Whenever I speak at conferences or Inset sessions, I always drop in a recommendation that teachers and school leaders should sign up to Twitter. Naturally, it’s not the main thrust of my presentation, and so I move on, but I thought it would be useful to have a post to direct people to, with suggestions for getting started.
Because of the work I do, the suggestions are probably more useful for school leaders, but for classroom teachers getting started I’d also recommend Mrs P Teach’s blog on inspirational teachers to follow.
Firstly, some words to reassure:
- You can register completely anonymously
- You don’t have to ‘say’ or ‘tweet’ anything if you don’t want
- It’s nothing like Facebook
The main reason I recommend school leaders in particular to sign up for Twitter, is the ability to keep track of changes in education, which no-one can deny are frequent and rapid. Often now, news of significant changes is available on twitter well before it reaches the usual channels via Local Authorities or even proper press releases. If nothing else, leaders would be wise to have access to the main threads of key organisations.
Below is my guide to getting started in brief, with some key recommendations for individuals and organisations to follow to keep up to speed with the latest changes in education. For each of the main steps I have also provided access to a step-by-step guide for those less confident with technology and those particularly concerned about privacy settings.
The first step is to sign up. It’s dead simple and all you need is an email address. If you’re particularly concerned about anonymity, then you can sign up with an anonymous username and never add a picture, but I’d recommend signing up with your personal details and then protecting your account.
One thing I do suggest is ignoring all the recommendations that Twitter makes for you. It’s too easy to end up following 40 people you’re not interested in and then having to wade through rubbish to find the important details. Instead, once you have signed up and the recommendation lists appear, simply redirect your browser to twitter.com to see your main page. At first it will be be fairly blank, but that’s just how we want it – that way you can choose the content that you want to see rather than just what Twitter thinks you might like!
Securing your privacy
I suspect that a large number of teachers and leaders avoid social media because of the fear of causing an accidental stir somehow, or opening up unwanted communication channels. That’s easily avoided on Twitter by protecting your tweets – even if you don’t intend to post anything ever (and that may well change!). Do this straight away to give yourself some reassurance.
Once you’ve signed in to Twitter, simply click on the egg next to the Tweet button (or on your photo if you’ve added one) and choose the ‘Settings’ option. On that page is a section for Security & Privacy which will allow you to tick the ‘Protect Tweets’ option and look at other options for securing your account.
Following useful streams
To me, the key advantage of twitter is being able to keep up to speed with things that affect my role. To that end, I recommend following the ten accounts I list below to see new information when it first appears. (see the link at the end for the easiest way to follow them all)
Department for Education
The department is actually a very good user of Twitter for publicising new information, consultations, etc. They are also reasonably good at responding to requests for information & clarification.
Another organisation that is beginning to learn the power of Twitter. The main feed itself provides the key information as frameworks change, but is not yet used for responding to queries very much. For that, see below:
Mr Harford is the recently-appointed National Director for Schools at Ofsted. He is an active user of Twitter and is often seen engaging with discussion & debate about the inspectorate’s work.
Mary is another member of the Ofsted world, this time a practising lead inspector. She offers an honest and open view of inspection from ‘the other side’ and also updates on changing frameworks. Mary also does a good job of re-tweeting useful blogs.
The NAHT is a useful source of information for primary school leaders particularly. It also references other blogs and information sources that might be of use, and so is a great starting point.
If you’re not already familiar with the www.clerktogovernors.co.uk website, then bookmark it now. Shena is an invaluable mine of information about governance matters of all sorts.
School Duggery (Education Matters)
This feed does a great job of keeping on top of announcements and changes in education, and holding those in power to some account with accuracy and precision. Well worth following.
In the ever-changing ‘life-after-levels’ landscape, it’s good to have an eye on what’s happening elsewhere in the sector. This account provides links and references to what’s going on in schools nationwide.
One of the headaches of school leadership is changes that appear in non-educational areas such as food standards! Andy has done a great job in holding the government to account over UIFSM and provides regular updates on related matters.
I couldn’t not include myself! If you’re a primary leader with any need for information on curriculum, assessment or on-going changes from the department, I do my best to keep people informed and engaged!
The easiest way to start following all 10 of these people (and to see some other recommendations I’d make), is to access my list at this page. This will present a list of over 20 recommendations, including those above, each with a handy “follow” button next to them to allow you to add them to your account.
So now you’ve no excuse!
The reality sets in (relaxing the privacy)
The chances are, some folk who read this will set up an account and then never access it again. Others will use it to follow and never interact. But I wouldn’t be surprised if a small majority end up hooked and find themselves taking part in conversations, or asking occasional questions. Remember that if your account stays protected then people can’t see your posts or questions, so you may want to choose to relax that in future. My experience has been fine – a few pupils have found my account, one even followed me for a while once. But the reality is expressed well by the conversation I overheard in school as one Y6 child told another of her discovery: “I found Mr Tidd’s page on Twitter… yeah… it’s really boring!”