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Why don't more teachers engage with social media for work?

I used to be Twitter-sceptic, but now I find myself addicted. I also engage with fellow teachers on forums and groups such as TES Connect, Mflresources and Linguanet. I even used to join in with these groups before I had a vested interest in publicising my website! Yet the large majority of language teachers do not choose to engage with colleagues via these means. Take Twitter, for example. The MFLtwitterati group number in the hundreds, but this is a small fraction of the total number of language teachers working in the UK and elsewhere. Why don't more teachers engage with the social media for their work?

I sometimes read "all teachers should join Twitter". Well.... I don't agree. For starters, there are other ways of engaging with colleagues in one's own school and in other schools, even though the coverage is bound to be more limited. In addition, most teachers are already extremely pressed for time with preparation, marking, teaching and meetings, and would like to spend the remaining hours doing other things. I don't blame them for not wishing to devote even more time to talking shop with colleagues.  At Ripon Grammar School I had valued colleagues, brilliant at their job, who simply did not feel the need to look too far elsewhere to refine their practice.

Now, that's not to put down Twitter and the other useful forums which provide support, ideas and links to fellow professionals. I agree with the claim that they constitute the biggest staffroom in the world; at the same time I would never criticise anyone who chooses not to engage online. Most of us find a certain number of resources which we like and which we use regularly. We don't need to search too hard elsewhere for more. Indeed, the vast range of available resources these days can lead to what my colleagues called "resource panic" - what shall I use?

 If I had a criticism of Twitter, its very nature means that dialogue about pedagogy is very limited. The contributors also tend to have an unusually large bias towards technology (which partially explains why they are there). Twitter is at its best when providing links. Forums are a better place to engage in discussion, but can occasionally be more combative (Twitter is rarely so between teachers; on the contrary, the default posture is to agree, not to troll.) In any case, conversations online tend to lean more towards current concerns such as exams, working conditions, resources and personal worries, rather than general issues of language teaching pedagogy.

In sum, whilst I would always urge colleagues to join in with social media for their job as it opens the mind to new ideas and resources, I totally understand why most choose not to.


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"The Language Teacher Toolkit is a really useful book for language teachers to either read all the way through or dip into. What I like about it is that the authors Steve Smith and Gianfranco Conti are totally upfront about what they believe to be good practice but back it up with research evidence." (Ernesto Macaro, Oxford University Department of Education)

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