Twitter for PD? Yes! Twitter to Replace PD? Not so much

I see these types of posts once in a great while and I just shake my head:

To be transparent, the article itself nicely details a process for helping staff become more connected. I suspect the tweet was used to grab attention. Well, you got me, hook, line, and sinker…

I like Twitter. A lot. In fact, I take purposeful breaks from it (see: tech sabbaticals) just so I can clear my head and reflect on all that I have discovered from my personal learning network. It’s an awesome resource because of the number of educators on it, all sharing specific areas of expertise and conversing about best practice. I wish I had Twitter when I was teaching – I would have been so much better than I was.

But Twitter replacing professional development? No. I am surprised that I keep hearing this line. There are just some things that cannot be left to chance.

When moving a building forward in their collective instructional capacities, the only method I have found to have a profound effect on student learning is when everyone is speaking the same language. The proof is in my school. The last three years, we engaged in a reading-writing connection residency. This series of modules and activities have put us all on the same page with respect to the best ways to teach and to help students monitor their learning. This year, we are engaging in specific writing strategies for informative/explanatory texts. No one opts out. Our kids deserve the very best in what we can offer.

This would not happen via Twitter because I believe you would have a hodgepodge of practices implemented at extreme levels of fidelity, with limited ability to have deep conversations with colleagues. Everything shared in this forum is not top notch. In addition, I very much doubt that every educator would engage in professional learning via Twitter at similar levels of depth. Some educators aren’t interested, and we have to respect that.

When a community of learners participates in strong, evidence-based training, it builds trust and raises expectations. It says, “If I am going to implement this in my classroom, I want to see results, both now and in the future.” This only occurs when students get strong, consistent instruction year after year. As John Hattie found in Visible Learning for Teachers (Routledge, 2012), there are five practices that expert teachers use to profoundly effect student learning (pgs 28-32):

  • Identify the most important ways in which to represent the subject that they teach.
  • Create an optimal classroom climate for learning.
  • Monitor learning and provide feedback.
  • Believe that all students can reach the success criteria.
  • Influence surface and deep level outcomes.

While I agree that there needs to ample room for personal learning, it shouldn’t come at the expense of ignoring what the research shows. It’s not fair to kids.

A while back, a teacher on Twitter asked what digital resource is a must for all educators. I replied that the tool doesn’t matter – it is who is on the other end of the connection and the types of conversations that occur that make the difference. This led to more conversation about the power of Twitter, how it connects the world, how you can follow anyone, etc., etc. Preaching to the choir! But what if Twitter went defunct a la Google Reader? Are we versatile enough to apply the concept of connected learning to other tools, such as Google+? If we truly are life long learners, then the answer should be yes.

Author: Matt Renwick

Matt Renwick is an 18-year public educator who began as a 5th and 6th-grade teacher in Rudolph, WI. He now serves as an elementary principal for the Mineral Point Unified School District ( Matt also teaches online graduate courses in curriculum design and instructional leadership for the University of Wisconsin-Superior. He tweets @ReadByExample and writes for ASCD ( and Lead Literacy (

5 thoughts on “Twitter for PD? Yes! Twitter to Replace PD? Not so much”

  1. Matt,

    Sheer eloquence in your post about the necessity of common language and instructional practices in order to increase learning for ALL students in your building. Your argument makes sense if the learning target is quality instruction in EVERY classroom, every day!



  2. I see your point however I am not convinced given my experiences with traditional professional development. I think the answer lies with a little of both possibly, with twitter providing the new learning and ideas, while opportunities are provide in schools, which may be considered as professional development, where these ideas are discussed and agreed upon. Have tried to lay my thoughts out in more detail on my site.


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