Value of Twitter as Professional Development for Educators

During my sabbatical, I’m hoping to dive into research around the value of social networking tools like Twitter in the professional development of educators (including administrators). Today, I began with a some reconnaissance around the topic.

At this point, I’m still developing developing questions that need to be answered. Please take a look at the conversation captured in this Storify, and I’d love if you could either add to this discussion or provide advice as to what questions on this topic are worth exploring. I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Thanks!


  • http://freetech4teachers.com Richard Byrne

    I think you need to define what is meant by “learning.” If learning is simply discovering new things and new ideas, then yes, I have probably learned more on Twitter than I did in most of my university courses on education.

    If learning means to have a deep understanding of a practice or idea, then no, I have not learned more on Twitter than I have in university courses.

    • twitter_courosa

      Hi Richard,
      I think this will be key, and part of what I am alluding to in my original question – what sort of things are being learned, how do we define this form of learning, and why does it seem to be more ‘impactful’ or memorable for teachers.

      Basically, getting to the essence …

  • http://www.apaceofchange.com Damian

    At the risk of horn-tooting, here’s an article that may be of help to you in a lit review on the topic: http://jolt.merlot.org/vol7no3/alderton_0911.htm

    • twitter_courosa

      Thanks, Damian. Not horn-tooting at all – I’ve got it bookmarked and will definitely look at it before I proceed. Looks very relevant.

  • Julie Mahaffey

    I like the fact that the PD is at my fingertips on Twitter and delivered to me. I can pick and choose the info I want to read that’s relevent to me at the time I need it. Also Twitter delivers new info, new tech, etc. I sometimes haven’t previously been aware of.

    • twitter_courosa

      Choice, personalization, & autonomy seem to be major themes here, Julie. Thanks for adding your comment – I believe these ideas to be key.

  • http://budtheteacher.com Bud Hunt

    I wish you luck in this work – it’s worth wondering about. That said, I worry about phrases like “Twitter as PD” for the same reason I worry about phrases like “TV as PD” or “Magazines as PD.” There’s no one way to do any of those things, and the channels, while an interesting piece of the puzzle, are not as important as how those channels are used/configured/exploited by the learner. So I’d echo the question above about what you mean by “learning.” As a discovery tool, Twitter is great – because I’ve built various accounts around particular needs and questions and areas of interest – but that’s an intentional curation on my part – and it’s always under review. So “network formation and maintenance as PD” might be worth looking at, too.

    But I also find “Twitter as PD” to cheapen what it is when we talk about professional development. “I look at lots of neat links” isn’t a statement of learning – it’s a statement about how one spends their time. And it doesn’t necessarily lead to learning.

    I’m thinking maybe some case studies will be important here – both of folks who would self identify as Twitter users who learn via Twitter as well as early Twitter users who might be willing to make visible their interactions – how do they use Twitter, when, for what purpose, etc. – in order to further understand the landscape.

    I’m rambling now, and I’ll stop soon, but I also wonder about teachers who feel like having access to more information equates to learning. The old trope about people who have big libraries are necessarily the smartest seems relevant here – sure, you share lots and read lots – but did you learn anything, I might ask of a Twitter user who identifies Twitter as a source of learning.

    Again, good luck on your study. I look forward to hearing more about what you discover.

  • http://odnett.wordpress.com Cindy Jennings

    Thinking all morning before saying anything here. This is VERY difficult to put into words. I’ll sum it up this way: I am in S.C., USA. You are in Regina, CA. The ONLY way we know each other is via Twitter. No other way. At least not for me. Still thinking how to explain the value of that kind of connection for me. Priceless! ;-)

  • http://connectedpd.posterous.com/pages/events Claudia L’Amoreaux

    Great post and Storify here, Alec. Regarding @DimitrisTzouris comment, “You could find evidence of knowledge that stems from Twitter and is recorded in blogs, bookmarks, stories/projects & conversations,” you might want to scan through the Connected PD First Friday Twitter chat archives for evidence of PD via Twitter: http://nrocnetwork.org/pd-library/category/connected-learning. NROC’s Connected PD has been experimenting with Twitter for PD for the past year. The live Twitter chat/#hashtag phenomenon is really quite incredible. @Cybraryman1 does a great job of cataloguing edu Twitter chats. Claudia – @Connnected PD, #connectedpd

  • Kathrine Jensen

    A great topic to look into, really thougt provoking.

    I think you do need some starting point definition of professional development or learning as suggested by others already – notice no one is volunteering to supply one as this is really quite complex:)

    It may be useful to think about it in terms of some of these questions:
    In what ways does Twitter enable professional development?
    What kind of PD conversations/connections do people have via Twitter? (identifying tools/resources, finding collaborators, developing ideas etc).
    How might the 140 character format represent barriers or enablers to professional development?
    Is Twitter really just one part of a process/puzzle or a “gateway” to PD/Learning? (although isn’t this true of any situation with educational potential? eg. face to face traditional class room teaching).

    The difference between favouriting a tweet that has useful information and actually using this or incorporating it into practice/thinking (or is that just me?).

    I think what is perhaps unique to Twitter as a tool (but no doubt other tools do this or will do this) is what is highligted in the journal article already mentioned, “The End of Isolation ” by Elizabeth Alderton, Eric Brunseel and Damian Bariexca
    http://jolt.merlot.org/vol7no3/alderton_0911.htm

    “Additionally, over 82% of the time, the educators in this study chose to follow other educators or content experts related to their field of teaching so they were able to create a personal learning network meaningful to their professional needs”

    The emphasis on a “meaningful” network. I think this is a really interesting phrase/metaphor. Perhaps trying to get people in your study to visualise their network or what their network means in terms of metaphors would be interesting?

    Or perhaps you view Twitter as a threshold concept representing a transformative experience/process? Enables people to move toward being a professional in their subject/area but perhaps also to be part of negotiating what it means to be a professional in their subject/areas.

    Good luck with the research @kshjensen