1. “What are the things outside of social media that make you a better teacher, learner, and/or leader? Why?”

    Thank you for opening the question to include things other than social media. I believe we need to be careful not to set social media up as something that can or should replace other forms of growth for teachers. I am new to social media as a means of Professional Development and am finding it a powerful tool for my learning about certain topics – leadership and educational technology in particular. It is my hope that I will be able to find communities about my other educational interests as well – environmental education and social justice for example.

    However, the most profoundly transformational experience I have had was the time I spent completing my Masters in Education. Why was it powerful? During that time I read, read and read. In particular I read full-length, academically published books by foundational thinkers. Even a return to Dewey proved to be meaningful. And I wrote. While I am seeing how blogging can be a powerful tool to help you along in your thinking, it does not replace the need to write 10 page, 20 page, 40 page papers. When I wrote these extended pieces I read BOOKS, I synthesized and engaged with them in my reading journal (which could just as easily be a blog) and then I had to bring it all together to make coherent arguments that reflected both a philosophical perspective and my practice. I think that in graduate work, combined with social media, you have the making for amazing growth as a teacher and learner!
    Also, working with a student teacher had a powerful effect on my teaching! Having to take the time to explain why I am doing what I do, and seeing myself through someone else’s eyes was a great experience.
    There are many paths to professional growth, and no right one for every person, and every area of growth. We do ourselves a disservice when we get stuck on one path.

  2. Other than social media, I do a lot of reading of articles, blogs and books, as well as take professional learning e-courses like PLP and other MOOCs. Whenever I can, I go to conferences like edcamps and those sponsored by the independent school association. However, it is often through social media that I hear about many of the conferences and books and articles.

  3. Royan Lee

    That totally makes the fog of thought I’ve been having make more sense to me. The reason I started navel gazing about this Twitter thing was because I noticed a lot of people racing around explicitly evangelizing the benefits of Twitter and blogging. I’ve done that too, so I don’t blame anyone else for being caught up in the fervour. But, you’re right, we’ve got to stop putting the tool and the tool’s name first and foremost in the discussion. It makes people who are already drinking the koolaid nod their head, and people who find its taste bitter very, very suspicious.

    I feel we can compare it to other ‘technologies’ or initiatives. In education, sometimes we have something ‘great’ come up like the Three Part Math Lesson. Usually, when this innovation happens, it’s transformative. But as soon as it starts ‘rolling out’ the meaning and message can sometimes become subverted, if not contrary to its original purpose. After a while, the title of the tool or method becomes reified and no one knows what it means any more. Or, worse, it starts to be used to promote an opposing pedagogy.

    Transparency, openness, collaboration, and support – that’s what we’re really talking about, right?

  4. I deleted my Twitter account earlier this school year, but with the encouragement of our Educational Technology Coordinator signed up again this winter. Does Twitter in and of itself make me a better educator? No. But in the short time I have been back on I have connected with some great educators who have helped me look at things from a different perspective, I have been introduced to some great blogs, and been able to change – even though just in little ways – the way that I communicate with faculty and friends who follow me. As an assistant principal no one really knows what I do on a day-to-day basis. I hope that I am giving people a little insight into that through Twitter. You have asked a great question. Thank you for asking it and helping me answer it myself.

    • twitter_patrickmlarkin

      I am probably over-simplifying things here, but the things outside of social media that make me a better learner and hopefully a better leader are access to others who can provide me information and feedback that help me reflect on my practice. I am energized by opportunities to connect and converse with others who share my passion for education and learn from/with them. While it is not a Twitter thing, I am glad that I have a resource that allows more frequent access to what I crave.

  5. Thank you for transforming the question, that is just what I needed in order to reflect on the issue myself!

    Generally speaking, I think collaboration and discussion and questioning my practice are what make me a better educator. I understand that I can seek out and pursue these interactions in multiple ways; however, I appreciate having constant access to Twitter and it has encouraged me to share in a way that I may not have otherwise. Because of this, I would say that Twitter has made me a better educator.

    However, I have tried to share it as a great tool with our staff and I have realized that it is not for everyone. We all learn differently and growing and getting better is the ultimate goal. I absolutely LOVE your new question as a discussion starter.

    • Moderation is always a good idea. Still, I return to this: If everyone KNEW their purpose, none of these discussions would be needed. Transparency does mean collaboration, openness and support. The baggage and hysteria that comes with the newest great thing can be combated by changing the words: my favorite tool. Re-label a concept and you have thrown off 80% of the naysayers.

      I cannot imagine HOW an educator can stay abreast of their craft without twitter. I don’t believe they can. It they know their purpose and they know twitter, most would agree.

      Problem is: most don’t know their purpose OR twitter. t

  6. Leslie Whittington

    I just had this conversation the other day with colleagues not on Twitter. Personally, I have to be careful that I don’t come across as a Twitter snob and remember that what works for me may not work for others. Before I knew Twitter existed, I learned about teaching, among other things, by exposing myself to learning opportunities (conferences, etc), searching out answers (online and in libraries), trying new things, and watching other teachers in the classroom. I still do all those things, Twitter just opens up a whole new realm to each facet of my learning!

  7. Attending conferences, reading, visiting schools and talking with educators. Social media helps me connect and point in me in new directions. Without Twitter and blogging I would not know about what is going on in different parts of the world. Opening up to new ideas is very important to me! 

  8. Dwight Carter


    Once again you challenge us to think deeper about our own professional growth and examine our practices. Thank you!

    Outside of Twitter, I read a number of books about leadership, the principalship, leading change, and improving school climate. I have a weekly conversation with Steve Bolar from NJ to reflect on our week, and I participate in my district sponsored PD.

    Twitter helps to stretch my thinking as I am exposed to different perspectives or new ideas. It has enhanced my learning and professsional development, not necessarily replaced some of the things previously mentioned.

    Be Great,


  9. Many of ‘the things outside social media’ that make me a better teacher (resources, stategies, processes, practices, trending debates and this post) are things I’ve come across through Twitter links – and I’ve only been tweeting for a couple of months.

  10. Angela Higgins

    Recently, I have become more active on Twitter, and written a couple of blogs too. In reflection on this activity, I have become a little frustrated with both as media, since much activity is about retweeting or ‘liking’ so that others can see what you like. I have realised that much of what I consume in Twitter or other social media does not allow me to explore ideas in depth.

    My favourite thing in terms of learning (about education and everything else) is to read rings around myself, taking in what different people have constructed as their own original ideas, and learning deeply about things in a way that ensures that it doesn’t go away, but becomes internalised. i also love learning from the experiences of other educators, particularly those from other countries (comparative education studies) by sitting talking to them informally about what they love to do in their classes.

    I don not get this experience from interacting with social media, and I suspect that my reading patterns are changing too – I see something interesting, I read it, I tag it for reading more, and then don’t get back to it because in the world of the web, I am a little like a butterfly, flitting from place to place, gathering small amounts of information.

    I do like social media because of the potential to connect with others I am unlikely to meet in my own town, but I feel that it is still lacking because the proportion of recycled material to newly constructed, inventive material is high (or else I’m following the wrong people!).

  11. Thinking, reading, more thinking…..then action. Making the choice to grow professionally is a conscious decision to evoke change so that you create new habits and your pupils learn. It is time consuming and challenging, but so worthwhile. Blogs, Twitter, networking with others you value, hands-on opportunities, and taking more time to think are the keys to my success as a human being who just happens to enjoy helping kids learn.

  12. My learning and growth outside of social media is propelled by two activities that immediately come to mind, the first is READING, and the second is PRESENTING at conferences / workshops. Both endeavors allow me to deepen my knowledge, while at the same time expand my breadth of knowledge through like and divergent information sources. These activities also support my PLN in more conventional ways. I have learned quite a bit from the post-conference “get-togethers” – when educators can discuss topics in a less structured environment. Good question George – thank you for providing this forum.

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