A recent study released by the Pearson Centre for Policy and Learning examines how teachers are beginning to embrace new technologies, such as Twitter, to “take control of their own professional development, finding new ways to learn from each other; to reflect on their own practice, and to develop learning and support networks of like-minded professionals all over the world.”
The constrained budgets of most school systems has led to professional development budgets being slashed mercilessly, despite the general acknowledgement that it is a key support to effective teaching. The authors of the study sought to determine whether such informal, peer-based, online professional development can help support district or state goals of raising teaching standards.
For example, the authors found that “traditional teacher CPD [continuing professional development] isn’t held in high regard…It seems that a decade of top-down, cascading, initiative-led CPD has left many teachers disenchanted with a model of training that told them what they ought to be learning…” Conversely, social media allows for cross-school collaboration, sharing best practices, coaching and mentoring peers, and observing other teachers in action—a dynamic, participatory approach to PD.
The authors argue that while high-quality, face-to-face professional development has value, social media has the potential to create and support the type of collaborative environment so essential for improving schools. The researchers developed several recommendations for administrators and policymakers at all levels.
School leaders should:
Learn about and engage with social media platforms used by their teachers, students and parents.
Use social media as part of the school communication strategy.
Validate and support their staff in using social media for ongoing PD.
Create a hybrid environment where online activities turn into offline actions.
Implement robust systems to evaluate the impact and value of social media PD on teacher effectiveness and student outcomes.
National and local policymakers should:
Publish guidelines for using social media as part of the school community and begin to consider how these sites can be unblocked from school-based computers.
Recognize and celebrate self-directed professional learning via social media.
Create an online space where the whole education community can find each other.
Include a strong focus on using social media for ongoing PD in all initial teacher training and certification programs.
To read the full report, download it at http://thepearsonthinktank.com/research/tweeting-for-teachers/