Saturday, May 17, 2014

Standing on a Desk: My Share Out Day About Twitter in the PD Room

In my high school, building and district rules or regulations or beliefs (I'm truly not sure how or why this was started), require staff to spend 40 minutes of their 80 minute planning block in D105, a room where professional development takes place, where ideas are supposed to be shared with colleagues when you learn something new, and discussions are meant to ignite thought and further learning.  On scheduled days, staff is expected to attend; those days being Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday only.  We do not meet every day we are scheduled, due to various reasons: absences of our literacy coach, who is wonderful, dedicated, and has so much to share; snow days, of course; and other high school related obstacles that happen during 180 days. Yet during the year we earn enough PD credits to satisfy any state mandated requirement, all without leaving the building and all relevant to district initiatives, student learning, and staff growth.  If one is so inclined as to not want to attend outside PD, there is no problem with the district providing enough professional development.

This is my second year at this high school as teacher-librarian and I have presented in this room before.  I have come to the conclusion, after working in elementary schools for all but these last two years of my total 32 years n education, that high school teachers are a tough crowd, among the least open minded, and are a different breed all together.  Or maybe that is only in my high school?

I had been asked to be part of a team of five teachers to attend three days of workshops presented by Alan November  I was excited and willing to learn.  One of the caveats was you must turnkey out something you've learned or felt was important to share.  It was my turn and because I am a Twitter user and love my PLN (Professional Learning Network) and because I feel like Twitter is a fantastic source of information and PD, I was sharing out Twitter.  Alan had spoken about Twitter, mentioning my friend and PLN member Shannon Miller, and workshop attendees, who had no clue, had gotten on board that very day.  I followed many new PLN members that day just by participating in Alan's workshop.

So.  Thursday.  Me.  Always nervous.

First Block. ***Alert! Literacy coach and vice-principal in the room***  I got into the PD room late-rough morning in the library-and I did advertisements first, which I shouldn't have done, because before I was even half way through my presentation, the lit coach warned me I had one minute left.  Not sure anyone cared anyway because in first block PD, from 7:50-8:30, there aren't too many WIDE awake brains.  I had a teacher approach me, before he left, and say, "Why don't you try asking staff in next block to tweet you before you start.  If they have an account and their phones with them, others can see the live Twitter feed."  I was showing my live Twitter feed anyway in the presentation.   Engage and wake up your students.  Get them involved. What a great idea.  Duh?  Thanks, Mr. B.  Block one down.  Not much enthusiasm.

THE TALLY: One teacher, already on Twitter, retweeted something I had tweeted out during this block.

Second block.  *** Alert! No administration or lit coach in the room***
A sign is hanging up asking anyone with a Twitter account to send me a tweet. My Twitter handle is visible.  I pointed it out as staff entered the room.  I saw a few phones out, just didn't know what was happening on those phones yet.  This crowd was more awake and seemed to have more faces I had recently worked with in the library and on other projects outside of the library space.  I did my thing.  Presented Twitter-what it is, how I use it, how it can be used with students, an offer for more Twitter time in the library after school to go further in depth, learn about HootSuite or TweetDeck, etc. Now, time for questions.  Various staff members had already been grumbling throughout the presentation. There was an undercurrent of hate towards technology(?) in general on one side of the classroom.  This was the time for challenges.  Worries like if we use it in class to get students to tweet answers like your example,'s to stop them from getting to something bad? What about their language? They can see nasty stuff  Am I liable?
One teacher was thinking about using it in class as the video demonstrated, but she was so concerned about the language, certain words.  I pointed out that if a student can look me in the face and say, "Do you like being a pain in the ass?" (true) then we shouldn't worry about them on Twitter seeing s**t, d**n, and f**k.  The kids are already there, seeing things, saying things, posting things.  One teacher in the group, reiterated my message.  The kids are already there.  It is our job to teach them the appropriate ways to use Twitter.  How to have a decent digital footprint.  In the first five days of school, (thank you, Alan) we should teach them how to use Twitter, correctly, for use during our class.  Give them the tools and teach them the way to use it.  Set them up with the tools they will need in your classroom.  If we do not change our teaching to keep up with the students, it will be too late.  PD time is up.  Lots of challenges, undercurrents of stress about technology and observations and SGOs.  Things I am not privy to.  Block two down.

THE TALLY: One live tweet came through from a young, new teacher in our building.  Another teacher, who had recently opened a Twitter account, sat with me after the presentation and asked questions and tweeted me.  Two young, new teachers, hearing that I learned about Book Spine Poetry through my Twitter PLN, wanted to know what that was and came to talk to me about it.  They will be using the library later next week with their kids, writing Book Spine Poetry.

Third block.  ***Alert! Lit coach, principal, department heads in the room***
The demeanor of the staff and room changed.  I pointed out the sign as my colleagues entered the room.  This crowd behaved like a room full of first day of school second graders in Catholic School who sit attentively, hands folded, just trying to figure out how they can do something else without the teacher noticing.  They were polite and quiet and looked enthralled, but I am easily fooled.  I went through the presentation, no questions asked of me, no challenges.  I offered to help anyone who needed help setting up an account right there on the spot or after school.  Block three down.

THE TALLY:  One live tweet came through from an administrator.  One teacher approached me after the presentation and had me help her sign up for Twitter.

Fourth Block.  ***Alert! No administrators or literacy coaches in the room***
As soon as teachers realized that my presentation was on Twitter, my title slide projected on the white board, and there were no administrators in the room, the challenges began.  A teacher even got up and held the door shut so that no one could enter.  What about liability?  We are told in teacher union meetings not to do this.  I don't think we should be told what to do or when to use this f**king stuff.  NJEA says we shouldn't do this.  (***ALERT:  My ears perked up when I heard this.  I had a slide with a quote from the NJEA web page encouraging teachers to use Twitter for learning and PD.)***  What about liability?  It went on for awhile.  I was scared.  The teacher who started it was passionate.  She is outspoken and strong willed, but if did frighten me.  I stood there wondering what I should do.  I tried to say that no one is telling you that you must use Twitter.  It's a tool.  The challenges started again.  As I said before, I am nervous at these presentations.  I would rather stand in front of a room full of preschoolers and kindergarteners who were just fed chocolate milk and pure sugar and cupcakes than speak to a room full of my high school peers who, as I stated earlier are a tough crowd, among the least open minded, and are a different breed all together.
Maybe that is only in my high school!

Anyway, I looked around, wondered how to get started, and decided I could not control this on even ground.  So, I hoisted myself up on the desk in front of the room and stood there, looking around, wondering what to do next.  I got their attention.  (How many times do they see a teacher stand on a desk in front of them.  Shock value, I guess. ) Things settled.  I explained that I went to the workshop, had to share out, and that is what I was going to do.  I got down from the desk, carefully, but only after hearing someone say I could jump (not sure what that was supposed to mean), and began my presentation about Twitter.  Needless to say I loved it and I shined like the sun, when I clicked on my Power Point slide that said that teachers should use Twitter to connect with others and learn and the quote came from the NJEA. (Due to working on two computers I cannot show you my PP right here and now but will try to tweet out a link to it later.  Sorry!)

Anyway, I finished my presentation, with time to spare, a friendly face told me.  Block four down.

THE TALLY:  Two live tweets came through during that class.  Two teachers still came up to me talking about liability and needing to understand more about who can do what on Twitter and what if this happens, and what if that happens, and show me, and on and on.  Neither one of these teachers wanted to sign up on Twitter.

So, why am I blogging about this?  Not sure, really. I did wake up at 4AM thinking about it, because one teacher came to me to be sure I understood she had not been attacking me and another teacher, who had not been able to attend, but spoke to colleagues, was appalled at the behavior she heard about and she told me she would have had to give them a lecture about being professional and even if you didn't like being in PD, go in, shut up, and be respectful.  I told her I just stood on a desk.

You know, educating students is tough.  Being a teacher is not easy nowadays. We can be vilified.  Yet, being professional should be easy.  I'm not upset or angry about what happened in the PD room.  I figure I am a bit ahead of everyone else.  If that is okay with them, so be it.

What I feel bad and angry about is the fact that by not changing, growing, trying new things, and by being constantly afraid, we are hurting our students, our children.  If we do not teach them the technology, if we do not give them more of a VOICE, we are in trouble.  If we do not embrace the opportunities to have students engage in learning, if we do not empower them with the tools to learn, create, and share, we will be the ones left behind and our legacy, our students, may not be what we hoped it would be.


  1. Wow. You stand on that desk! And keep tweeting, and blogging, and expanding your PLN. If we ban platforms and devices, how are we preparing our students for college and career? If young students can't make mistakes now, with us as their guide and safety net, how much will their ignorance cost them when they make them as adults? If we don't model good online behavior and a positive digital footprint, who will?

    1. You're right, girlfriend! I was so sad about the reaction, but have to say had one teacher begin to tweet that surprised me and made me SO happy! Never know what change you can make!