Reimagining learning in the palm of your hand: Researching Twitter chats as an alternative to taken-for-granted ways of teacher professional learning.

Year: 2021

Author: Mercieca, Bernadette, McDonald, Jacquie

Type of paper: Individual Paper

The past decade has seen an explosion of various forms of social media, triggering a change in the way many teachers access their professional learning. No longer are teachers ready to accept traditional ways of delivery of professional learning, such as conferences or bringing in experts to a school, as the only way to learn. One professional learning approach that teachers are now accessing is Twitter, or Twitter chats. These provide readily available sites where teachers can connect with a global audience and access professional learning suited to their diverse needs. They are sources of learning “in the palm of your hand.” This paper reports on a qualitative study of current Twitter chat facilitators in the recently published, Sustaining Communities of Practice with Early Career Teachers (Mercieca and McDonald, 2021). The research aimed to establish how the facilitators from across Australia and from the USA visioned and started the chats; how they now operate; and if they are significant source of professional learning for those teachers, pre-service teachers and school leaders who participated. The study involved seven Twitter chat facilitators who were purposively chosen for their involvement in Twitter chats known by one of the presenters.The chats vary from very large weekly chats such as #Aussie Ed that attract global audiences to smaller, more intimate chats such as #PrimaryStemChat or #includeEd that primarily cater for more specialised audiences. These leaders mostly have full time employment and facilitate the chats in their own time. Findings provide a unique insight into how they sustain and enliven their chats and what immediate, potential, and applied value they see in the chats for participants. Findings revealed that successful leaders not only organise and facilitate their chats at an administrative level but sustain them through their commitment to keeping the chat educationally and professionally meaningful and proactively supporting participants.This is important research for Initial Teacher Institutions (ITI), schools, and policy makers. The teachers who participate in these chats are largely a hidden group of teachers who do not often receive credit for their participation. Further, pre-service teachers might like to participate but without the support of their ITI to scaffold their experience they are unlikely to participate.Mercieca, B  & McDonald, J. (2021). Sustaining Communities of Practice with Early Career Teachers: Supporting Early Career Teachers in Australian and International Primary and Secondary Schools, and Educational Social Learning Spaces. Springer Singapore.