Let teachers tweet

Would you have let someone teach you to drive who had never learned to drive themselves? Would you have followed a recipe with just the ingredients but no instructions on how they were best combined and cooked?

I’ve been looking into mobile and handheld learning seriously for the last year. Most of the literature to date focuses on Higher Education (the University sector) and much of the discussion is about how students can access course materials and build learning networks. However, I work in an organisation which works with schools – primary through to 18-year olds. The discussion is really starting to get going in this area and through the work and conversations I have had with schools, there is a great deal of interest in pupils using mobile devices in the classroom.

However, there are some serious hurdles to overcome and I had a ‘Road to Damascus’ moment last week. Whatever the problems in schools with infrastructure, wifi, e-safety, financing devies and so on may be, there is one big bridge to cross: the teachers need to be engaged and if the teachers are to be engaged, they need to have a proper understanding not just of what it means to facilitate m-learning for their pupils, but what it means to be an m-learner. 

 In the last year, my Masters in E-learning with the University of  Huddersfield has given me a real flavour of what being an m-learner can feel like. I’ve had to blog (and now even enjoy it!), taken part in and eventually ran a webinar, kept in contact with course participants through social networking (or professional networking as I prefer to call it). m-learning has meant that I am learning literally ‘any time, any place, any where’ – and I’ve loved it.

With this in mind, I’ve written a course called Twitter for Teachers (a name unashamedly pinched from the lovely video about Personal Learning Networks by @PB_H ) which will aim to activate a form of m-learning. I suspect that quite a few teachers are already using Twitter and other social networks but I hope this course will open up the possibility to a greater number of teachers, especially if they are supported whilst they do it.  The course itself is just a starting point. Once a person starts to receive tweets, they form a springboard to many other m-learning opportunities.  Sharing good classroom practice, keeping up with subject associations, exam boards, academics, governments – the sort of thing that it is hard, nay impossible, to do in face-to-face contact time. The learning may be informal, unstructured and ‘chaotic’, but it can begin to give a flavour of what m-learning can feel like. (Of course, a teacher may choose to do it all at a computer, not using mobile devices and not being geographically mobile, but the connectedness is rapidly becoming a part of the m-learning culture.) Twitter is just a small part of what can be termed m-learning, but its a stepping stone and one which I hope will lead to us taking to the waters of the river beneath. (See imagery from the video mentioned above).

The concept of ‘tweeting teachers’ is not new – teachers have tweeted since Twitter was invented – but the networks are now building and becoming increasingly useful. We have moved beyond early adopters and into the mainstream. A new word has emerged: a tweacher (a teacher who uses Twitter) and I know of a group of MFL teachers who tweet regularly who have become the MFL Twitterati.

In her article on the use of m-learning in Teacher Training in 2009, Jocelyn Wishart found mixed results about the way that trainee teachers became m-learners. This will almost certainly be true on this course as well, but it will be interesting to see how many teachers take to it and what impact this has on their work. I am really looking forward to working alongside our teachers to see if they enjoy the course and what benefits the networking may bring.

I’ll let you know how it goes! ( @RosWalker)


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