So many of my blog posts on this site, or resources posted to i-Biology, have been stimulated by something first heard about on Twitter, so here goes…
My site (i-Biology.net) is powered by the blogging platform WordPress.com. It is cheap, as customisable as I need and easy to write and edit posts and pages. It is intended mostly for my own students, but I do get a kick out of the comments from others. It was through discussions about the site that I found out about my current school. Related to this is SlideShare, where most of my resources are actually hosted – and which has its own community of commenters. With the current volume of traffic, there are many watchful eyes acting as a giant group of reviewers – so when they spot mistakes I can fix them quicksmart. As a result, I’m confident my students have a decent set of resources for learning. Finally, by sharing the content I can encourage teachers to make donations to charity through my Biology4Good page.
This personal blog, though more recent, has been a useful way to develop professional reflections and organise my thoughts around masters work and issues in education. It is an encouragement to be reflective, to put thoughts on the page with an authentic audience in mind. Other teachers do the same. Some write about their subject, others about their practices. All are useful resources, especially when they’re citing research that I can follow-up with my access to the university library.
It was very easy to set up a Facebook page for i-Biology and in my previous school I used as a way to share interesting science resources with students without having to cross the boundary into ‘friendships’. Students ‘like’ it to get updates. It still runs, though has more-or-less been superseded by…
Although at first a skeptic, a colleague (@JasonGraham99) convinced me it was worth a whirl. Did I have time to tweet? Welll I make time for everything else so why not. Now I find it my number one tool for self-directed professional development for these reasons (and more):
- I have followed lots of scientists, science writers, educationalists and IB-types who post frequent useful links to resources, articles and stimulus for my own PD or class work. It’s a real-time way to keep up-to-date. My ‘Sunday reading’ often consists of catching up on science or education links that were tweeted during the week and that I ‘favourited’ in order to save them for when I have time.
- I can connect to other teachers of the same subject, regardless of whether they are in IB schools. It is interesting to follow discussions on teaching methods, standards-based grading, modeling in science, the “flip” and more. Every week something is added to my toolbox as a result of Twitter. The challenge is keeping it organised!
- I can post, retweet or write about current news, education or science and use #hashtags such as #IBBio to organise information. With #hashtags being used in tweeting conferences, it is possible to follow some of the action without being there (check out the #Learning2 feed).
- With the Paper.li service, tweets from the people, organisations and search terms I follow are aggregated into a weekly #IBSciWeekly ‘magazine’ collecting up science and education news for students and teachers.
- It gets the message out there. Followers spread the word, give feedback on your work, engage in discussions.
- You can ‘meet’ like-minded people – which is not always possible in small-school settings.
- We have recently started #MYPChat* as a way to connect MYP teachers in a monthly discussion – across disciplines. Maybe one day it will be as popular as #PYPChat! It’s great that the IB people ‘in the know’ are on board with social media and present as positive and supportive voices.
There is more I could be doing, for sure, but some of it is just beyond my level of comfort. Some teachers use Twitter as a classroom tool, engaging students in discussions and ‘backchanneling’ lessons. Student blogging is something we do sporadically, though there are excellent examples out there of classes – particularly ‘creative’ courses – building community around student work. I should develop this further in the science context, to make sure my own students have an authentic audience for their work. As our school develops mission portfolios as a graduating requirement, we will use them more often, in particular for tasks such as One World articles.
Input from outside helps me develop as a more globally-minded teacher and learner. Although social media can at times be time-consuming, careful curation and management of how they are used can be an invaluable tool for personalised and meaningful professional development. I would encourage more teachers to get into it – share your work, ask questions and take part.
*#MYPChat happens early in the month, on a day and topic voted for by participants. Resources are posted to the wikispace here: http://mypchat.wikispaces.com (but for a way better-developed model, look at the #PYPChat site: pypchat.wikispaces.com)