Go to twitter and search #warrenbl. Go ahead, do it. What do you see? We see evidence of an amazing effort by school and district leaders to share learnings, ask questions, and build excitement about blended and personalized learning.
MSD Warren Township started designing and implementing blended learning models in the fall of 2015. During this time, teachers discovered more about blended learning through professional development, coaching sessions, and seeking new knowledge on their own. To celebrate and share these new ideas, ask questions within a safe place, and collaborate with colleagues across the district, we turned to Twitter.
Why turn to Twitter? Well, for a bit more on the story, we need to jump back a few years, back to a very snow-filled winter and lots of school snow days. Back to late night television and a little inspiration provided by Jimmy Fallon. Seriously. We give him all of the credit. Because of Mr. Fallon’s weekly “Hashtag” and the creativity generated by cabin fever, a new and exciting method of professional development was born.
Twitter chats began happening monthly in 2014. As the excitement grew over the year, we noticed a few key features. Tweet chats are:
- Personal. We like to share the great things happening in our classrooms. As teachers, we naturally like to talk, but when we opened a new forum for our talk, limited to 140 characters, our talk became powerful, intentional, and incredibly forward focused.
- Supportive. We were overwhelmingly supportive of our colleagues via twitter. Our monthly tweet chats brought in tweeters and watchers alike, but more importantly our colleagues started making connections, following teachers across the district and beyond, and supporting each other with questions, favorites, and the ever popular “Boom”- given to the tweets that blow minds!
- Driven. We developed “tech-rich” mind-sets. Using technology to engage in conversation providing a tech-savvy challenge. We found colleagues seeking tech-rich lessons, strategies, and ideas to engage learners and meet all students’ needs.
- Safe. We fell in love with Twitter chats. We embraced the ability to chat, share, favorite, and support each other in a very safe place where we know we can talk peer to peer, innovator to innovator.
Inspired by an entire twitter-savvy crew of teachers, administrators, and instructional specialists, we wanted to grow the positive effects of the Tweet chats. As our conversations and learning around blended learning became more intense, more focused, and more realistic, we realized blended learning chats would elevate the online discussions. We were on a path and the path led to personalization. As the first cohort of five schools began their PL design work they realized that they needed something more than a few workshops to connect and deepen their personalized learning practice. Twitter provided teachers with a space to continue learning and sharing. And that’s how #warrenbl was born.
So how are folks using #warrenbl?
- The district shares an overview of the PL design process
- Teachers share examples of how they’ve redesigned their classrooms
- Instructional Specialists host tweet chats to pose and answer questions from teachers, principals, students, and district leaders
- Teachers share new perspectives on teaching and learning
- Principals provide kudos to their teams
- District leaders, administrators, instructional specialists, and teachers share BL moves as they are happening within classrooms
Why is #warrenbl important for all of us, even those not in Warren?
- The #warrenbl twitter tag provides an example of how to build collaboration across schools in a large district. Other districts are using tools like Google+ (see Dallas ISD’s PL G+ Community) to accomplish similar types of broad collaboration.
- This twitter community provides a space for teachers to share best practices, but also to air questions or concerns in a supportive and safe environment.
- #warrenbl provides the level of affirmation teachers need to hear and see. It generates enthusiasm and gently pushes professional growth.
Have a great #hashtag we all should follow? Post it in the comments below!
Kate Schwartz is a Professional Development Coordinator for MSD Warren Township and Co-Developer of the #warrenbl Tweet Chats. A former teacher and instructional specialist, Kate is a supporter of teachers, specialists, and principals. She is inspired by helping teachers find their passions and ignite new enthusiasm for teaching. She embraces personalized learning methods because they help all students.
Keara Duggan is a Senior Consultant on the Education Elements Design and Implementation Team, supporting schools to design and launch personalized learning. A former teacher and curriculum designer, Keara loves watching teachers and students have aha moments as they shift to a more effective, personalized model of teaching and learning.