Dr. Francois Naude is an award-winning teacher, education engineer, co-founder of the Work Integrated Learning tracker, speaker, presenter, author, podcaster, consultant, mentor, entrepreneur, and Crossfit fan. Catch regular content from this former South African teacher of the year on his podcast and YouTube channel, both called Super Teachers Unite.
Questions, Topics, and YouTube Timestamps
5:18 – It’s story time! Please share with us about a low moment or an experience of adversity that you’ve faced in your teaching or education career, and describe how you overcame it.
11:53 – Francois, I want to start this conversation with Super Teacher. You’ve built your brand, YouTube channel, and podcast around this term. So here’s the all-important question: In your opinion, what defines a super teacher?
15:55 – You and I have shared some good conversations around content creation in the education space. We both enjoy sharing ideas through podcasts, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. In your view, is content creation and networking a good move for every educator?
19:18 – As you look across your PLN and your own professional practice, what else is setting you on fire about education today?
22:37 – How are you looking to grow professionally and improve your practice right now? Can you share about a specific professional goal or project that you’re currently working on?
24:34 – Outside of education, what’s another area of learning for you? What is it that ignites your passions outside of the classroom and brings you alive as a human being? Tell us why this area interests you and why you enjoy it.
25:45 – Share about one personal habit or productivity hack that contributes to your success.
Voices and Resources That Spark Francois’ Thinking
On Twitter:#ZAEDU for all things related to South African education
MIKE WASHBURN is a Microsoft in Education expert, the Director of Engagement at @Participate, co-host of the fabulous @OnEducationPod, and the co-founder of the @OnPodcastMedia podcast network. When you visit Mike’s website you encounter this phrase: Passionately Educating, Constantly Learning – and that really summarizes Mike’s whole attitude and approach to education.
Questions, Topics, and YouTube Timestamps
7:40 – It’s story time! Please share with us about a low moment or an experience of adversity that you’ve faced in your teaching or education career, and describe how you overcame it.
16:39 – Congratulations on your new position at Participate! Can you talk about the mission and vision of Participate and describe your role in moving that forward?
23:05 – Another fun project that you’ve been working on lately is the official podcast for Minecraft Education. Tell us what you love about the Minecraft platform and the opportunities that it presents learners.
32:47 – One of the reasons I love OnEducation is that you and Glen don’t run your thoughts through any sort of political filter. You tell it like it is, and sometimes that means holding politicians, education companies, textbooks, or personalities to the fire. In the age of political correctness where just about the worst thing we can do is offend another person or educator, talk about the importance of bringing critical thinking to the education conversation.
38:53 – As you look across your PLN and your own practice, what else is setting you ON FIRE about education today?
41:24 – Where do you see professional learning moving and evolving in the years to come?
44:43 – Outside of education, what’s another area of learning for you? What is it that ignites your passions outside of the classroom and brings you alive as a human being? Tell us why this area interests you and why you enjoy it.
47:07 – Share about one personal habit or productivity hack that contributes to your success.
“I don’t care about Twitter, and I’ll never go on Twitter,” I heard an educator say last year.
I understand this position. From the outside, Twitter may just seem like more noise, more distraction, more nonsense that doesn’t really add anything to our lives or professional growth.
I’ll also be the first to agree that as busy professionals and leaders of families, we need to be intentional and discriminating with our time. Meaningless scrolling and shallow engagement doesn’t and shouldn’t make the cut.
But what IF Twitter can serve a valuable role in our professional growth and development? What IF Twitter can add to our lives without consuming much time?
Educators Are Learners First
In my view, the case for teachers on Twitter begins with the idea that educators are learners first. The principles of learning that we believe in for our students apply just as much to our learning and growth as they do to theirs. If we’re hungry to learn and grow, it’s wise to build an active Professional Learning Network and engage.
Twitter isn’t the only place to build a professional learning network. But it’s an awesome place to start.
The Learning Activities of a Twitter PLN
Just like our students, education professionals learn best when they learn together. The whole really is greater than the sum of its parts. When you have a question or you’re feeling stuck in a challenging situation, chances are your Twitter PLN will be able to offer suggestions and resources.
As David Guerin once wrote, “Whoever is doing the talking is doing the learning.” When we write, read, and respond to professional conversation, we’re more engaged. We’re tuned in. We can’t help but learn. And the inverse is also true.
We also learn when we take the time to thoughtfully reflect on our journey. By answering questions like What am I learning, Where am I going, and How will I get there, we gain awareness and greater intentionality about our own learning path. I treat Twitter as a journal, especially when I’m trying a new project or attending an education conference. You too can use Twitter to archive and preserve your own learning reflections for future reference.
4. Visible Learning.
When we make our learning visible, we benefit from feedback, and others learn from our stories. And we can make the learning of others visible, too. When asked why he uses Twitter, principal Chris Chappotin used the word “showcase.” Administrators are especially well-positioned to play this role in their buildings, since they can be in more classrooms and contexts than teachers.
Whether it’s a lesson idea, helpful resource, or a word of encouragement, my edu-Twitter feed is an overwhelmingly positive space. Think of it as constant connection with a cloud of education leaders and mentors. It’s phenomenal.
6. Professional Relationships.
When we engage in professional conversations, we meet others in similar fields and spaces. Twitter is a wonderful place to connect with education leaders and authors, too. It’s as easy as reaching out.
5 Ways to Increase Engagement on Twitter
I believe the number one reason that so many educators try Twitter and then ignore the platform is lack of engagement. Maybe it took them forever to work up the nerve to finally tweet something pithy or valuable, but it’s only crickets in response.
What a waste of time, right?
It doesn’t need to be. By following these five simple strategies, you’ll increase engagement and gain more value from your time on this platform.
1. Use relevant hashtags whenever possible.
If you’re new to the platform, you may regard hashtags as little more than cute decorations. But for many users (including me), hashtags can be a great way to dig deeper into a topic. Think of hashtags as rooms. Whenever you use a hashtag, you’re putting your tweet in that room for others to find. Whether it’s #growthmindset, #goinggradeless, or #formativeassessment, tag your posts so that others can find them topically. With a little Googling, you’ll find the best hashtags to use for your context and areas of work.
2. Tag others whenever appropriate or relevant.
If and when you’re sharing ideas or resources that relate to someone else’s work or area of interest, you’re doing them a service by tagging them. Educators usually like thoughtful tags — especially if it’s an endorsement, shoutout, suggestion, or recommendation aimed specifically at them. I always like being tagged by colleagues in my building, because otherwise I might miss their tweets. And authors usually appreciate being tagged in quotes from their work, because you’re helping to share their message. Again, keep it genuine. But don’t be afraid to connect.
3. Use relevant images, GIFs, and videos.
Make your tweets stand out and get noticed by adding relevant media. Again, this isn’t purely an attention game, but it is about building the kind of engagement on the platform that makes activity worthwhile. You have to be seen to be heard, especially as you get started.
4. Engage in Twitter chats.
There’s absolutely no better way to build connections with other educators than by engaging in real-time Twitter chats. Not sure where to start? Try the weekly #TLAP (Teach Like a Pirate) chat, one of the largest to take place on the platform each week. Or, next time you’re at a large conference, tweet the highlights from your learning at the conference hashtag.
5. Keep it education-only.
Make a point of only following educators, which generally keeps your feed on track with education. It’s incredibly easy to switch between Twitter accounts quickly, so I have my faith, sports, and politics conversations elsewhere. If you’re still not convinced, here are 5 Reasons to Niche Down on Twitter.
The point is, if you follow @RealDonaldTrump, @Yankees, @Netflix, and the like, your feed will get noisy, distracting, and unproductive. My advice? Keep it strictly on education.
A Simple Formula for Getting Started
There’s no time like the present to use Twitter to develop your professional learning. Once you’ve created a Twitter account, how can you go about building a professional learning network? Here are some practical steps.
Start with at least one tweet a day.
Share questions you’re wrestling with, ideas from your learning, or inspiring quotes from your reading.
Use one or more relevant hashtags (like #MSed for middle school education).
Use one or more user handles (think of interested colleagues, figures working in related areas, or authors of your quotes).
Include relevant images whenever possible.
Then, try to follow at least one more educator a day. Not sure where to begin there? Visit @MisterCavey and select Following. You’ll see nothing but educators and education organizations. You can start following them, too.
As I said at the outset, Twitter can facilitate the same learning processes that we seek for our learners: communication, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, metacognition, and relationships. If you’ve been a Twitter holdout, consider this both a challenge and an invitation.
Happy Tweeting! I look forward to learning with you.