I presented at eSymposium 2013 to a group of administrators about how to become more connected (see presentation here). My [ambitious] plan was to get each participant to sign up for Twitter, Google+, and a blog service (I chose WordPress.com). After a quick overview, we ended up spending most of our time on Twitter. Whenever I “give a talk”, I love for it to be challenging for me. In this case, the time constraint and the questions from participants both challenged me.
The main question that I’ve been mulling over since yesterday is something like “Why is Twitter the best platform for connecting with my staff?”
Although I hadn’t anticipated the question as such, I did have an answer: it’s short and it’s public. Posts are short, which encourages more brevity than this blogging platform does, and posts are public, which encourages careful thinking and outside opinion. After my three-hour drive home, I still think the same way.
When you only have 140 characters, you have to try to distill your thinking. That’s a valuable restriction. You have to consider which parts of your conceptions, which facets of your arguments, are truly necessary. It’s an automatic reflection requirement.
If you’re posting something that anyone can read, including parents, students, and your superintendent, it’s wise to consider how it might be perceived. This may have a sadly chilling effect on discourse, but it may not. That depends on the context in which you work.
When you communicate with your staff about issues, who else is part of the conversation? If your conversation is global and public, your entire PLN, wherever and whoever it’s found, can join in the discussion. In my experience, “outsiders” who are moved to participate always have useful and interesting perspectives. If your conversation is only local, it has a tendency to stay that way, and you develop an insular, echo-chamber culture.
But Not Always
I don’t think all education discussions should happen in public. If an issue is related to an identifiable incident (“How to handle it when a student [insert dramatic behaviour]”), keep that private. In fact, you may want to keep that offline entirely, for everyone’s sake. If your thinking on an issue is very fledgling and/or very controversial, you risk upsetting parents (“Our principal thinks [insert radical idea] about achievement?!? We’re changing schools!”). Twitter isn’t the best platform for everything.
Stacey Wallwin (@WallwinS) often sends useful links to me (through Twitter, of course) to help me develop as an educator. She sent me a link to a post entitled “How (And Why) Teachers Should Have Multiple Twitter Accounts“, which references a nice visual about how/why to use three different Twitter accounts. I like the idea of multiple accounts for the purposes described. Since I’m neither teaching nor in a school, I’m good with just one. If I were tweeting a lot for my class, I might consider a teacher/class account. If I were a principal, I might be the holder of a school account. I’ll be a subject area head next year, but I think a hashtag would be more useful than an entire account to host math conversations with my colleagues.
One missing component in that visual is “personal” tweeting. I would place that in the “educator” account, unless you do a lot of personal tweeting.
Not Done, Sorry
I’m still thinking more on these issues, so I’ll write again. I needed to get some stuff down, and I would appreciate your thinking as well. Thanks.