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?

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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.

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