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Professional Growth via Twitter Chats

Professional Growth

I started reading a new book over the weekend in preparation for a virtual book study with fellow #educoach colleagues which begins Wednesday, February 6th. Our weekly Twitter chat (Wednesdays at 9:00 CST) will focus on the book High-Impact Instruction by fellow #educoach participant Jim Knight. This study marks the second book by Jim Knight the group has read and discussed together. The first being Unmistakable Impact in July of 2012.

Book studies have been a popular part of #educoach. As I started reading High-Impact Instruction this afternoon thoughts went to our last book study of Visible Learning for Teachers by John Hattie and in particular to one participant, Maureen Devlin, aka @lookforsun. Maureen brings the important and valued teacher’s voice to #educoach. During the chat on Visible Learning for Teachers Maureen posted frequent reflections on her blog Teach Children Well. Not only were her ongoing reflections appreciated by participants, her professional growth throughout the study was amazing to witness. She, just as other #educoach participants and teachers alike, have a desire to be excellent.

Yet, Knight poses an important questions on page 3 of High-Impact Instruction:

If teachers desire to be excellent, then why, some might ask, does it seem some are no longer interested in that quest? Why aren’t more teachers excited about the opportunity to learn? 

He goes on to state:

One reason why many teachers aren’t striving to be their best is that poorly designed professional learning can actually inhibit growth by de-professionalizing teachers, treating them like workers on an assembly line rather than professionals doing emotionally complicated knowledge work. 

Not only did this cause me to reflect upon the work I currently do as an instructional coach/professional development provider and my own visions of an aspiring principal (which I’ll reflect on in another post), but I also thought about the popularity of Twitter chats and specifically how they pertain to my own professional growth.

Armies of like-minded educators take part in Twitter chats weekly. Twitter’s beloved Jerry Blumegarten aka @cybraryman1 works diligently to keep up on all the educational chats on Twitter.

What makes Twitter chats so popular? I can only answer that question as it pertains to me in my quest for professional learning using Jim Knight’s thoughts from High-Impact Instruction as a guide to my reflection. I welcome the thoughts of others.

  • Jim states that High-Impact Instruction is a toolkit for “teachers who know that it matters ‘more than life” to strive for personal bests.”  Learning and growing from others whether personally or through extensive reading have always been a part of my life. Over the course of the past few years, Twitter and Twitter chats have grown to be a staple in my quest. To be in the company of educators wanting to improve the quality of their craft is inspiring and extremely motivating. 
  • Twitter chats are developed so that everyone has a voice. When I first participated in Twitter chats I found it hard to follow the conversation. Tweets were random thoughts from people I did not know.  When I realized that chats are mini chats within the larger context, I gained a new understanding of how to take a more active role. I felt more at ease to jump in and share with the other participants.  Many chats use the structure of Q1 (Question 1) and A1 (Answer 1). At times I struggle with this format yet have come to appreciate it especially if it still leads to free-form dialogue and not just question/answer. I gain a lot of great ideas through Twitter and the various chats, but it is my dialogue and collaboration with others that turns the knowing into doing.
  • Twitter chats level the playing field. Jim mentions (p. 6) that the “Partnership Approach” positions teachers as thinkers who can make their own decisions. He goes on to state,

“that we should treat others the way we want to be treated ourselves. If someone was helping us improve the way we do our work, we would likely want to have some choice in the matter, to have our ideas listened to, and to reflect on and apply the new knowledge to our lives.” (p. 6)

Chats are usually filled with individuals from a variety of roles in the area of education. Perhaps it is the fact that we are reading and responding to the direct words/thoughts of an individual that allows us to remove our roles and concentrate on the  dialogue. Everyone is positioned as an equal. There is no top-down approach to the learning. For example, key researchers in the area of Instructional Coaching (@jimknight99 and @stevebarkly) frequent the #educoach Twitter chat. They join the chat as equals and true partners in the learning. They add the same amount of depth to the dialogue as any other participant. 

  • The meaningful and supportive conversations I had through Twitter chats has led to my own growth as an educator. I am reminded of a quote from Margaret Mead:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever does.” 

My growth as an educator happens each day. It comes from the teachers, administrators and students I work with as instructional coach and from the educators I connect with globally.  Building a positive climate that fosters trust, continued learning, reflection and innovation is my passion. I have immersed myself in the world of social media in order to gain a global perspective of education and an understanding of the potential learning for 21st century classrooms. For me, #educoach, #iaedchat, #edfocus, #elemchat, #satchat etc… are all places I can turn to share ideas, problem solve and continually improve as an educator.

I look forward to my continued growth as I read High-Impact Instruction. I can tell from the overview it is a comprehensive guide to quality instruction. Many of the ideas are familiar, since I have completed Level 1 and 2 of Jim Knight’s Train the Trainer model for Instructional Coaching. I know as a reader I am going to appreciate the key features of the book including:

  • Turing Ideas into Action – for students, teachers, coaches and principals
  • What It Looks Like including additional online resources
  • Going Deeper complete with extended resources to explore – or as I would call it … a visit to Amazon.
  • QR Codes with links to videos
  • Checklists to clarify the implementation of the high-impact instructional strategies

But, equally important in my journey through this book will be the dialogue with my #educoach friends through our Wednesday night chat (9:00 PM CST). We are going to encourage participants to reflect through blogging at ConnectEduCoach taking the lead from Maureen who brought Visible Learning for Teachers (J. Hattie) to life.

Join us!

“Professional Growth” Created with Haiku Deck.
Credit for background photo: cc licensed flickr photo by Peter Nijenhuis: http://flickr.com/photos/peternijenhuis/5257918743/ 

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