Does Twitter count as a Professional Learning Community?

Does Twitter count as a Professional Learning Community?
By: Zoe Branigan-Pipe

I signed up for Twitter because my Graduate Faculty Supervisor at Brock University suggested that this might be a good way of not only keeping in touch, but to also to expand my professional boundaries in how I access information that is current and relevant. Admittedly, when I first heard of Twitter, I thought this might mean another obligation that I will not be able to keep up with. My fear of letting other people down through lack of responses will surface yet again. After reading an article by David Perry about the uses of Twitter for Academics, however, my interest soared, my negativity dropped, and I swallowed my fear of “not keeping up”. The purpose became clear: I pick my own people to follow and read posts that are based on my interests. I share my knowledge and experience with others in gists of information. I access and post on email, any computer or my cell phone. I post or receive current blogs and tag information that is relevant to me. While this sounds somewhat self-centered, knowing that other people are doing the same, for the sake of sharing and learning information, comforts me. Does this count as a Professional Learning Community?

I started my Twitter journey by finding other educators with a similar teaching focus – learning and teaching in for 21st Century learners. Other than my faculty supervisor, I started with The Cleversheep , only to be later hooked by Mr. Lucier’s weekly podcasts. I began creating my own learning communities by sharing professional knowledge, innovative teaching strategies, and current pedagogies. Soon, I found myself asking questions to people I’ve never met about topics that intrigue and inspire me. For example, “lthumann”, a twitter friend constantly updates on Smartboard uses and tech tools for the classroom. Recently, her post directed me to Live Blogging #NJECC at http://tinyurl.com/6d524p. I’ve recently learned about the use of Alltop by another Twiter Colleague and have been connected to hundreds of educators sites (http://my.alltop.com/dougpete). Twitter directed me to an article called: Education means more than job-training, which I forwarded on to a colleague who I’d recently had a conversation about how/why we are training our students for the work force. Twitter brought me to ISTE and hooked me up with other people attending a technology conference, not to mention Twitter feeds such as http://www.isteconnects.org/2009/03/15/creating-music-at-school/ which provided MANY links for learning/teaching music using technology. From Russeltar, I recently learned: that Slideshare is a tool that allows you to embed YouTube clips into your presentations – http://tinyurl.com/9j4nv2 and he later provided excellent links for downloading sound clips: http://www.downloadsquad.com/2009/03/08/top-four-instant-sound-effect-sites/. Another resource twittered to me from “alanachernecki” focused on curriculum through the arts (http://www.ltta.ca/) , definitely worth the look, along with a fun language “stand-alone” activity called: http://savethewords.org/. The other day, I got a Tweet from a grade five teacher in Ottawa ntoft who asked me to collaborate with him on a lesson in which our students work on a similar language activity focusing on the same language expectations and then collaborate and discuss. The above examples are only one week old. The list is endless. Again, I ask, does Twitter count as a Professional Learning Community?

In staying true to the Effective Schools Model (one that is familiar to most Ontario Schools) – it is clear that change in technology practices is not just about technology. It is about the change. Twitter use is a great example of how through the use of professional learning communities as well as a shared vision and common values and interests, that the conditions for people to learn, grow and explore are met.

Twitter is one of the best examples of professional learning communities that I have participated in. Recently, I have begun to use Twitter with my students (www.twitter.com/lawfield213). It is so incredibly interesting how the students have a natural tendency to share. I’m sure, like adults, not all Tweets will be relevant, or make sense. But, for the most part, my students are using Twitter to share their learning with others as well as a self-reflection tool for their own learning. It is really incredible.

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