Another dot in the blogosphere?

Posts Tagged ‘professional development

How to I educate myself on how teachers are responding to schooling in lockdown?

Screencap of RSS feeds on teaching during COVID-19 lockdown and its aftermath.

I rely on my RSS feed. Here is a snapshot of some articles I have in my reading queue.

Why not rely on hearsay from teachers I know? I know them too well. I need some objectivity and different perspectives.

Why not rely on press articles? Sorry, I could not hear that question because I was laughing out loud.

Some folks do stocktaking near the end of each year and clear their shelves, storerooms, or workspaces. I do the same for my list of Google Sites, Google Docs, and Evernote artefacts.

In reviewing my Evernote entries, I found a year-old note on a discussion that I had with a visiting professor.

One of the things we discussed was how our universities conducted professional development for our faculty. Both of us observed how teaching faculty see themselves as researchers first because the publish-or-perish paradigm hangs like a blade over their overworked necks. As a result of this, not many see the need to push themselves pedagogically.

The visiting professor suggested that we focus less on sharing sessions and workshops, and more on handholding staff who were interested in trying something instructionally new.

I was reminded of our #edsg conversation earlier this year on unPD or un-professional development. Not unprofessional as in irresponsible, but unprofessional as in informal, on-demand, or via a personal learning network.

I can see some wisdom in the advice to practically abandon conventional PD and to handhold instead. But I was troubled then by the note and I am still troubled now by it. It is something to bring with me into 2013 as an actionable note.

This is one of the better articles on What it Takes to Launch a Mobile Learning Program in Schools. It is concise and comprehensive.

If there is any point that rises above the rest, I would cite #3 (professional development of teachers):

they must learn how to use mobile technologies to change teaching and learning, so that they are doing more than just replacing print resources with digital versions. A common pitfall in incorporating new technology into education is over-reliance on the technology itself to produce results. [Mobile learning researchers] Marie Bjerede and Chris Dede, for instance, found that podcasting in and of itself had little effect on teaching and learning. When played in the classroom, podcasts are just high-tech versions of age-old instructional practices of “teaching by telling, learning by listening,” previously accomplished with educational radio and portable tape recorders

I am not the first to offer Twitter tips nor will I be the last. But I thought I should offer some tips, one educator to another.

What prompted this? A few educators new to Twitter found me online and via email, so I sent them some resources that I had archived in Delicious.

What really pushed me to write this was what I read yesterday at the Guardian: Tweeting advice for Gwyneth Paltrow. In my haste, I read this as Tweeting advice from Gwyneth Paltrow. Thankfully the movie actress wasn’t actually adding “social media consultant” to her CV; it was just a journalist trying to make headlines.

There are lots of advice and tips for using Twitter for marketing, advertising, public relations and feedback, but there aren’t many focused on education. The following are some tips for the education professional who wants to establish a personal learning network (PLN).

1. Identify yourself
When you get a Twitter account, two things to do immediately are a) replace the generic egg profile picture Twitter gives you with a clear and decent picture of yourself, and b) describe yourself or your purpose for using Twitter in 160 characters or less.

Show yourself: Twitter is a social platform and other people want to attach a face to a Twitter handle.

Describe yourself: Doing this shows that you are serious about using Twitter and lets other users know who you are and whether you are worth following.

2. Don’t play the numbers game
I mention this in the context of your follower count (who follows you) or following count (who you follow). Companies and celebrities are all about high follower counts. Both want as many eyeballs and as much attention as they can get. They do not really care if a follower is a bot, a marketer or a pervert.

Quality trumps quantity. If you follow too many people, you get information overload. You might be followed by many, but do you know who they are? See the next two tips.

3. Follow wisely
Don’t follow everyone that Twitter recommends. Follow the folks you recognize or come recommended by someone you trust. Then look at who they follow.

The Twitter system might make some recommendations based on some social algorithm and this might be useful as a first cut. But it is people that decide who they want to be friends with, who they listen to or who they get married to. Apply the same principle on who to follow on Twitter.

4. Cull if needed
There are two ways of looking at this: Unfollowing someone and blocking followers.

Don’t feel bad about unfollowing someone. You might have followed someone by mistake or you might find their tweets irrelevant. Think of your Twitter stream as a customized newspaper or news programme. Unfollow so that you only get the sections of the paper or news that you want. This also helps reduce information overload.

I block some 20 to 30 followers a day. Why? First, my Twitter name is @ashley so I get followers thinking that I am someone else. I do not want to further mislead the already misled.

Second, I get followed by bots, marketers, spammers, etc. The more seasoned Twitter user might refer to my list of followers to see who else to follow, so it is my responsibility to keep out as much trash out as possible.

Third, I tend to block followers who have locked or private accounts. A Twitter-based PLN is about openness and sharing!

But I tend not to block those who are teachers or in the educational technology line.

5. Find your voice
It is OK to lurk and listen for a while. You learn the ropes and imbibe the culture of tweeting. But like blogging, tweeting is about finding your voice and sharing your passions.

Twitter used to ask “What are you doing?” This encouraged inane navel gazing. Now it asks “What is happening?” This cast one’s eye from one’s navel to perhaps someone else’s navel.

Many educators on Twitter use it as a PLN. To contribute, you could consider answering these questions:

  • What did you find?
  • What did you learn?
  • What can you teach the rest?

Share inspiring YouTube videos, informative SlideShares or thought-provoking readings.

6. Consume critically, then tweet or retweet

Before you tweet or retweet a resource, make sure that you have read, listened or watched it. Others are relying on your recommendation.

Where the resource is not your own, retweet (RT) someone else’s recommendation. This not only gives credit where it is due, it also amplifies to your PLN what is emerging or important.

7. Monitor or converse with #hashtags 

This Google Doc contains a list of education-related hashtags that you can monitor. You can read and participate in conversations with educators all over the world. Locally, please use #edsg to contribute.

I have one more tip that is optional but highly recommended. Link your Twitter account with a social bookmarking service like Delicious or Diigo. This will help you automatically archive and curate all the wonderful resources and ideas you discover on Twitter. I recommend to make this link.

What other tips might be useful for educators who want to take charge of their own professional development?

Steve Wheeler shared a thought after having a pre-conference Tweetup:

Quote of the evening must go to Simon Finch (@simfin) who said something along the lines of: ‘On Twitter people I don’t know let me know about stuff that really interests me. On Facebook people I do know tell me stuff I don’t want to know about’. OK, it was a signature piece of hilarious wordplay from Simon, and it made us all laugh out loud. But it also shows up what some people see as a contrast between the frivolous nature of Facebook, and the way Twitter is becoming a serious professional networking tool.

I grinned. I, too, use Twitter more than I do Facebook (FB).

But I also see a flaw in Simon’s generalization. You can get as much garbage in Twitter as you can in Facebook.


It is not so much about what the technology does for you as what you do with the technology. What a particular technology might do for you is termed its affordances. There are at least three aspects of affordances: technical, social, and in the case of education, pedagogical.

The technical affordances of Twitter include text inputs of up to 140 characters and embedding URLs linked to Websites, videos, photos, etc. You also get to choose who to follow and whether a follower gets to see your tweets.

The technical affordances of Facebook are greater. Amongst other things, you can post longer and richer messages on your wall, you can play online games and you can set up group spaces. Like Twitter, you can choose who to “friend” and the person you intend to follow decides whether or not to “friend” you back.

But the social and pedagogical use of the tool are what makes a real impact. Consider how a hammer is designed to drive nails into wood or a wall. But it can also be used to kill someone or shape a piece of art.

I know of teachers who want to use FB like an LMS. Pedagocially, they might be transferring the teacher-centred control, teacher-prepared resources and teacher-directed tasks of an LMS to FB.

I always ask these teachers why they want to do this if they already have an LMS in school. The standard reply is that their students are already on FB. I counter that the kids are intent on socializing in FB and that the teachers are not taking advantage of the social factor (when was the last time you socialized over PowerPoint?). They are also forgetting the distractions that FB brings. I then challenge them to design social forms of learning and/or build the distractions (e.g., games) into the learning process.

Twitter, by comparison, seems very limited. But I’d say that it provides less distraction because of its simplicity. That and the fact that the people I follow do not just answer Twitter’s original question “What are you doing?” or the current “What’s happening?” Instead, we focus more on answering the questions:

  • What do you want to know more about?
  • What did you learn?
  • What can you share?
  • What can you teach?

We have socially renegotiated what Twitter was designed to do.

By following just a few folks and reading the resources that come my way every day several times a day, I have established a personal learning network (PLN) like I have never experienced before. It is like attending several professional development sessions a day, all of which are rich and meaningful to me.

On Wednesday I conducted a professional development session for a few of my Learning Sciences and Technologies (LST) colleagues. It was more a conversation than a lecture.

I shared what I explored in our ICT course in the area of educational game-based learning. The Prezi below is something I used right at the end of the series of tutorials, rather than at the beginning, because I borrow a gaming approach: Provide experiences first and relevant content only later.

While I was aware of some other colleagues who tried this approach or topic, I learned that we looked at it from different lenses. Their approach might be considered the pragmatic or traditional content-based approach: How might teachers/students use games to teach/learn specific content?

My approach was quite different. While I had one content and curriculum based station (Station 3), my other stations had other themes:

  • Station 1: contextuality, complexity and compassion
  • Station 2: competition, communication and collaboration
  • Station 4: cardio and coordination
  • Station 5: cognition (minds-on)

In other words, I was (and still am) more interested in exploring ways that games might influence specific thinking skills or learner values and attitudes, and how these might transfer into traditional teaching and learning.

Another difference that emerged was on how we might scale up this approach.

As not all of our colleagues were comfortable or knowledgeable with game-based learning (GBL), not all our ICT classes experience GBL. My approach has been to influence the mindsets of teacher trainees in my classes and hope that a few go on to implement these ideas when they get posted to mainstream schools. The risk is that they won’t because they neither have the infrastructure nor the support of their colleagues or school principal.

An alternative that a colleague suggested was to somehow get a few self-selected teacher trainees who really wanted to design and implement innovative lessons. NIE had previously offered electives, but these were discontinued due to heavy trainee course loads (this is why I think that a one-year diploma course is TOO SHORT!). The suggestion was to have the trainees be either part of a research effort or a special programme (e.g., Post Graduate Diploma in Education, Specialization in Educational Gaming). These trainees would be posted to schools that wanted to innovate this way and have supervisors and cooperating teachers that would support their efforts. I thought that this was a brilliant idea!

So how are we moving on? I will keep doing what I do because I will reach more trainees. I also believe that the approach has short and long term benefits. Teachers tend to teach the way they are taught, so there must be alternative models for them to observe, experience and critique.

We might also look for ways to make my colleague’s idea a reality. Working towards a special diploma is an administrative nightmare. However, someone with the bandwidth to take in another research study might consider submitting a grant to, say, conduct a longitudinal study on teachers trained to conduct game-based learning lessons. 😉

The group will certainly be having more conversations about gaming now. I also hope to include a few more colleagues in other departments who like the idea of playing games.

From an EduBlog simply titled Human comes this account of a teacher, a digital immigrant, and how she learned to speak the “language” of digital natives.

It’s well worth the read!

Click to see all the nominees!

QR code

Get a mobile QR code app to figure out what this means!

My tweets


Usage policy

%d bloggers like this: