I have decided to take a more rudderless approach to community engagement and simply do my best to use social media tools, with a focus on Twitter, to develop my PLN. I also explored using Facebook and Google Hangouts as ways to connect with other teachers. Unfortunately, this has resulted in a meandering post to explain my adventures.
I had a few broad goals in mind:
- to meet more folks who were like-minded in the education field
- to find ways to find answers to burning questions, particularly regarding certain issues related to standards
- to learn more about the PYP Asia Pacific region
- to become accustomed to using social media as a tool for professional development
I devoted most of my energy to Twitter for Course 5. Overall, I’d say that I have had a positive experience and I will continue to use Twitter. Over the course of the Coetail
experience, I have gone from zero people followed and followers to both numbers in the 200s. I’ve made really valuable contacts and have made professional gains as a result of these contacts. However, not all experiences have reaped excellent rewards.
Twitter and PLNs for PLCs (acronym heaven)
I started by trying to incorporate using Twitter as a PLN into my professional goals at school. We chose a PLC – professional learning committee – that we focus on throughout the school year. And I chose using Twitter to develop my personal learning network. I was joined by 3 lovely colleagues: Nadine Kitto-Switzer, Kacey Molloy and Lisa Daniels. We established some questions and began to tweet our answers with the hashtag #aisdhakaplc. Here is the link to our #aisdhakaplc storify.
— Nadine Kitto-Switzer (@MrsKittoSwitzer) January 5, 2016
As you can see, we eventually stopped using this hashtag – in part because we’d grown out of it and in part because it was a bit long and cumbersome to add it to all of our tweets.
One of our goals was to encourage hesitant colleagues to try and use Twitter by involving them in conversations and encouraging them to reach out to the Twitter community. We actually did this in order to broaden our own Twitter scope as well.
This is ongoing, and, at this point, I’d say we’re still working toward this. Additionally, I hosted an introductory discussion on using Twitter as a professional tool for teachers at a school PD session. This was well attended and I’m certain we created a good 20 Twitter lurkers. A good start. Also, I tried to encourage teachers to tweet and use our school hashtag. Since they are still mostly lurkers, this hasn’t happened yet. And if I’m honest, I am also looking beyond our school myself and tend to use more global hashtags.
There have been a few disappointments: I tried to help out my friend, Lloyd Curley, who was trying to get his students’ surveys for PYP Final Exhibition out to a broader community.
I was certain that this would take off, but it flopped. After a weekend of waiting, there were only a few responses to each survey. Of course, some of this had to do with one of the surveys not having appropriate permission (grr), but overall, it just seemed that it didn’t get enough attention. Both Lloyd and I were fairly disappointed, and went back to our regular strategy of hassling teachers and students from the school which drummed up more responses.
Twitter and #Chats
My favorite days at school this semester have been the days where I’ve got the time to participate in a slowchat. Here’s one of my favorites at the moment:
#AISQ8chat and #AfricaEd have been constants in my weeks this year. They are both slowchats, happening over a day, which is why I like them. My schedule doesn’t often allow for me to get involved in shorter chats, like the#CoetailChat. I’ve made some interesting contacts via these chats and will continue to pursue this avenue. I’d like to broaden my horizons. If anyone has suggestions, please let me know.
Twitter and #IBPYP
I have been somewhat successful getting to know more about the PYP Asia-Pacific Region and using Twitter to learn more about PYP Final Exhibition journeys in other schools.
#PYPX is a wonderful hashtag that has opened my eyes and introduced me to some excellent PYP practitioners. Strangely, I connected with Kristen Blum on Twitter when she works just down the road. Other prolific Twitterites…please let’s make this is a word because I love it so…are Amanda McCloskey, Jen Friske and Sam Sherratt. It is incredible watching and sharing ideas about the PYP Final Exhibition with these folks.
Further, I decided that I was going to try and tweet my way through the IB Asia Pacific Regional Conference in mid-March, #IBHYD2016. Unfortunately, I wasn’t as prolific as I’d hoped. I made some attempts when it came to certain workshops I really liked, but I had trouble with the internet on my phone – more on this later.
Predicting rather than planning a unit of inquiry…layering student and teacher inquiries #IBHYD2016
I did actually make a couple of great contacts with people, such as Angela Meikle. This connection led me to be a part of a #ibpyp webinar on #pypinnovations. This was one of the most exciting webinars and tweeting events, if you will, that I’ve had to date. I heard and tweeted about so many exciting innovations and made even more great contacts through this experience!
Hats off #pypinnovation folks! This has been most enlightening and enjoyable!
Overall, I am sold on Twitter as a PLN, but I have learned a few things that are improving/would improve my endeavors. First, you need a decent phone and I don’t have one. This year I have been suffering along with a phone that has a terrible battery life and a terrible wifi signal. Additionally, carrying my phone is a habit that I really need build in order to get more out of Twitter. The more you share, the more you get out of it.
Second, Twitter on its own does not suffice for me. It is the combination of Twitter and personal interaction that has really helped me begin to build my PLN. I tweet much more with people to whom I have a personal connection, even if I don’t personally know them. Additionally, attending conferences and meeting new people offers new avenues for connecting on Twitter. My experiences with #IBHYD2016 and#pypinnovation have proven this to me. I met Angela at the conference, we got in touch via Twitter, and I was connected to a new network of people and ideas almost immediately.
Facebook has some pretty good PYP groups – strange but true! One of my favorites is PYP Online Collaboration. I have been exposed to a wide variety of articles. One particularly poignant example was when I came across a number of articles written by Christopher Frost. The article that really got me talking to Mr. Frost was “PYP and Readers Writers Workshop: are they compatible“. As my school is going in this direction, this really sparked my interest. I immediately commented on the blog and went on to email with Chris numerous times in relation to this issue and others related to using AERO standards in a PYP school. His feedback was most helpful, and I have Facebook to thank for getting it started.
I, hanging head in shame, have not been documenting my posts on these groups so I do not really have loads of evidence to share with you. To be honest, I’ve been using this a fair amount, but, for some reason, it didn’t even strike me that this is an option I should mention until a few weeks ago!
One thing that sparked my interest in Facebook was that this seemed much less scary to many of my colleagues. In fact, one of my fellow teachers came across Chris’s blog shortly after I’d been in touch with him.
I think Facebook is a good option because you can write lengthy questions and responses…and I’m lengthy. What I gain most from Facebook are ideas related to PYP units; articles on sustainability, animal rights, digital citizenship and the learner profile abound. I regularly share these with other teachers. And they do the same. On the downside, in certain groups you need to wait for a group administrator to approve your post, and this simply takes away from the spontaneity of social media.
THE GREAT GOOGLE EDU-HANGOUT EXPERIMENT
Tracy Blair wrote Amanda McCloskey and myself awhile back and asked if we would like to try using a Google Edu-Hangout to discuss educational issues. Each week we come up with a discussion topic, invite others to join us, and have our edu-hangouts on Wednesday nights. So far, we have had two hangouts with a third pending. First, we discussed social media; second, we explored using standards in a PYP school; third, we will look at how to move forward after Coetail.
Edu Hangout on Standards and the PYP: 8.30 India time. Please reply and I’ll add you to the hangout https://t.co/6On2tsCLH1
We are starting small, with just the 3 of us able to participate, but the discussions have been deeper than what I’ve experienced in a Twitter chat, and they have certainly been more personal. In fact, they were a smaller scale of the IBPYP Webinar I took part in via my Twitter extravaganza, except I got to talk as well. I have thoroughly enjoyed this experience. We need to find a way to spread the word and make this edu-hangout a regular occurrence.
I really enjoy using these various social media tools to develop my PLN and, ultimately, improve my teaching practice and further student learning. And I will continue to do so now that Coetail is coming to a close (sniff sniff).
However, I have to admit that I feel like I can’t keep up with the kids on the fast track! I know this isn’t what I’m supposed to say at the end of Coetail 5, but I feel I need to speak the truth here. Simply following all that is happening is a challenge! Contributing involves being comfortable enough with the various tools, and I do feel comfortable with them now, but sharing out involves being very organized and super plugged in. Between single parenting, trying to get in some exercise and keeping up with my job, I have found it challenging to accurately document my online existence. Simply being online was enough of a challenge!
Having said this, I have come a long way! Coetail has been the catalyst for beginnign to develop my PLN, as puny as it currently is. I have benefited greatly from the ideas shared and the discussions I’ve taken part in. And I intend to carry on tweeting and posting and commenting and blogging and you name it until the cows come home!