As a long time user of Twitter in both my personal and professional life, when I became a trainee teacher I automatically looked for ways that Twitter could support my practice and well-being. Initially, I thought about Twitter as a tool I could use directly with my students and, indeed, my very first micro-teach was focused around this. However, I soon realised that Twitter could be useful in many different ways more focused on teacher well-being and community.
When I started taking part in a regular weekly Twitter chat – #UKFEChat – I found such support and encouragement that it got me through many a challenging week. I found hundreds of people to connect with and amassed many links to resources, articles and posts I might never have seen otherwise. Shortly after my micro-teach, I (nervously) re-ran the session for a group of second year trainees, coinciding with University Campus Barnsley’s own first Twitter chat. Since then, I have helped to coordinate a monthly Twitter chat with student teachers and education staff from both University Campus Barnsley and Northern College, encouraging people to share their thoughts and ideas. For some, this is a chance to try a smaller chat before taking part in bigger chats such as #UKFEChat or #UKEdChat. For others, it is another way to connect with like-minded peers and further build their personal learning network. For all of us, it has become a community with familiar and supportive faces – or rather avatars!
Since the first #EdNCUCB chats, there have been regular monthly chats in term time covering topics such as functional skills, motivation, digital literacy and even the reading that has inspired us. My micro-teach has been adapted more than once as I realised the different opportunities Twitter offered. I’ve delivered it to several different Cert Ed/PGCE groups now at University Campus Barnsley and most recently was invited to present it as a workshop at Ashton Sixth Form College. Next week, I will visit Northern College to present it once again. Every time it is different because every time my learners are different but people are always open-minded and enthusiastic.
Nowadays, I talk about the amazing power of community and how that can support us as both students and educators. I talk about things like the #Teacher5ADay hashtag (originally introduced by Martyn Reah), which encourages wellbeing and self-care and supporting one another in keeping those things in mind. This has proved so inspiring that there is now a #Teacher5ADay journal and a retreat! I discuss how hashtags can create openings to meaningful discussion topics in the classroom, like the class I held with one group about #OscarsSoWhite – are they and why did my group think that mattered? Or how Twitter gives us an opportunity to have a powerful voice, reaching well beyond our own social groups. Or how we can now read words straight from the mouths of authors, filmmakers, artists and even leaders, often with no filter whatsoever.
In sharing my love of Twitter, I appreciate more than ever the power of community, not just on Twitter but amongst people who love learning and knowledge in general. I never get tired of delivering this particular class because it builds on something I love. Whatever I do – in education or otherwise going forward – that passion and enthusiasm that I feel at the front of the classroom discussing 140 characters, encapsulates everything that drew me to teaching in the first place. Twitter, for me, pushes boundaries, crosses boundaries, and offers up possibilities. Just like FE.