Data Use, Technology, and Educational Leadership
As some of you know, I’ve been researching how school administrators are using Twitter. A recently published conceptual paper about educators and Twitter is available here, but below I’d like to share a preview of recent empirical findings. I’ll be presenting some of these and other insights at next month’s UCEA conference.
I interviewed school administrators about their Twitter use, and they overwhelmingly found Twitter to be a gratifying experience. This sense of reward was described in three ways.
A different kind of professional development. Administrators on Twitter had a love of learning and of enhancing their professional knowledge. One called herself a “learning addict.” Indeed, most administrators saw Twitter as a way to stay current on trends and hot topics in education. They liked feeling on the cutting edge to the latest research, new ideas, and chatter from events such as conferences.
Reduced professional isolation. Administrators also liked feeling connected to others in the profession. Some called the job “working in a bubble” or “living on an island.” On one hand, they liked knowing there were people out there who might relate to their experiences. On the other hand, they thought it was neat that these new thought partners might be from anywhere across the country or around world.
Reinforced professional identity. Administrators also described how using Twitter reinvigorated their commitment to education. In short, they felt more like themselves. One administrator put it in terms of “putting some life back into the job.” In general, administrators felt more reflective and as if their thoughts were valuable.
Some caveats. My findings do not capture people who “dropped out” of Twitter. It would be interesting to find out whether these people did not feel this sense of reward, or if for some reason it just wasn’t enough for them to stick to using Twitter. These findings are also based upon self-report. They describe the attitudes of school leaders, but the work of evaluating and comparing the “effectiveness” of Twitter as a source of professional development or connection is yet to be done. In the full paper, I’ll be tackling whether this sense of reward translates to “actual results” in schools and in school leadership. Whatever the case, I think that the strong enthusiasm of the school leaders I spoke to provides evidence that these kinds of conversations are well worth continuing.
Your thoughts and comments are always welcome.