The rise of Edu-Twitter: chat, collaboration and CPD

By Karen Wespieser

Monday 15 February 2016

Globally, Twitter is stagnating with some even saying the end is nigh for the micro-blogging site. However, in the education sphere, Twitter is booming. It even has its own abbreviated proper noun: Edu-Twitter. In 2014, of the half a billion tweets that were posted every day, 4.2 million were related to education. This weekend, @theNFER reached the milestone of 10,000 followers, so it seems a good time to reflect on what Twitter means in education and why it is so popular.

Let’s start with the evidence. @KathHol, Professor of Education at Western Sydney University, conducted research that looked at the purpose and benefits of Edu-Twitter. She found:

• Edu-tweeters act as a filter for educational content that is available on the internet
• Twitter facilitates positive, supportive, contact between teachers but not sustained educational conversations
• Edu-tweeters are not prone to tweeting inane meaningless comments
• The majority of hashtags posted within Edu-Twitter contain educational links
• Twitter offers connections with a network of like-minded educators
• The key characteristics of effective professional development could be accomplished through the use of Twitter.

I’d add to this that Twitter is a fantastic collaborative tool. As a teacher or governor, how often do you get to visit other schools? In my experience, very rarely. On Twitter, teachers, governors, researchers, policy makers and parents can come together to chat and discuss a whole range of topics. With this in mind, we approached some of NFER’s followers for their opinion. In the spirit of Twitter these have been edited to fit within 140 characters!

  • A policy perspective from @HarfordSean – At Ofsted we are always keen to engage, listen and learn. Edu-Twitter provides a great platform for discussion and debate.
  • A teacher’s perspective from @HuntingEnglish – Twitter provides me with invaluable CPD. I have found a network of great teachers, ed experts, researchers, & people I now term friends
  • A researcher’s perspective from, er, me! @KarenWespieser – Twitter provides opportunities to share research findings with people that need evidence. It trains you to write clear messages in ltd words
  • A journalist’s perspective from @warwickmansell – Twitter is a fantastic source of info on ed policy. It’s also a v useful way of testing out arguments on people with different positions
  • A parent’s perspective from @MattGovernor – As a governor, parent & someone interested in education I find Twitter invaluable
  • A governor’s perspective from @5N_Afzal – As a governor Twitter lets me connect with other governors all over the country and share good practice. It also keeps me up to date
  • A ResearchEd perspective from @tombennett71 – Twitter & other platforms have helped transform the vista of ed discourse; now educators can share ideas around the world in an instant

There are, of course times when Edu-Twitter is not so useful. It’s too easy to forget that Edu-Twitter is not representative of everyone in education – just a self selecting vocal minority. Because of this, it can be an echo chamber of consensus (although not if you want to get the ‘progressives’ vs ‘traditionalists’ going). It can also be (if you let it) time consuming and addictive.