Susan Graves, a senior research fellow at Edge Hill University, has been analysing the social-media site – including who follows whom – and speaking to headteachers about how they use it.
At the British Educational Leadership, Management and Administration Society conference this month, she argued that Twitter reinforces teachers’ pre-existing beliefs, while encouraging them to think that they are gaining in-depth understanding of issues.
“Twitter is almost a requirement for headteachers now,” she said. “There is a feeling that, if they aren’t on social media, then they are missing out. But everyone seems to follow the same people. They chose those people because they already had a profile on social media. They’d be tweeted and retweeted.
“Does that mean that people rise to the fore not because of the quality of their ideas, but because they’re able to market their ideas in a way that chimes with social media?”
'Be discerning about whom you follow'
Based on her research findings, she offers the following tips on using Twitter wisely:
- See it as a signposting tool, rather than a source of information in itself
- Always seek out the original research underpinning the ideas being discussed
- Discuss what you learn in the virtual world with trusted colleagues in the non-virtual world
- Be discerning about whom you follow to avoid being overwhelmed by information
- Consider following trusted persons and professional organisations
- Remember that a person’s follower total is not necessarily an indication of quality
- Check where tweets originate – some prolific Twitter users simply retweet other people’s comments
- Remember to consider the context in which ideas are being discussed
- Don't be afraid of asking questions and engaging people in conversation
- Look for information about how research being tweeted might be implemented practically in the classroom
- Approach it with a healthy dose of scepticism