Apparently, if you’re blogging about education then you are contractually obliged, at some point, to blog about Twitter. It’s in the Twitter terms and conditions just after the ‘Your soul is ours forever more’ stuff in the 7th paragraph.

No, I'm sorry, you clicked 'Accept' so I get your first-born. It's all in there.

No, I’m sorry, you clicked ‘Accept’ so I get your first-born. It’s all in there.

Anyway, I thought I’d get mine out of the way as I don’t want the Twitter police waving their big batons in my face and blinding me with the pepper-spray for non-conformity. Because they do that.

Like a lot of people, I’ve had a couple of goes at Twitter. The first time I stopped after two weeks due to the fact that it seemed to be full of self-publicising, self-aggrandising snake-oil merchants who screamed the most pedestrian achievements from the rooftops.

(That’s not you of course. You do not fall foul of any of those particular traits and have proved yourself of worthy character and exceptional taste by reading this particular piece. You can further affirm your general awesomeness by re-tweeting and linking to it after you’ve finished reading. A great many thanks. Read my blog.)

I was done with it until it was suggested that it might be a good tool to engage students. I jumped back in. Turns out it’s really not. Well, at least not for me and mine as hardly any of the buggers use it unless they want to extend being awful to each other outside normal business hours. They also resent your use of it in an attempt to engage as it intrudes into their social sphere. They really do not want you in there poking around. The fact that THE WORLD CAN READ IT ANY TIME THEY WANT was slightly lost on them.

Fair enough. I’m only slightly bitter.

However, that extra bit of time using and exploring allowed me to find my feet. I’ve learned a few things and I am now firmly in the self-publicising, self-aggrandising camp and am working on a cure-all potion that will turn a teacher’s troubles on its head put a smile on your face and a song in your heart and make every class an absolute joy (it’s vodka and codeine based). So without further ado, here’s some things I’ve learnt about twitter in relation to teaching:

1. It can open up what can be, traditionally, a very isolated profession.

You’re on your own in that room for an awful lot of the time (bar your brood, of course). Unless you’ve got a good CPD programme, you’re not going to get much of a chance to share with other professionals. Twitter has allowed me to make contact with a whole host of other teachers. How meaningful that contact is…well, that’s debatable. The medium itself acts as both mask and filter. But the mere fact that I can experience, in some small way, what other people are doing in a variety of settings has been a plus point for me. Much like entering a clearing after a long time alone in a tunnel.

2. You can use it to your advantage.

It may be incredibly hard to believe, but there are some things even I don’t know. If you follow a lot of people (something else I recommend doing by the way, you never know who might come in useful) I’ll ask around. More often than not someone will know the answer or point me to someone or somewhere that can help me out. This is good because I am properly lazy. Sometimes I don’t want to Google it because my sausage roll fingers are too tired to type and my other hand has become wedged in a family-size bucket of KFC. But mostly I want a human opinion linked to the information I’m gathering. Twitter’s useful for this.

3. It reinforces the fact that there is little shared experience in teaching. 

Before getting into twitter, I honestly thought everyone thought the same as me. That I was ‘typical’ for want of a better term.

Hell no.

There is a massively broad range of background and experience (but yet still only a tiny fraction of the general teaching populace, let’s not forget that). I find that some comments strike a chord and I find it easy to relate to what is being said and some send a cold shiver down my spine due to the sheer otherness of the utterance. For me, this is usually linked to behaviour issues. With many tweets my first response is to assume that the person is an insane fantasist tweeting with the sole purpose of invoking my furious wrath.

Then I realise that nobody cares enough to try to purposely invoke my furious wrath. Then I realise that my wrath isn’t actually all that furious anyway. Then I eat some chicken.

What it really is about is differing experience. The behaviour issues I face are the behaviour issues I face. Yes, there may be similarities to others but the field is so diverse there’s no guarantee that everyone will find something relatable. My teaching experience is my own. Teaching is not homogeneous and the differences can be difficult to conceptualise. Hence arguments breaking out. Which leads me to my next point:

4. You can’t win an argument on Twitter.

The schema seems designed to not allow proper discourse, But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. For one thing, it’s great to watch. And lastly:

5. It is very easy to talk a good game.

Try not to get sucked in. Just because someone says they’re doing something fantastic doesn’t make it’s so. If you like something try and see it for yourself. Make a real connection. Meet a real teacher instead of a tiny icon. It’s here that I think the true personal development starts.

But don’t ask to meet me any time soon. I’ve been told I’m not going out until I get the damn bucket off.



  1. Helene O'Shea

    No thanks needed!

    But seriously, you make much sense there, though some of my views about teaching and learning *have* changed somewhat since joining twitter. There is a lot to learn out there.
    Finally, no, you cannot win an argument on twitter… Except if you’re @oldandrewuk 🙂

    Nice post!

  2. Helene O'Shea

    Also meant to say that you’re right about making real connections and actually meeting the people behind the avatars. I have met some truly genuine and generous teachers this year and I am really thankful for that.

  3. Joan Le

    You make some strong points. Twitter isn’t for every student. But, most of what we do isn’t for every student, right? That’s why they hired us and not robots. I’ve certainly received student feedback that their teacher on Twitter “taints it” for them. But others have been able to share articles and ask questions they were too terrified to ask/share during class. Have even had kids sick at home participate via Twitter. Also, the art of Live-Tweeting is a great way to practice critical thinking. It’s very difficult to do well and much more engaging than taking notes.
    Either way, it is very refreshing to read an honest and unapologetic reaction to a rising trend. Thank you. Really looking forward to your future posts!

    • tstarkey1212

      Hi Joan – thanks for the comment.

      I’ll only ever talk of my own experience on the blog so wouldn’t want people to think that I’m disregarding any approach with their own students. What works, works. I’m glad you’re having success with Twitter as a learning tool and there’s massive scope for it in lessons. Saying that though, I’ve found that a vast majority of my own students don’t widely use it, so therefore it would be a case of teaching them how to use it then teaching them the content through it, which is too much time wasted when we could be getting straight down to business.

      As with anything you’ve got to assess the tools that you think are most relevant to those you teach, and when it comes to mine, Twitter isn’t particularly relevant. Facebook, yes. Facebook all day long. Facebook at all times on all devices. Facebook rather than eating. Facebook whilst eating. Facebook as I’m talking to them and waving a book in their face. It’s just the culture of the classes where I am at the moment.

      I also think there is something to be said about mixing the social and educational sphere. I strongly believe that the use of social media is a choice – as is what you use it for. I’d love for my students to embrace it but if they don’t, well, there’s nothing that it can be used for that can’t be done through other avenues.

      Appreciate you taking the time to put something down Joan – always good to have a chat.

  4. Pingback: Can Twitter change education? | Teaching: Leading Learning

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