Twitter and Professional Development

By this time, I’m assuming that the majority of teachers and educators have some understanding of Twitter and it’s potential as an information technology tool. Certainly it can be viewed as an effective social media tool capable of creating large online communities and groups of followers tuned in to information streams. That said, recent experiences with the platform have reinforced my belief that Twitter can, and should, be used as a personalized, primary source professional development tool for teachers. Here are some quick examples of how information from Twitter has impacted my teaching:

  1. Expert Information: Teaching the themes of geography can be enlivened and differentiated through the use of digital media including pictures, videos, and infographics. By following sources such as the United States Geological survey @USGS and NASA, teachers can have incredible resources delivered right to their desktop.
  1. Lesson Planning: Twitter sources can be the core element of an entire lesson plan, they can be used to connect curriculum ideas, or they can be introduced as a topic of discussion at the beginning of class. Integrating the Twitter feed into the class dialogue presents untold opportunities for students to be critical thinkers and to develop a stream of resources directly connected to key curriculum concepts.
  1. Archiving Great Ideas: A quick run through of your Twitter feed can provide a wide range of ideas for on-the-ground planning as well as academic research, reflection, and pedagogical technique. While this may be overwhelming, by starring different posts of interest, teachers can begin cataloguing those ideas for future use. Periodically revisiting those starred posts can help plan for new units and new lessons.
  1. Inspiration: If you want to be inspired, there is no better way than to follow teachers and associates on Twitter. You can keep up with new ideas, view teaching techniques, and follow links to new ideas, technologies, and research that can be implemented immediately.




Personalized Learning Plans and Cross-Curriculum Integration

One advantage of implementing Personal Learning Plans is the possibility of cross-curriculum integration and learning. There are numerous opportunities for teachers to collaborate, innovate, and develop learning activities in partnership with colleagues and students.

Because the PLP is “portable”, students can incorporate activities from different classes into the platform. This presents teachers with the opportunity for the assessment of multiple standards and skills. Students can utilize this portability to demonstrate their expertise in different learning environments.

An example that is in development at Main Street Middle School involves foreign language students creating videos documenting their emerging foreign language skills. Once the video is created, students self-assess themselves based on their foreign language fluency. But it doesn’t end there. Students can also assess their presentation skills, body language, and, for students comfortable with technology, filming and video presentation. Super-motivated students and teachers could also have students annotate those videos to document strengths and challenges.

Building on the review of the skills present in the videos, students can then set goals for future learning opportunities. Because the PLP travels with the student, skill improvement and growth can be documented over time and across the classes. Students then have evidence that can be shared with teachers and parents to demonstrate development.

A third opportunity connected to the PLP is the development, integration, and assessment of the Agency of Education’s Transferable Skill set. Though this can be accomplished in stand-alone classrooms, collaboration across the curriculum enables students to realize the integration of these skills throughout their educational program.