Category Archives: Professional Learning

Twitter Chats: A 10km Run For Your Brain

In Connected Authentic Learning Communities, Voice Matters


In early January I wrote a post outing myself as a ‘Twit’ and reflecting on my status as a ‘Twitter Newb’. I’d taken part in several chats and was reflecting on how these, and the people involved in them, were having a positive impact on my own professional learning. I was watching, with curiosity, as the education community on Twitter related and grew. Grateful for opportunities to learn from people like Tom Whitby and Angela Maiers, I was also amazed by the number of great educators who were willing to talk to me, answer my questions and even ask me some of their own. Chastened, because I’d always thought Twitter to be banal, I wrote the post in response to someone participating in #Satchat who had chided me that when we remain silent the learning of others is impaired. This idea, my own experience of ‘finding my voice’, a Twitter chat with the staff at school and Bruce Arcurio’s blog post about that chat, have me thinking very deeply… and when I think, I write.

Voice Matters

I hosted my very first Twitter chat (#BCCchat) last week… a conversation about Will Richardson’s book, ‘Why School?’. My Principal and I had asked the staff to read it just a couple of days beforehand and I was very interested to know how it was impacting their thinking. Aware that sometimes people are reluctant to share in staff meetings, and aware too that these can occasionally be droll ‘person out the front’ affairs, I wondered who might ‘speak up’ if Twitter provided the platform to be heard.

I was amazed by what happened. It was not just that Will Richardson and other international educators joined the chat (I may have sqealed when that happened), it was also that some of my quieter colleagues found their voice and this was publicly (even internationally) affirmed. They shared deeply profound insights and asked questions which revealed considerable wisdom and confirmed what I already knew. They are a quality bunch of educators.

After the 1 hour chat (it seemed like 5 mins) several of these people remarked that it had been wonderful to be able to say something, to be heard and taken seriously and to connect authentically with educators from around the world. Listen to these comments (some tweeted and some spoken) which were made in the days following the chat;

“This is the best professional learning experience we’ve had!”

“I have rediscovered my love of teaching. Thank you!”

“Struggling with the duality of feeling so connected with people in different places whist loving the energy of people in the room.” (How’s that for a beauty!)

“Thank you @willrich45 for inspiring us to have these conversations and asking the questions that will direct the way we offer education.”

“I found it really encouraging to be able to join in. It switched my brain into drive, which I’ve been missing.”

This last comment is pertinent for any educator who is thinking about the value Twitter might add to their professional learning. Because educators around the world use the platform so well, the quality of the observations and questions offered in the educational space really do force you to engage your brain and to think. A Twitter chat is invigorating but also tiring because it demands such high levels of engagement, participation and concentration. It’s like a 10km run for your brain.

Just as our doctors, spouses, bosses and friends encourage us to exercise our bodies to keep them working well, can I encourage you that a really well-hosted and well-directed Twitter chat can do the same thing for your brain? At a time when reform is at the forefront of our educational dialogue, engaged, authentic, connected learning communities and professional learning networks are precisely what we need.

I’m a Twit: Reflections of a Twitter Newb

6721376969_ca96361c89_bUntil September 2012, my experience of Twitter went something like this;

“Have just finished hanging nappies on line. Time for tea. Winky face.”

“1D tickets for my birthday! OMG!!! Totes #AWESOME! Best parents eva @mum&dad.”

“Btwn u & me desp 4 #followers.Pls retweet #ff #fb #somerandomhastag. @theentireglobalpopulation.Thx”

… and here in Australia we endured a week long news story about a minor celebrity who had been hounded into a mental health unit by some despicable trolls to whom she’d made the mistake of responding. Frankly, I believed the ‘Twitterverse’ was populated by ‘twits’ contributing banality (or cruelty) to a crowded ‘Twittersphere’.

And then my friend Anne came over.

We were talking education, as we do, and I was lamenting the current preoccupation with summative assessment when deep learning often happens in the formative. I was grappling with the idea of finding valid ways to measure that.

“I think I’m going to write a paper. I think I’ll send it to [insert a range of educational bodies]. Something has to be done!”

Her response? “Don’t. No-one will read it. Start a blog.”

She introduced me to a news aggregator and then talked a bit about Twitter and the educational community that exists there. When she left, I went to my defunct Twitter account, stared blankly at my egghead, my mainly family followers and the blue bird thinking, “I really don’t get this”.

My husband tweeted ‘Welcome’ and Miss 16 tweeted something obnoxious (that I accidentally ‘favourited’)  to which I responded ‘Well at least I’m trying!’. And I was. Over the next hour, both teenagers gave me a crash course in the use of hastags (LOL Mum just made a super long hashtag & used punctuation #facepalm), explained why I should put a * before @ and showed me how to ‘discover’ chats.

This is what has happened since.

1. I have met and talked to some extraordinary educators nationally and internationally. They have actually cared to answer my questions and surprisingly, have asked a few of me.

2. I have discovered a world of creative, informative, relevant blogs and websites that feed me intellectually and challenge my preconceived ideas

3. I have experienced the buzz of live chats (likened by someone, somewhere, to ‘drinking from a fire hydrant’) that have caused me to think very deeply… and sometimes for days afterwards

4. I have read several outstanding books I did not previously know about

5. I am finding my voice because I am encouraged to share my ideas

When I look back over these past 4 months I recognise I have been blessed to encounter only positive, encouraging people (the education community is like this). I realise I have been on an extraordinary learning journey… and that I have been a terrible snob. In my thinking at least, my responses to what I had previously labelled banal would now be a bit different.

To the nappy hanging tweeter: while I might not follow you because I’m not using Twitter for the same reasons as you, thank you for sharing your day with me and I hope your tea was nice. When ‘junior’ starts school, let’s chat.

To the 1D fan: You’re welcome. Shucks. I feel loved. Will try to use less punctuation in future #soz

To @Desperate4Follows: Join a chat, follow an interesting person, share your great idea… give me a reason to follow you and I just might.

And to those who have chatted, followed, retweeted, ‘favourited’ and responded, thanks. I enjoy your company. You enrich my learning.

Photo Credit: Justinvl via Compfight cc