Use Social Media to Improve Engagement in Professional Book Clubs

Reading professionally has so much value for educators. But, how can professional reading not become “one more thing” for teachers and administrators? Last year, I wanted to engage our staff with positive professional literature. I picked a good book that was easy to read, engaging, and not overwhelming. Although our small group read independently, our culminating activity was a Twitter chat to discuss the high points from the book. The purpose of the Twitter chat was twofold: 1) create a forum in which we could discuss the themes of the book and how they applied to our school and professional lives; and 2) introduce our staff to professional learning on Twitter.

Professional learning on Twitter can be powerful. Although our teachers have a large presence on social media, we had not ventured into professional learning opportunities on Twitter. When eight of our teachers finished reading How Full Is Your Bucket? by Tom Rath and Donald O. Clifton, I asked them if they would be willing to try something new and participate in a Twitter chat instead of a traditional face-to-face group discussion.

Once we had decided to proceed with a Twitter chat, I wanted to empower our teachers and encourage them to be part of the decision-making process while supporting their willingness to take a risk. We worked on all of the logistics. We used Doodle to coordinate a date and time that was convenient for everyone’s schedules. Then we worked on the details: Did everyone have a Twitter account? Was everyone comfortable with how to tweet? Did anyone want a lesson in how to use TweetDeck? We also took some time to be creative and have fun when deciding which hashtag to use for the chat.

As the night of the chat got closer, I checked in with all of our participants making sure that they were ready for the evening. I distributed each of them the names and Twitter handles of the other participants—along with our agreed upon hashtag (#CCMSChat) with a few reminders about a Twitter chat. I modeled our timeline after the one we use for NASSP’s #PrinLeaderChat and scheduled four questions on TweetDeck to post every six to seven minutes during a 30-minute chat.

Immediately prior to the chat, I tweeted a few times with our hashtag and included reminders about the chat format and tagged all of the participants in each tweet. As a back-up plan, I created a group text message for everyone in the chat—just in case anyone was having technical difficulties or could not see what was happening in the chat. I ran the chat from TweetDeck and used my phone as a secondary way to reply to everyone.

Because the goal was to introduce our staff to professional learning on Twitter, the focus of the chat was the overarching themes from our shared book club read. This book club and subsequent Twitter chat was meant to build culture. There were no high-risk or divisive questions but thoughtful and reflective ones. The idea was to bring people together to talk about filling each other’s buckets—and the buckets of others in our school—in a positive and creative way. The Twitter chat itself was the innovative and risk-taking component of this professional learning opportunity.

The feedback on taking a traditional book club and adding an innovative twist was so positive! The staff felt that they were all able to share ideas, comment back to each other, and build from each other’s reflections in a constructive and creative way. Many of the teachers in this chat thought of ways to apply our chat and each other’s ideas to their classrooms, teams, and our school! This year, we have two book clubs that will end with a culminating Twitter chat, and our participation has increased from eight to 30 teachers! Our staff is excited to participate in the chats and have even decided to participate as a team so that everyone is engaging in the same professional learning opportunity.

Click here to see our curated chat (via Wakelet) from How Full is Your Bucket? by Tom Rath and Donald O. Clifton.

Click here to see our curated Twitter chat (via Wakelet) from Culturize by Jimmy Casas.

Click here and here to see our curated Twitter chat (via Wakelet) from Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess. (Burgess even joined in on the recent staff book discussion.)

(Read my blog post about using Wakelet to curate social media content.)

Finding a way to engage our staff in professional learning can be a challenge. Twitter chats offer an innovative twist on traditional book clubs that blend the best of all worlds—good reading, professional learning, critical thinking, communicating, and collaborating in a safe environment! It opens doors to other professional learning opportunities—book clubs on Instagram, Twitter chats, etc.—through social media.

What are your experiences with providing professional learning for teachers through social media?

Mariah Rackley was named one of the Digital Principals of the Year for 2018 by the National Association of Secondary School Principals. Mariah is completing her 18th year at Cedar Crest Middle School and her 10th as the building principal. Mariah’s professional interests include leadership, student agency, personalized learning, innovation, creativity, and motivation theory. Follow her on Twitter @MrsRackleyCCMS.

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