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Being a connected educator

In this video, Mark Anderson discusses his thoughts and shares his expertise on connecting with fellow educators online using Twitter.
Hi. Mark Anderson here. Many people know me from my Twitter handle ICT evangelist. I honestly don’t think I’d be here talking to you right now if it wasn’t for engaging, sharing, learning, and collaborating with others and taking control of my own CPD. And for me, that’s largely what the Twitter community is. It is the best staff room in the world. I was first introduced to Twitter as a teacher many years ago by people such as Tim Rylands and Andy Hutt two inspiring people who shared how powerful it was as a tool to support learning and sharing for teachers. I was soon hooked. And it proved to be really useful.
Twitter really is, for me, the best teacher staff room in the world. Back in 2010, we were looking to deploy iPads in my school as a one to one initiative. And as one of the first schools, globally, looking at this, Twitter proved an invaluable way of connecting with international colleagues who were working on similar initiatives. Throughout the process, we were there to learn, support, and share with and from each other. The networking, connections, and subsequent friendships made through Twitter helped us to steer our work and share outwardly what we were doing, too. I couldn’t have done the work I did if it hadn’t been for having this super positive platform for learning and sharing.
Another great example of how the Twitter network can support the work you’re doing was seeing when I was asked by a teacher to help them when a colleague of theirs– a head of art– had been involved in an accident and so was going to be off work for a significant period of time. The teacher contacted me and asked if I knew any art teachers who could help with resources, schemes of work, et cetera. Now, I was asked this just before I was getting onto a flight, and so I wasn’t able to respond in much detail. What I did do, though, was to reply and tag in a few art teachers and heads of department that I knew on Twitter.
As my flight was about to take off, I sent my reply swiftly, turned my phone off, and continued on my journey. By the time my flight had landed 90 minutes later, those art teachers had replied with links to resources, shared folders with exam examples, schemes of work, and other resources to teach various courses and much, much more. Such is the power of a great professional learning network. You can tap into these resources too.
There are lots of ways in which you can start to build your online community, but I’d say start with platforms you’re familiar and comfortable with. As you start to grow your network, you’ll find a plethora of resources online, such as the things I share, like my periodic table of teachers to follow on Twitter. I created this resource to support other educationalists looking for great accounts to follow. It’s a helpful starting point for finding some great people to follow on Twitter. But you can find that resource on every platform you might consider, from Instagram to Facebook to Twitter or Pinterest. Remember to choose what you’re comfortable with and start from there.
As you gain familiarity with a platform, you’re likely to see how you use it develops. Using Twitter to get ideas, for example, is great. But you really start to take control when you engage with the platform too. There are some simple things you can do, such as update your profile to include a photo and a brief description of yourself, your role in your school, or sharing what you are looking to gain from using Twitter. Teachers tend to be a wary bunch, and so a profile will help to give you credibility. A standard egg and no profile will not help with this. Always bear in mind, though, there is no rush to develop your PLN, your Professional Learning Network.
The beauty of Twitter is that you can take everything at your own pace and dip into it as and when you feel it will be of use.
There are a number of ways to engage with colleagues online. Hashtags, for example, are a great way of searching out and finding things related to topics you’re interested in. For example, if you’re an English teacher, the hashtag “team English” is a great hashtag used and shared by thousands of English teachers. Anyone looking for people to follow or relevant resources for their subjects would do well to check it out. Twitter chats are another useful way to connect with other colleagues online. These are usually weekly chats. A popular and well known one is UK ed chats. It’s held weekly for an hour.
Twitter chats involve being on a platform at a specific time, checking the hashtag, and responding to any questions, comments, or messages, making sure you include the hashtag yourself. Using the hashtag is key, as in order for other colleagues to see your tweet, you will need to be using the same hashtag as the chat. Again, there are lots of guides online which can help and support you with this. And tools such as the web-based TweetDeck can really help you to stay on top of the conversations. A final tip for engaging online is to share some of the great things that you are doing in your classroom.
Tweets with images get 70% more engagement than those without, so why not try to include an image with your tweet, too. Plus a relevant hashtag. You could even try tagging some members of your professional learning network so they get a notification and know to check out your latest offering. You can also ask questions. For me, Twitter is like the best version of Google for teachers ever. The example I gave earlier of the teacher seeking help with the art department happened because she tagged @ICTEvangelist in her tweet. And so I was able to see and then amplify her query by sharing it with my online contacts.
You don’t need to have a massive following or be following hundreds of people in order to make Twitter work for you.

So far this week, we’ve looked at some of the characteristics of an online community of practice, now it’s time to explore how a learner has benefited from being part of such a community.

In this video, Mark Anderson, a prolific connected educator, discusses his thoughts and shares his expertise on:

  • Connecting with fellow educators online
  • How to start to build an online community
  • Best ways of engaging with colleagues online

Once you’ve watched the video, reflect on Mark’s advice. Which of these tips do you think would work well for you? Have you got other advice to share with learners?

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