Most people are aware of the social media site Twitter. What is not as well-known however is that teachers around the globe are using Twitter for their own professional development. They are doing this by creating a personalised PLN (Professional Learning Network). If you are a teacher based in the Middle East and you’d like to tap into these brilliant professional development opportunities that come up on Twitter, then read on… Here’s my advice on how using Twitter can impact and even transform your teaching. If you aren’t on or using Twitter, then I encourage you to join up and reap the benefits and take full advantage of the opportunities Twitter can offer to teachers.
Separate the professional and personal online.
Of course, this is just my advice and not a requirement but I recommend having a professional Twitter account with the aim of connecting with educators, this will involve people from different countries that you haven’t met before – so take care sharing any personal information or photos. When I joined Twitter with a teaching account my purpose was to find out how Twitter could help me develop as a teacher and with the aim to learn. Two years later those are still my aims but I also use Twitter as a platform to share my resources, ideas and blogs.
Who to follow?
There are lots of ways that you can find educators to follow. To help get you started I have provided a list of 50 educators in the Middle East that I recommend following. Follow educators that you think you can learn from. If you are looking for accounts to engage and interact with then I strongly suggest having a profile photo so others know your account is genuine and not spam. Also, include a short bio which could state your role, the school or country you teach in – just enough information to inform other educators about yourself. Just as it is expected of you, use the profiles, photos and links to blogs of other educators to decide if they would make a good part of your PLN.
A great way to engage and interact with other Twitter users is by searching various hashtags. A hashtag is a word preceded by the # symbol. It can include numbers but not punctuation characters. A hashtag is used on Twitter to group similar tweets into topics which are then searchable. Topics can be linked to events such as CPD days or chats that take place on Twitter at specific times.
One of the most popular hashtags for educators in the MENA region is #TeachUAEChat. Other hashtags include #EdChatMENA. Use #UKEdchat, for keeping up to date and informed with teachers and the education system in the UK. #TeachandTweet for showcasing the good practice taking place in your classroom. #TeachMiddleEast for tagging Teach Middle East Magazine into your education related posts. #PedgooFriday is one of my favourite hashtags to search and scroll through as it shows teachers sharing their teaching highlights of the week – a great place to gain ideas and inspiration from others! If you have a specific area of interest it is likely there will be a hashtag with a conversation around that topic from #Edtech to #BehaviourChat. If you want something you Tweet to reach a wider audience than your followers, then including a hashtag can do that. There are regular Twitter chats that take place online and people ask questions and respond to each other using the Twitter chat hashtag. I have hosted several Twitter chats and they are fantastic for networking, communicating and learning from one another.
Keeping up to date and informed!
Educational blogs written by teachers are shared daily via Twitter. As a result of using Twitter I read more regularly and have learnt so much! If you are interested in blogging my advice would be to read lots of different blogs by different educators, then use Twitter to promote and share your teaching blog or ideas. A good site to start your blogging journey on would be wordpress.com. Twitter is known as a micro-blogging service and so if you’re finding that tweets alone aren’t enough for you to share; why not try writing a longer reflection on your free WordPress blog!
Twitter provides teachers with CPD at their finger tips – whenever they want! There is a large community of teachers online which can provide advice, guidance and support. I’ve had questions asked of me about exam boards and I have asked outwardly for support on resources for a specific topic. Every time I have reached out with a question or cry for help, someone has always been able to assist me. I am very confident that if you have a question someone on Twitter will be able to answer it for you!
My final nuggets of advice are about staying safe online. Remember if your profile is public then anyone can see your account so keep that in mind when you tweet! Please check your school’s social media policy too for guidance on your individual circumstances. If you would be happy for a colleague, your line manager, Headteacher, parent of a pupil or even a pupil to read your tweet then press post – if not reconsider what you tweet or retweet! If you are an International teacher, then please remember to be culturally sensitive about what you post – something you post online can be deemed unacceptable in some countries but not others. Sadly, there are some people online that can resort to trolling (upsetting others / abusive comments), although this has been rare in my experience. Remember we are the professionals so don’t respond or engage but instead become aware of the mute and block buttons!