Why do teachers spend so much time on Twitter?

Today alone sixty-one Twitter education chats took place. On average about 5 million tweets per day are related to education, and that number is growing. That’s an awful lot of engagement coming from the education community, and that’s just on one of many platforms available for informal educator professional development.

For the connected educators around the world that are choosing to participate in these chats there is a big challenge in picking and choosing which chat(s) to participate in. The options are almost endless, and because of this something very special is beginning to take shape. Let me explain.

You see, the best way to be an expert at something is to be a practitioner. What these educators are practicing is the process of connected learning, and the only way to become great at connected learning is to actually do it.

Why you should care about connected learning

Are you making a distinction between online learning versus face-to-face learning? Well, if you are, then you may want to rethink your teaching and learning philosophy. Mobile devices have made it so that the two worlds are no longer distinct. They are one.

Connected learning is essentially network learning. Within the network a learners capacity to learn is dependent on availability of information and tools for demonstrating learning. The great difference between connected learning and other kinds of learning is that it is as much about creating as it is consuming. Why? because the role of the teacher and the learner is less defined. It’s all about sharing information and building collective understandings.

Traditionally learning has been more consuming than creating. Until now, where for the first time you can’t be an expert unless you are doing. This goes against everything that teaching has always been. In the past, teachers were readers and thinkers, they pontificated a lot. Not any longer. To be an effective teacher in the era of connected learning one has to be more creator than thinker. Specifically, they have to create opportunity.

Over the next decade learning in schools and businesses will shift to mirror how we are learning via connectivity today in our daily lives. It’s kind of sad that it will take so long for the transformation to take place, but that is how organizational change has happened historically. Particularly in education.

Twitter isn’t the only place where educators are connecting

Just swipe on over to Insta where you’ll find 2.2 million posts that have hash-tagged #Teachersofinstagram, or another 2 million posts with the hashtag #Teachersfollowteachers. It’s here that you’ll find anything and everything from mindful teacher mantras, to the latest trending teacher and classroom fashions. You might even get a laugh from the vault of sarcastic teaching memes.

There is a hashtag for every aspect of teacher life on IG. To be sure, not all of it will be of value to you. You have to pick and choose. After all, isn’t that what the “personal” in personal learning is for?

Anyways, there is value in becoming a part of the IG teacher community because there are millions of teachers there who are willing to share value and promote your potential happiness and success. That, my friends, is what learning networks are in theory supposed to be all about at their core.

So, why are teachers spending their personal time in these social media spaces?

Every day more and more teachers are creating for, consuming from, and sharing in these spaces. There is a mix of both professional development and personal development going on in them. Most importantly, there is a tremendous amount of context, reflection and storytelling happening in these virtual communities.

One of the top trending personal development topics in the education communities of both Instagram and Twitter currently is fitness. Another is mindfulness. Not surprisingly, these topics will begin to become central concerns in schools for students as well.

This is one of the great benefits of the development that is occurring in PLN’s. There is a trickle down effect. The things that are affecting staff are similarly affecting students, and because we are finally having very real conversations about these issues at scale, they will in time be addressed at scale for the whole of the learning community. Again, we come back to context.

What is happening right now is that educators are participating in connected learning. Most participants don’t realize it yet. From what we’ve seen so far connected learning is much messier than traditional professional development. It’s informal and unscripted. Most importantly, it’s fascinatingly engaging and it highlights the value of online community building which is central to the learning theory of connectivism. A theory that in the next decade will captivate the entire education sector.

The Theory of Connectivism

The educational theory behind connected learning is called connectivism. Within the theory there is a special emphasis placed on social and cultural context. Most importantly, the learning in the connected environment takes place within and across networks. Ultimately, connectivism sees “knowledge as a network and learning as a process of pattern recognition.” Connectivism links the effect of technology on people’s lives with learning and communication.

What you need to know to use CL in your own teaching practice

As educators continue to develop an understanding of how connected learning works by being practitioners in their own professional development they will come to embrace it in their teaching practices too. Students will then benefit from similar connected learning experiences. This is what you need to understand about what connected learning is, and what kind of environments support it…

Connected learning is…

  • interest driven
  • linked to multiple sites or sources of information and activity
  • leads to both individual and collective outcomes
  • Requires both input and output with feedback loop

Environments that support connected learning…

  • Exhibit a sense of shared purpose
  • Focus on production
  • Are open networks

Bringing it all together

Those that are already embracing connected learning are doing so because they have a unique gift. They have the gift of being able to see around corners. They understand what has already happened, and what is ahead of us. Don’t waste another minute of your time in the past.

Please share where you spend your time in networks in the comments below. As always, thank you for your time & attention.

#socialmedia #education #Twitter #Instagram