Meaningful In-House PD Via Old-School Tweets


This post should have happened before March Break.



But it didn’t.


It also should have happened before Derek’s Twitter chat…


But it didn’t. In fact, I actually thought the Twitter chat was tonight, which is why I mad-dashed to my Mother’s house (she’s a good egg, and she has internet, which is helpful what with the online nature of everything Cohort) and started typing out my backlog of thoughts, research, finding, etc… in what can pretty much be summed up as a good ol’ fashioned brain dump. I wanted to be done before 8:00pm.

8:00pm came and went. Nothing on the Twittersphere. Hmmm…. well it has been a while, I told myself. Maybe you have forgotten how these Twitter-chats work? So I opened up my emails, and found one referencing all the online goodness Cohort is offering this April, and saw that I had the time wrong — the chat was schedule for 8:30pm. Phew!

I reassured myself, silently repeating statements like “Now you have time to finish your blog BEFORE the chat starts!” and “You might even have time to complete what Derek’s email recommended you do BEFORE the chat starts!”

This thought path led me to open my work email to double-check Derek’s recommendations. Upon re-opening First Class I saw a new message from Derek (@ddoucet I think)! I had sent him a response earlier today indicating how much I appreciated his reminder email.

I opened the email.

I read the body of the email.

My heart sank while I laughed (out loud) to no one in particular.


Derek did not use such shouty language though. He was kind and considerate. He even asked how my action plan was going.

He was exactly the kind of educator I strive to be–straight to the point but compassionate. The kind of educator who inspires me to further broaden my growth mindset horizons. Especially as my action plan revolves around inspiring and encouraging fellow educators. And it is a tough balance because as we are all too aware, teachers are busy, and sometimes inspiration is mistaken for a make-work project, even with the best intentions at heart.

And so, thank you, Derek, for being my guide on the side today.

Enough preamble… here’s the meat and potatoes:

Clearly, blogging is a huge hurdle for me. That said, and thankfully I might add, my action plan has not been as difficult to get off the ground.

After an awesome F2F session, an actual in-the-moment-with-only-slight-after-the-fact-revisions blog posting, and a somewhat redonculous 3.5hr drive to Blue Mountain to chaperone ski club, Saturday January 24th began, and so did my concrete action plan journey.

I am still hooked on Twitter. That said, I did really grow during our last F2F session, and am now committed to and passionate about increasing professional growth among my co-workers. Specifically the kind of growth that lends itself toward a growth mindset shift. (Shout out to @ckirsh for her post about just that! Inspires me to keep going!)

Thanks to much feedback from the Cohort 21 Community, I was able to get the first two phases of my action plan completed:

1. Convince Administration that this IS a great idea and book spots at all upcoming faculty meetings (and hopefully also extracurricular time in the library if needed for workshops).

It was a work in progress to get the administration on board – but it was easier once I stopped attempting to have a student-centered focus to my then Twitter-based action plan. And it makes sense, because I truly believe that if teachers develop their growth mindset, they are more likely to pass that along to students through their courses.

2. Carry out a PD session during a faculty meeting (sadly these are so few and far between, or fall on Cohort 21 F2F sessions, that the first one available was at the beginning of March!) that sparks interest in future sessions and/or is at the very least useful for the majority of staff members.

This part was a bit scary. I know I know… I’m a chatty-Kathy but I was VERY nervous to run this session in front of my colleagues and the admin team. As I have learned and re-learned time and time again during this year of discovery, asking for help is half the battle. Between the array of helpful and insightful comments on my Jan 23 blog posting and the assistance of a dear friend and colleague in the week leading up to the session, I was able to accomplish what I am dubbing a successful PD meeting.

What did this meeting include?

– A brief introduction to the things I find most awesome, or ‘coolest’ if you will, about the Cohort 21 Toolkit AND to the concept of shifting toward a Growth Mindset. This lasted no more than 2.5min. Seriously. I kept it short. I used a data projector and I only showed actual websites or pictures. I never keep it short. This was a win in and of itself! I included tools like Twitter and WordPress, but also showcased some I’ve stumbled over like Boldomatic and Symbaloo. Take a look if you haven’t already – I’m almost as hooked-on Symbaloo as Twitter these days!

– A group activity. I split the staff up into groups based upon department/subject areas (roughly – it’s not an exact science but you have to start somewhere!) and had each group gather around a physical piece of bristol board. This board was the blank canvas for a physical twitter conversation. I had a question on a separate board beside each station (one question and one response board for each group). Each question was numbered much like the first Twitter chat I participated in where Garth  was moderating… eg. “Q1: What fears, if any, do you have about creating a professional Twitter account?” I explained that the group’s job during the first round was to write a response/comment/etc. regarding the question on a big sticky-note and stick it on the board. After 3min, I had the groups rotate and now each group was not only tasked with writing a new response to the original question on a big sticky note, but also had to write a comment/response to the previous group’s remarks. This created a Twitter-like or blogging-comment like environment. Each group answered/responded/etc. to 6 of the 8 questions before the session ended.


– Follow-up to keep the conversations going. I also provided owl stickers for staff to stick to ‘tweets’ they would have re-tweeted, and star-shaped stickers for staff to add to comments/etc. that they would have favourited. I moved all of the boards to the staff room for a couple of days to give everyone a chance to read the conversations/threads/etc., and to possibly comment/re-tweet/favourite some of them.

– Review of the activity and reflection time. I collected and photographed all of the boards. As I read through them, I was pleasantly surprised with the general respect, professional tone, and insight provided by my colleagues. Amidst a large number of comments there was only one that was not professional. While this alone does not indicate success, I did feel that most of the faculty at least attempted to complete the activity to the best of their ability. I also spoke with a number of individuals who had comments and/or feedback about the session. Many teachers were just happy they got to move around during a faculty meeting (a strong reminder that if even we want to move as adults, so too do our our students!), while some focused on the springboard of tools I presented. My favourite responses were those teachers who asked my permission to use something similar to the sticky-note twitter-like idea in their own classrooms. I found this question/response both amusing and exciting – amusing because the idea was a mosaic of Cohort 21 feedback/ideas, largely starting from Justin’s (@jmedved) suggestions, and exciting because it elicited my very own ‘Aha!’ moment, as I think this is where a shift toward growth mindset at my school needs to start. Collaboration and sharing is a key element in developing and fostering a growth mindset. As I began to reflect upon this verbal feedback, I also began looking for patterns and questions on the response boards. I found three main questions/concerns seemed to be prevalent:

1. There is not enough time to add anything else in (i.e. Twitter is a make work project)

2. I don’t know how to get started and I am worried about picking the wrong username/handle and saying something I want to retract and not being able to and and and (you get the idea – they were worried!)

3. I would like more information about how to use some of the online tools you presented but I also would not know where to start (this related to symbaloo, google forms/docs and the like)

Once I streamlined responses concerns into these three areas, one other thing was apparent – we need to develop a growth mindset amongst staff, as almost 100% of participants felt like our students do not have a growth mindset.

I think sometimes we become a product of our environment, and my school is no exception. There are many  things we do well, but it struck me that the three main concerns/questions were MY questions as I was about to start my Cohort 21 journey. I was not ready to let go, to just try things. It felt too overwhelming; it felt like unnecessary work. And I did used to think (even if I wouldn’t have admitted it) that only my students needed the mindset shift.

I should state that I believe I was constantly pushing myself to grow as an educator, but I think patterns and habits naturally form – some are great, some less so – and it is our responsibility to reflect on our habits to ensure they are not limiting our own growth. It is too easy to say “I’m too busy” or “I don’t think Twitter can be professional” when you haven’t actually been on Twitter or tried to fit blogging into your schedule. And, yes, it takes work, but It is worthwhile even if it is a constant work in progress!

So how was I to help my colleagues realize this? How could invoke that flame of faith from within? How could I harness the intrinsic motivation factor?

And that is how I reconsidered and revamped Step 3. Originally, my goal was for 100% of staff to be on Twitter. Then I changed that to the idea that Twitter could be a vehicle toward improving growth mindset among staff. Now, I see that it has to be voluntary, repetitive and relaxed in pace.

Phase 3 – Twitter Workshops

– Follow-up Email with information for self-directed learners. I sent a comprehensive summary of the activity, as well as information and step-by-step instructions for how to get started in a broad sense, with many of the online tools like Twitter and Symbaloo. I also thanked the entire staff for their participation in the faculty meeting, while indicating that I would be holding similar meetings in the future, as well as small group workshops.

– Set-up of Twitter workshops. I spoke with Administration, booked a learning space, and constructed a simple Google form survey. Then I sent an email to let staff know that I would be offering two workshops after Easter and that they could sign up using the form. Both would be introductions to Twitter, or if Twitter was a no-brainer, Tweetdeck. I was clear in explaining that this would be the first set of workshops.

This just in! The workshops are scheduled for this week, so today was the first one! I had 3 staff members come out after a long and gruelling retreat day. Three may seem like a small number, but I actually think it was perfect for me and for my colleagues. While I know that I had to set-up Twitter prior to our first F2F, I know I only did it because I had to, and I had a student help me. I was  completely capable, but akin to a mathematical mental block, I felt unable to press the sign-in button… an affliction many of my colleagues appear to share. It was wonderful to see how excited one of our language teachers became when she realized she could read articles if she clicked the link on Twitter – especially since the articles were in French!

Workshop Contents: Sign-up to Twitter, Fill-in profile, Send first tweet, Follow people, See how notifications work, Explore editing profile, Discuss @ and # use in tweets, Proceed to Tweetdeck (time permitting)

– Reflect on first workshop before tomorrow happens! I found that my friends and colleagues were incredibly receptive and that their comfort level, just like ours, varies based upon a myriad of expected and unexpected factors. It reminded me of the colourful dots we used to state where we thought we were at with Diigo, Google+, Twitter, and WordPress as the 2nd F2F began…

Things that worked well: individualized assistance mixed with some demos, creating and fostering a relaxed and fun atmosphere

Things I can improve on before tomorrow happens: having 1-2 extra laptops ready to go (people forgot to bring them today!)

Things that are beyond my control and definitely make it a more difficult and frustrating process: internet access and a lack thereof! But although it shortened our session significantly, it just means that I will provide follow-up as needed.

So now I will sign off and see how tomorrow goes! Small steps. Forward mostly. 🙂 I would still love to chat with anyone interested – I know @lmcbeth and I had loosely discussed a hangout of sorts… keep me posted if you are still interested!

4 thoughts on “Meaningful In-House PD Via Old-School Tweets

  1. Phew…that was a lot of passion and enthusiasm to the square inch of that post! It was just brimming with knowledge, excitement, and so many feelings about your practice.

    Reading about some of your steps and current state, I was reminded of this post I read from a blog a former prof of mine helps to produce: You might find some of the principles around change relating to your own journey this year!

    Thanks for sharing some of your thoughts…I’m looking forward to seeing you on Friday.

  2. Hi Elissa,
    Wow, what a post. You touched on so many great things, I don’t know where to start!

    First – I love the “offline” Twitter activity! What a great, approachable, non-threatening way to introduce the idea of micro-blogging to start a collegial conversation among staff. I might also borrow this activity from you, if you don’t mind!

    Second – I love how you tie it all back together to having a growth mindset and the guts to jump in and try something new. Not only are you starting this conversation with teachers and modeling it for students, but you’re doing it yourself! Your reflection at the end of your posts highlights how much you are practicing what you preach. And having the gusto to get up there in front of teachers and put yourself out there is admirable, so kudos to you.

    Third – as Celeste said, you energy and enthusiasm MUST be contagious. I am excited to hear more about your project on Friday!!

    1. Thanks so much, Les!

      Yes, and I have a draft post that I need to publish today with more follow-up… I really looked at what Celeste’s prof blogged about – some interesting tie-ins. Looking forward to catching up on what you have been up to as well!

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