Data Use, Technology, and Educational Leadership

Yeah, but did Twitter make a real difference at your school?

Flickr: Moyan Brenn

Flickr: Moyan Brenn

At the moment, I’m working through how to report some of my findings regarding school leaders’ uses of Twitter. As I’ve mentioned before, they love it and feel like they are learning. But one of the questions I pressed them on was something to the effect of “did your Twitter use actually lead to changes in your school?” Responses to this issue seem to have been mixed. The floodgates of change didn’t explode, but they did seem to creak more open.

On one hand, I got plenty of answers about “soft” changes. Stuff like feeling smarter, better connected to teachers, to the community, etc. I think a skeptic would respond to such answers with something like, “Yeah, but those aren’t really changes, are they?”

“Real” changes to policy, practice, or how schools went about their business were infrequent but interesting.

  • A handful of school leaders shared instructional resources gained via Twitter (e.g., neat lessons) with their teachers. And while this didn’t happen every time, it did seem like some of these lessons were being taught.
  • A handful of school leaders led PD sessions around using Twitter. They also saw teachers using Twitter in their classes with students.
  • A few school leaders sent teachers to visit and learn from other schools — schools they’d come to know via Twitter.
  • Only a few school leaders reported directly leveraging knowledge from their PLN to make actual changes at the school. One talked about changes to grading policies, another talked about protocols for running meetings, and two talked about changing technology use policies.

Adjusting the metric on “making a difference.” These results could be interpreted as saying that Twitter doesn’t make much of a difference to schools. After all, these are not huge, widespread, revolutionary advancements to how schools go about their business. But I think that anyone who maintains such a high bar is setting themselves up for disappointment.

I think that what we see here is a “proof of concept” that PLNs can be helpful, but that it is also hard to (a) make change; (b) leverage external knowledge toward change; and (c) be aware of where knowledge/dispositions come from in the midst of our trying to actually do our jobs. Further, I think it’s worth musing about whether such changes would have happened at all were it not for Twitter.

And those touchy-feely “soft” changes? Things like relationships (trust, social capital, etc.) do matter for how people do their jobs. Turning to others for advice or knowledge doesn’t happen all day every day, but we’ve all fallen into situations where having a little expertise to rely upon in a pinch was useful but difficult to predict or measure.


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This entry was posted on June 24, 2014 by and tagged , , , , .