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Tom Starkey's world of ed tech

"So, will you be joining us for dinner this evening?" asks my wonderful, beautiful and completely understanding wife as I sit there, fork suspended in mid-air, slack-jawed and staring at my phone.

When it comes to social media, I'm as bad as the worst kid in your school. Outside class, I'm surgically grafted to whatever device I can get my hands on and I spend hours on websites (Twitter is my online drug of choice) chatting to people I know only as tiny little icons. This, understandably, infuriates my kin, because no matter what I'm doing, the chances are I'll be doing it with one eye on a screen. Which is not ideal if you're changing nappies, eating or speaking.

The only defence I have for this reprehensible behaviour is that it's the best CPD I've ever had.

Using social media to further my professional development (or "faffing with that damn tablet", as those close to me like to call it) has made me more engaged with the wider teaching community, given me countless ideas for resources and lessons, challenged my assumptions about the profession and led to a number of real-world friendships. For me, the benefits are huge.

I've sat through a lot of traditional CPD sessions and there's always the danger of irrelevance. A lack of personalisation often results in some fine doodling mixed with a soupon of resentment about having my time wasted. But social media offers us teachers the chance to pursue our own development in the biggest staffroom in the world. It's a space for dialogue linked specifically to what you do on a day-to-day basis. It's a chance to meet with people who may be experiencing the same problems as you, or have already solved those problems and are sharing how to do it. It widens the world of your practice, which can be extremely positive given the isolating nature of teaching. It also, to an extent, subverts established school hierarchies. Everyone has a voice and can make themselves heard.

It can be daunting at first, but after a little sifting, making some contacts and starting to offer my own thoughts via Twitter and a blog, I found that there was a world of support.

There are some dangers, of course. It's easy to get addicted, and when you've got an ugly stack of books waiting to be marked, it's a beautiful way to procrastinate. And it's true that people can sometimes be less than polite, but you know what? That happens in the real world, too.

If you're not using social media, I'd absolutely recommend it. If you're a little unsure or you want a hand, email me or follow me on Twitter. I'll help if I can. And that means I'll have a great excuse to stare at my phone during mealtimes.

Tom Starkey is a teacher based in Leeds. Email or find him on Twitter at @tstarkey1212

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