I’ve often written that Twitter has been an invaluable professional learning tool for me. We have at our fingertips as Will Richardson says the ability to connect with two billion teachers and that presents unlimited opportunities for collaborative learning.
Educators like George Couros and Gary Stager also reflect that it isn’t the tool per se but how teachers use the tool to build, connect, learn, inspire, change etc. For many teachers and leaders, social media is a brave new world and I believe that if teachers and leaders aren’t operating in this space, they will be left behind.
The danger is though that we make several assumptions about the professional use of social media: teachers have the skills to use social media and they actually see the benefit of using it.
Andreas Schleicher, OECD Director for Education and Skills says that in order to build a great education system, teachers need not only to have access to the tools to develop 21st century skills but they must also recognise the importance of these skills.
The one thing we cannot do is assume that we don’t need to invest resources to up skill all teachers to use the tools effectively.
Certainly there is growing evidence of the positive impact social media use is having on teacher and student learning. In 2011, Julie McCulloch, Ewan McIntosh and Tom Barrett authored a report called Tweeting for teachers: how can social media support teacher professional development? The report identified a number of research studies linking the impact of professional social media use on teachers’ practice, attitudes and beliefs to improved student learning.
A recent survey of 755 educators in the US revealed how they were connecting online. We asked the same question recently of our staff to find out how and what social media tools they were using professionally. The 650 responses provide us with a good snapshot of which tools and the frequency of use.
Three themes emerged from the feedback that needs to be addressed at a system level. These were training, culture/privacy and network access. Perhaps these are universal challenges for many education systems.
The point to be made is that if we are serious about ensuring no child is left behind, we need to be just as serious about ensuring no teacher is left behind in a hyper-connected world.