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Use Twitter to improve your teaching

Use Twitter to improve your teaching

Main Subject: CPD

Subject: School improvement

Author: Ian Gilbert

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Why do I need an INSET provider when I’ve got Twitter, asks Ian Gilbert?

In 2010 I wrote a book that posed the question, why do I need a teacher when I’ve got Google? In a nutshell, it suggests that if you are a great teacher then children, society and the world need you now more than ever. The challenges the planet is facing are so huge that we need worldclass teachers to help prepare the next generation of children to solve these problems. And with advances in areas such as technology, neuroscience and pedagogy, teachers have access to the knowledge they need to be even better at what they do.

However, on the other hand, if you’re rubbish, we don’t need you at all. There are plenty of other ways children can learn without having to waste time being taught badly, thank you very much.

What is also worth pointing out is that this brave new world of ‘Be good or else’ applies to people in my line of work – the speakers, trainers, consultants and motivators wheeled out at INSET days and conferences to help schools be better at what they do. In the same way that children can now find the knowledge they need for themselves without a poor quality teacher getting in their way, so can teachers go about finding for themselves the insights, people and practices to help them be better. Why wait for the occasional training day to come round and just pray the speaker has at least one decent idea amongst his or her interminable PowerPoint presentation that might be worth giving a go with real live children in the morning?

Innovations in technology, especially social networking, mean that the P in CPD not only stands for ‘Professional’ but also ‘Personal’. In other words, you have personal, immediate, continuous access to whatever and whoever it is that you need to be better at what you do. What’s more, it is entirely free.

Of all the innovations driving this new approach to helping yourself be better without waiting for someone to do it toyou, the one that is by far the most powerful, effective and simple is – drum roll – Twitter. Yes, that’s right. That social networking site that allows Justin Beiber to tell the world what he’s thinking, that allows politicians to tell the world what we should be thinking and that allows footballers to show the world they are incapable of thinking is, quite simply, the world’s best CPD tool. EVER.

Through Twitter you have instant access, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to experts and practitioners from all around the world who are doing the job you do and can help you do that job even better. Using Twitter they will offer suggestions and encouragement, point you at interesting websites and blogs, share with you resources and ideas that will enrich your practice, make you laugh, make you cry, make you angry, make you feel proud, make you feel part of a community, most of whom you will never meet. All of this, 140 characters at a time.

Once you have set up a Twitter account, one, none or all of the following will happen. You will lose interest and your account will sit there unused and unloved apart from the spam from what appears to be girls in bikinis (the photos are very small). You will simply keep following people and taking the ideas they offer without ever Tweeting and sharing any of your own. (This is fine but it is like taking a bottle of Blue Nun to a party and then spending the evening drinking other people’s half decent Shiraz.) Or you will learn that, through Twitter, you can have in-depth debates about pedagogy before breakfast on weekdays; that an army of teachers can help you address the problem of your unmotivated Y4 class; and that you can learn, adapt and then reshare ideas about numeracy that will be used within minutes by people all over the world.

As a teacher, you can be as good as you want to be. There are no limits. How good you get is entirely dependent on how much you want to actively connect. After all, why do I need an INSET provider when I’ve got Twitter? And Facebook. And YouTube. And Diigo. And Posterous. And Pinterest….

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