I know that almost everybody reading this will be doing so having seen it on Twitter. The audience of this post is for your colleagues, chums, overlords and underlings who haven’t yet taken the plunge into the murky cybernetic virtual waters.
To be clear, I also know that any teacher already on Twitter can write a post like this, extolling the many merits of Twitter as self-led CPD, professional dialogue, pedagogical enquiry and as a community of enquiry. Equally, they can talk about the negatives of it; its obsessive tendencies, the oftentimes confusion that comes from excessive brevity and the liability for discussion to quickly descend into some fairly shady and bruising exchanges.
As such, I am just going to talk about some of the highly specific ways in which Twitter has helped me, altered my practice, supported my teaching and provided me with opportunities.
- Seeking out your teacher tribe
Twitter can allow you, over time, to find people who share your approach to education, to teaching and to learning. You can find people who mirror your interests, and with them, you can tread forth with greater confidence, having found people with whom to share ideas. For me, I class teachers like @whatonomy @DeputyDifferent @shinpad1 @rachelrossiter and @shebaasha in this category.
- Seeking out those teachers who challenge your thinking
Beneath Twitter arguments about teaching and learning, in almost all cases, you will see that undergirding every contribution is a passionate concern for providing the best opportunities for pupils. Whilst @jon_brunskill and I have always got along sociably – to the extent of us producing an ill-fated unpublished podcast in my mucky flat – his views occasionally hit me like a bin lid to the eyes. I have sat in a crowd of people calling him unspeakable things as he extols the need for SATS tests at every year of Primary, and about the role of Knowledge Organisers, but his ideas act like an earworm. A few hours later, I find myself entertaining his ideas, which challenge my own, and it causes me to re-evaluate and refine my worldview.
- Seeking out experts
Over time, you come to know who knows what. Twitter allows for a strangely potent immediacy, which enables concerns, questions and ideas to be pitched directly and instantly to those who can best support them. Whenever I am considering the relationships between ethnic and language demographics and attainment, as I often am at work, it is a godsend to have @EquitableEd at the touch of a button. For primary assessment, like half the country, I enjoy talking to @MichaelT1969. The regular presence of @HarfordSean prevents Ofsted from being some mysterious unknown. @Mat_at_Brookes is my go to guy for Children’s Literature. @KalwantBhopal is an encyclopaedia of up-to-date insights into intersectionality, race, gender and education. @LCLL_Director is the Delphic oracle of careers advice. @ASTsupportAAli and @AllanaG13 curate the burgeoning #BAMEed network and for #WomenED we have the huge network including @LCLL_Director @kfallan @BennieKara @EquitableEd @rondelle10_b and many others. With a magisterial overview of all of the above I have @miss_mcinerney who edits @SchoolsWeek . It is a education geek’s paradise.
- Strange Collaborations
It was over Twitter that I got talking to @KrystaParsons, a Headteacher in Lincolnshire. We got chatting about the different life experiences of our pupils – hers in a tiny school in the countryside, me in a titan primary in the middle of East London. Chatting turned to ideas, and ideas turned to action. Her kids came to visit us, and then a few months later, we booked a coach and visited them. The joy my kids experienced as they scaled a grain mountain could not have been attained did I not spend time exchanging GIFs with @KrystaParsons. I am currently chatting to @BobbySeagull, the captain of Emmanuel College, Cambridge’s University Challenge team, about him meeting my pupils. Over Twitter, I reached out to the steampunk hiphop artist @Prof_Elemental and he came and performed with my kids. With @dutaut and @whatonomy, we cemented our friendship through a sequence of photo exchanges of Teacher Face. This is also a good thing.
- Entering Meatspace
Horrible word isn’t it, meatspace. I love it – it is the opposite of cyberspace. Meatspace is the place where you are reading this. Behind every @ there is a person, who sweats, breaths and is meat. From behind the keyboards and screens, we meat beings can spend time together, through conferences or just through deciding to meet/meat up. I have had pints with @jon_brunskill @imagineinquiry @whatonomy and @dutaut in a Soho pub. I have quaffed OJ with @shinpad2 in some hipster coffee bar in Manchester. I frequent Costa Coffee with @EquitableEd. @emmaannhardy tolerates my presence in a Doncastrian burger bar. I had a frankly vulgar chat with @HeyMissSmith over Leeds poppadums. The first few times you enter meatspace with the EduTwitter lot, there is a strange sense of familiarity, as you suddenly see display pictures walking about, and you can’t work out if it is normal to speak to them or not. But you should.