Is Twitter "Real" Professional Development?

I'm always hopeful that there will be people who comment on the blog, but I'm especially hopeful that this post will turn into a conversation. At Center School District, we have started hosting bi-monthly Twitter chats using #CenterSD. Attendance has been hit-or-miss, but the conversation is always relevant and useful. If you've ever used Twitter for a chat, then you have experienced the collaboration that exists when teachers voluntarily get together and talk about education. The topic can vary, but I think most who participate leave with a little extra motivation and a little stronger spark.

Kelly Wachel (@kellywachel) and Tyler Shannon (@TSHANNON49) have started a conversation at our district about whether or not our bi-monthly Twitter chat should count as "formal" professional development for teachers. It's an interesting thought. Teachers value their time highly as they should. They are asked to plan lessons, teach those lessons, assess student learning on these lessons, grade those assessments, and tweak their future lessons based on the assessments they just gave and graded.

That's a lot of work! That is not to say that other professions do not have substantial amounts of often stressful work, because that isn't true either. This is simply meant to show why many educators are averse to spending some of their own time on Twitter talking about education. I think that's the root of the conversation our district is having - is it fair to compensate teachers with Professional Development time for time they spend on Twitter and would that incentive lead to more educators spending time on Twitter?


Is Twitter Professional Development?
The short answer to this in my mind is yes. My friend Kelly Wachel wrote a guest post for this blog on this topic which you can read here. Professional Development is a really descriptive term. Education is more craft than job. As such, our craft must be developed and perfected as much as is possible. Shouldn't professional development be any activity that leads to a more perfected version of the educational craft? You can read a thousand and one articles on how Twitter is beneficial to teachers of all stages of career that help show that Twitter checks this box.

Will a Professional Development label increase the use of Twitter?
Here's where I'm hoping to get some conversation going, because I just don't know what the answer to this is. We are early in our district use of Twitter. Our athletic department recently got a Twitter account as did our district as a whole. Many teachers have accounts, but there are relatively few who would be considered active on Twitter.

There are weeks where I spend 3 to 4 hours on Twitter reading educational articles, connecting and talking with educators from around the world or participating in chats. If I could put those hours on my professional development log, would that effect the amount of time I put in? I'm not so sure, but I'm also pretty sure I'm not normal. Are there any districts out there that put a monetary incentive on increased professional development? Do any of your districts provide rewards for teachers who are particularly active in professional development?

Seriously, I don't know what the answer to these questions are. But I want to. Comment below and share what your experiences are both personally and at a district level when it comes to using Twitter as a professional development tool.

Get in touch! 

E-mail:            Facebook                        Twitter: @chambersalec

GUEST POST! Twitter and Professional Development

A big thanks to Kelly Wachel (@KellyWachel) for this guest post! Kelly is the author of the book Parents and Schools Together: Blueprint for Success with Urban Youth. In addition to being a great director of public relations at Center School District, Kelly has a great sense for connecting with people. She's visited with my classes several times about community service and community building. Recently, Kelly has been working with several others at our district as we talk about the role that Twitter can play in our district's professional development. Kelly agreed to turn her thoughts into a guest post! 

Twitter and Professional Development
By Kelly Wachel
When I think about professional development for people working in schools, I think about a bigger picture of how does an activity contribute to learning more about my job?  If you think about professional development in that way, then there are lots of ways to actually participate in it.  Because my daily thoughts revolve around public relations and how I can help our schools be better, I like to think that professional development is also a way to show how we want to be perceived.  I think a lot about perception.  The professional development that we participate in is a reflection of who we are.  How do we participate?  In which ways?  What do we choose to learn more about?

Lots of people say that Twitter has provided them with the most relevant professional development they’ve had.  This is not a knock on previous, or even current, district-organized professional development, but it’s a measuring stick to show where people are going to feel connected.  Twitter is an avenue for people to feel connected to someone in their own school district or someone half-way around the world.  And when you participate in the Twitter conversation, then you are participating in a form of professional development that is solely picked by you.  You have a choice, and that choice is a direct reflection of who you are.

One of our principals, Tyler Shannon (@tshannon49), told me once that “every day is a test.”  I love this comment because it directly relates to the whole perception thing.  Every day is a test of who you are and how you present yourself to the world (your colleagues, your students, your parents, etc.).  By picking professional development that stretches you and challenges you, it forces you to grow.  The challenge is to find that activity that is interesting, fun, and growth-oriented.  How do I get better?  How can I learn more about my job?  There are lots of ways to answer these questions; the tricky part is figuring out how to do it while representing yourself professionally and personally.  Go out there and make the perception of yourself – do it well and help contribute to a bigger picture of your colleagues, your school, your school district, and your community.

Get in touch! 

E-mail:            Facebook                        Twitter: @chambersalec