I was contacted by Hampshire IT (@HantsITschools) to write an article for their termly magazine to share my views on why Twitter is such a powerful tool for all those involved in education, but with a specific focus on senior leaders.
Below is my first draft of the article. It will not be published for a couple of months so if anyone has any suggestions to improve it please do leave a comment or contact me @tim_jumpclarke. Many thanks.
The professional power of Twitter
- Connect with others involved in education nationally and internationally, which can give you a broader view of current issues and initiatives. For example it has been interesting finding out how other areas of the country are managing: recruitment, PRP and judging teacher performance without grading observations.
- Posing questions to gain other views. For example I was recently re-writing a person spec and asked what would be the most important item others would include. I didn’t use all the responses, but I did use some.
- Regular feeds from organisations like the DfE and Ofsted, with the opportunity to tweet them directly with your views and questions. A number of educators of Twitter campaign regularly to improve education, for example recommending changes to the Ofsted framework. Indeed the DfE, Ofsted and some MPs are more regularly meeting with ‘edu-tweeters’ to discuss policy direction. I regularly retweet the feeds from these organisations through the @HantsPrimSLT account (see below).
- Find links to research summaries or blogs. For example I found a few 2 or 3 page summaries of John Hattie and David Yates’ book “The Science of how we Learn” back in January 2014, which gave me many of the main points without having to read the whole book first.
- Hear about practical tips, ideas and projects that schools around the country are running. In particular I have found this useful if a member of staff asks for some advice or a particular resource. Usually you can give them something useful within 24 hours. I have also found “Pinterest” extremely helpful for this (but that’s for another time).
- Educators on Twitter are mostly very generous and will often share plans and resources as well as ideas. For example I have received copies of whole primary curriculum skills maps based on the new National Curriculum from colleagues on Twitter.
- Hear about TeachMeets, conferences and other professional development opportunities for you or your staff. For example I have been fortunate to be invited to a national Primary Leaders conference in London purely through Twitter contacts.
- Promoting the work and achievements of your pupils, staff and school. A number of schools now have Twitter accounts for this purpose. Please feel free to look at my school’s @cornerstonecofe.
How to start
This is fairly straightforward. Go online, search for Twitter, click on the link to sign up. There is an excellent blog by @MichaelT1979 which explains this process in more detail, and has links to the official Twitter sign up instructions: http://michaelt1979.wordpress.com/2015/01/02/getting-started-with-twitter/
You can set your account up as locked so you can control who has access to your information if you wish. Many people start by following some suggested people or organisations (see below) for a while before they start to tweet.
Undoubtedly time is always going to be a key issue. It is possible for Twitter to consume more time in your day than is useful, but I have also found it can save a lot of time. I can quickly find summaries of research or projects from others which actually saves my time, and by building connections people will often share.
Before smartphones and tablets I would probably not have used Twitter. But I now mainly go online in those 5 minute lulls during the day (e.g. whilst waiting for a meeting to start away from school or whilst waiting for my youngest daughter to finish cleaning her teeth before her bedtime story – yes she does take about 5 minutes though I’m not sure all that time is spent cleaning teeth).
Due to it being quick to access, tweets being very short and its interactive nature which allows you to filter out what you don’t need, I find 5-10 minutes once or twice a day is ample time. However I know that other educators on Twitter just check in once or twice a week.
This is not an official LA Twitter account. A group of DHTs / AHTs from Eastleigh Borough and myself set this up in June 2014. Previously we had termly meetings but often found that information shared would have been more helpful a few weeks / months earlier.
The aim of this account was for us to share questions, ideas, projects, and latest county / national developments. Ideally we would like as many Hampshire Primary SLT colleagues to follow us, although everyone is welcome.
If you tweet including the Twitter handle (@HantsPrimSLT) it will be able to be viewed by everyone who follows this account, (367 at the latest count). It can be a fantastic way of schools across Hampshire sharing the fantastic work they do and another way of making links with other schools.
Some recommendations to follow
DfE: @educationgovuk Ofsted: @Ofstednews
NAHT: @NAHTnews NCTL: @the_college
National Primary Heads: @NPH_UK
The TES: @tes @SLTchat
There is a very useful list (compiled by Ian Addison) of educators working in Hampshire at: https://twitter.com/ianaddison/lists/hampshire-people/members. This includes @HantsITschools.
Online discussions: ‘chats’
One of the most powerful elements of Twitter are the weekly ‘chats’. Based around a key question or focus, which may have been voted on during the week, they only last half an hour. Recent topics include: National Curriculum, assessment after levels, PRP, PM, observations without grades…
#SLTchat (Sunday 8-8.30) is one of the most popular, with over 14,000 followers. Nicky Morgan hosted it in December 2014 and Ofsted have also hosted a number of occasions.
I would also recommend #primedchat (Wednesdays 8-8.30) which Nick Gibb hosted in November 2014, and #UKedchat (Thursdays 8-8.30). It doesn’t matter if you have not joined in before, or indeed if you have a break for a few weeks or months.
When I started on Twitter I followed these chats for a couple of months, but without contributing to decide whether it was useful for me. I also found it an invaluable way of finding other educators to follow.
To join in a chat simply type the hashtag (e.g. #SLTchat) into the “Search Twitter” box and then when a list of tweets appears click on “all” to see all the comments that everyone is making.
I hope this article has been of interest / help. My name is Tim Clarke and I am headteacher at Cornerstone Church of England Primary (@cornerstonecofe) in Whiteley. I can be found on Twitter under @tim_jumpclarke (not my real middle name!) If you have any questions or comments please feel free to contact me.