and everything with access to Pinterest, BLOGs, and many other vast resources on the Web.
What used to be an isolated profession is now a connected profession. For example, in our district, we have moved to Professional Learning Communities as an amazing impetus for collaboration. It has improved our practices at both the school and the district level.
Collaboration is also increasing via the Internet. The quickest and most dynamic way we have moved to transform the culture of isolation is by using Twitter at our school. We are seeing the contagion of innovative practices occurring through the unique and dynamic Twitter window.
Here are just a few benefits of our use of Twitter @MCherryStreet. We have many teachers tweeting just about daily, and all but a handful of members of our instructional faculty are leveraging Twitter power.
1. Personal Learning Networks
My personal learning network has been the source of about 80% of all learning that occurs in my professional development arena. In the past 6 months, several of our district employees have joined Twitter, and now we are using Twitter to provide a World Wide and a Local Personal Learning Network. Here is a recent Tweet that contains one of my TouchCasts that allowed three administrators to collaborate together. This is sooo exciting!
2. Excitement by Students
One of our #RockStar teachers, that I will refer to in the rest of this BLOG as Nikki, gets her students all excited about Tweets and the Retweets they have earned by national companies. She recently Tweeted about her students winning the grade level First in Math competition at our school. Her class Tweet was then Retweeted by the company, First in Math. Her kids were so excited, and they feel like they have voice!
3. Transparency of Practices
Teachers are learning from each other and from others across the globe. We recently had a district Technology Exposition where our teachers learned several new apps. and programs that have caught on like “wild fire”. Several of our teachers are now using Go Noodle. Nikki, tweeted about it, and others all over campus can now see how one teacher could use this program--great ideas spread quickly. This is grass roots professional development from one teacher’s voice to another teacher’s view.
Take a look at these few Tweets where Nikki credits another teacher on her grade level. These two teachers collaborate frequently! Teacher Kim is @CherryCheetah64.
4. Classroom Walk-Thrus ~ The Window into a Teacher’s Practices
As an administrator, it is always difficult to get into teacher’s classrooms with the mounting paperwork responsibilities that accompany more and more federal and state accountability. Further, the immediate needs of students in crisis will throw my schedule out the window quicker than anything else. With that being said, Twitter has allowed me to see, sometimes on a daily basis, a snapshot of lessons occurring in the classroom. For my teachers who Tweet regularly, I can without a doubt vouch for the practices of that teacher because they provide documentary evidence EVERY SINGLE DAY about what occurs in their classroom. I have virtual CWT’s happening at my school. I feel empowered, but imagine how confident a parent will feel about the practices of this teacher! Twitter has been a tool for positive press for the teacher and the school! I, as the Principal, have access to our school’s FaceBook page, and I have begun cross-posting Tweets to our FaceBook page which gives the teacher twice the impact for those families who don’t have access to both—more bang for the buck!
5. Ed Chats -- Sharing Practices about Specific Strategies
Our school recently participated in 2 different Ed Chats. We modified the format a smidge by having them last all day so that any teacher could post to the Twitter feed during their planning session. This extended the Ed Chat to an 8 hour window, but the information we gleaned was priceless. Our topics were PBIS strategies shared by all faculty and the integration of technology. The PBIS chat was a positive way for teachers to share their successful strategies with each other while not interrupting their school day. This was organic professional development at its best. The technology integration Ed Chat provided my Technology Team with the diagnostic feedback they needed to help them organize and run a faculty meeting/professional development session focused on integrating the latest technologies. I created a Storify of that very first Ed Chat in a previous BLOG entry: Spreading the EdTech Virus.
Here is a Tweet where Nikki uses the #PBS hash tag to identify this Tweet is specifically about our school's #PBS initiatives.
And, here is a Tweet that shows how much Nikki is loving using Twitter to learn from her colleagues:
And, just to praise the power of #TwitterTeachers, I observed a tweet from #RockStar Nikki while I was typing this BLOG Entry—she is frequently leveraging the power of Twitter to impact not only her classroom community but also the educational community at large (with Twitter that is a.k.a. THE GLOBE)! To emphasize my points here, I was away from the school today, and I could see—with a visual—what this amazing teacher was working on right then--when the learning occurred!
Nikki is an educator who has shifted the “norm” of her classroom culture by using social media spaces to connect and learn from educators all over the world. To quote Amber Teamann @8Amber8 who provoked this BLOG entry via the #SAVMP project (I believe she was quoting my hero, @,) “Isolation is now a choice educators make.” he shift really has to happen for educators. Using tools like Twitter allows for educators to connect and share learning that is happening with educators in their own school and with any other school abroad. We need to make this happen, weave this magic for our profession, and continue to create transparency in our own classrooms.
If you want to follow one of these amazing teachers check out my list on Twitter titled: #Cherry Street Rock Stars. And....Tweet on my friends, Tweet on!