Social Media, Twitter and the need for networked support – how far does our support really go?

Look at the “Seven Degrees of Connectedness” and think about how you nurture, support, and develop relationships on line, professionally and even personally. Do you have a close circle, a clique, a group of educators that you depend on – those in Stage 6 or 7? Do you have colleagues that work in your school, your district, your city – that you empower or that empower you? Do you have their back when they mess up, or need a pat on the shoulder, or need a word of praise here and there? Do you have the strength to DM them a concern? What would you do if you noticed they made an offensive remark? Are you prepared to have that “difficult conversation”? Do you do it in private? In public? Do you Unfollow them? DM them?

For many of us, Social Networking has changed the way we work, relate, share, create and learn.  Just think, throughout history, innovators have created so many different avenues and channels to share and communicate and strengthen relationships at many levels – some very surface and others very intense and deep – even life changing. What about the printing press? The mail system? The phone, radio, television?  In so many ways, the transparent nature of all of these tools makes us all so vulnerable, which is why we depend on our relationships and our trust in others to help us do the right thing and be the best we can be. We want to encourage risk taking so it will lead to new innovations, new thinking, new perspectives. But, with each of these channels comes a risk. Risk of error, risk of misinformation, risk of misinterpretation, risk of bias, risk of judgement. Even risk of friendship or something deeper.

Online tools, like Twitter or Facebook also pose a risk. We know this. Have you ever said something “in the heat of the moment?” that should have been kept private?Have you ever deleted a Tweet?

Sometimes we are just learning, and along the way, we make mistakes.  When I first started on Twitter, about four years ago, I had no idea that I was “Tweeting” with location settings “ON” until @dougpete sent me a friendly DM suggesting that I take it off since he could see exactly where I live. Not a good idea.  Another time I tweeted out comment that wasn’t all that appropriate during a live debate (political) and again, received a DM from an online colleague who simply reminded me “Zoe…you have a very public audience here”. Once, I even Tweeted out my home phone number in the public stream, instead of the intended DM.  Again, an online colleague, one whose relationship and trust was built over time, sent me a little note, “Zoe, delete the last tweet”.

Whatever the channel or method, face-to-Face or online, the way we nurture and respond to relationships depends on the level of trust we have. Even in a public stream like twitter, there will always be a circle of colleagues and friends (STAGE 7) that will protect, support, guide, teach and nurture one another.  So ask yourself,

Where do my colleagues fit in the framework?
Where do I fit in the framework?
How will I respond to a Tweet that offends me?
Do I DM an online colleague to help or offer advice?
Do I make public a concern or do I DM a concern?
Do I have people to count on, in the stream, like in the Face to Face world?

Paper Tweets – Teaching Social Media

Try the activity with your own students – with PARENTS….with TEACHERS…with ADMINISTRATORS…..with FACULTY members. Try with any type of Social Network. PRACTICE FIRST before going live. Use what is comfortable for them FIRST.

“Paper Tweets”

1)   Use a TAG and have students search it. Tags are generally safe and help build a network based on certain topics or themes. IE: #edchat #scichat #comments4kids…..

2)   Hand out strips of coloured paper and have them RETWEET (tell them to simply copy down the exact tweet) on the page. Tell them that they are sharing the tweet because they found it interesting and worthy for others to see it. Tell them they will share it on a public bulletin board in the hallway. Before posting…… Discussion…..

3)   Redistribute the paper tweets (so that they get one that the didn’t write). On another paper  strip, have them REPLY to the paper tweet, using as few words as possible, but making a statement, a reflection or a thought about it. DISCUSS – how do we say “Thank You” online?  What do people want to hear? What does good sharing look like? How do we give credit when credit is due? What is a tag?

Social Networking needs to be taught.

For most of us, we’ve learned the “how” from our friends and if we were lucky and our choices led us to a ‘tech type’ ed conference, we learned from someone who actually knew what they were talking about. Some of us might even think that it is “silly” that such a skill needs to be taught. BUT IT DOES.

Over the last few years we have learned that there are so many wonderful uses for networking. We have learned that PEOPLE are the best resources and that our NETWORKS let us share, collaborate, learn and always be current (really current). Our networks keep us AWARE and give us PERSPECTIVES from so many people.

BUT IT IS COMPLICATED. There are SOCIAL SKILLS attached. Safety Skills to be learned. Tips and Tricks that save time and improve practice. Ways to leverage the best people, sources, and lists. 

Recently, I asked my pre-service students (Teacher Education) who average between the ages of 23-25 (give or take) who uses Facebook. 98% indicated that they did. I asked them who taught them.

None of them said, “teacher”.

Some of them said, “themselves”.

Most of them said,  “friend”.

When introducing them to Twitter (very few – almost none had it)  as part of my class, they were somewhat stunned since social networking had never been part of formal education before.

Like any other skill – scaffolding came in very handy – especially when using public learning environments like twitter.

Starting on paper made it safe and helped them understand what it meant to ReTweet or Reply. Having to write it down made them really think about what they were doing rather then just pressing the button.


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 I’ve recently learned about the use of Alltop by another Twiter Colleague and have been connected to hundreds of educators sites ( 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 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 – and he later provided excellent links for downloading sound clips: Another resource twittered to me from “alanachernecki” focused on curriculum through the arts ( , definitely worth the look, along with a fun language “stand-alone” activity called: 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 ( 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.