Ed­u­ca­tors learn to nav­i­gate Twit­ter, hash­tags & trolls

The Times of India (Mumbai edition) - - TIMES CITY - Mo­hua.Das@ times­group.com

Farzana Do­had­wala, prin­ci­pal of MSB Ed­u­ca­tional In­sti­tu­tion and for­mer IB board head for South Asia, has counted nearly 30 years in the field of ed­u­ca­tion but be­lieves she may have made one of her best ca­reer de­ci­sions only six months ago. That’s when she de­cided to join the rest of the world on Twit­ter and over the next few months, learnt nov­el­ties in not just class­room teach­ing but also wider ed­u­ca­tional de­bates.

“It was al­most like the first rush of ex­cite­ment and en­ergy that I had felt when I started out as a teacher,” she said. “Us school heads are all in an age bracket where no one has the time or the pa­tience to learn a new skill. It’s only in April that I learnt how dif­fer­ent so­cial me­dia plat­forms can be a su­per tool to en­gage with like-minded ed­u­ca­tors and to draw tips.” Do­had­wala spends at least half an hour every day for her feed of the top tweets or “talk­ing points” of the day and re­cently opened an ac­count on Snapchat to learn how to ex­press one­self with a cam­era.

A few en­ter­pris­ing ed­u­ca­tors such as Do­had­wala are start­ing to pick up mo­men­tum on so­cial me­dia plat­forms be­sides Face­book.

It was a meetup last year be­tween ed­u­ca­tors and of­fi­cials from var­i­ous so­cial me­dia plat­forms— Twit­ter, In­sta­gram, Snapchat and Change.org—which re­vealed their un­fa­mil­iar­ity with places where their stu­dents hang out. What may be a phe­nom­e­non in the con­tem­po­rary world is more of a headache for most school heads who view them as tools of dis­trac­tion, cy­ber­bul­ly­ing and loss of con­trol over their identity. “What used to be pri­vate is now very pub­lic and that seemed to be the prob­lem, par­tic­u­larly for school heads. Many have heard so much about trolling that they don’t want to risk their pro­fes­sional sta­tus or their in­sti­tu­tion,” says Fran­cis Joseph, co-founder of the School Lead­ers Net­work Foun­da­tion (SLN).

To broaden their reach through so­cial me­dia, a project ti­tled ‘Twit­ter for Ed­u­ca­tors’ was de­vel­oped by SLN and Twit­ter In­dia, and since April 2018 more than 650 school prin­ci­pals, trus­tees and teach­ers in Mum­bai, Ben­galuru, Ahmed­abad, Delhi, and Ghazi­abad have been in­ducted into the world of tweet­ing with ba­sics of open­ing an ac­count, craft­ing their first tweet, han­dling trolls and an ex­er­cise in tweets, tags and hash­tags. “We still see that a lot of ed­u­ca­tors do not use Twit­ter as a medium to com­mu­ni­cate with their com­mu­nity of stu­dents, par­ents, other in­sti­tu­tions and pol­icy de­sign­ers,” says Mahima Kaul, di­rec­tor, pub­lic pol­icy, Twit­ter In­dia.

While there is no com­pre­hen­sive data, con­ver­sa­tions with heads of schools show bolder use of so­cial me­dia to re­veal life in­side their schools. Tas­neem Husien, mid­dleschool co­or­di­na­tor for Fa­zlani L’Academie Glob­ale finds her­self sub­vert­ing hi­er­ar­chy and in­dulging her stu­dents in free­wheel­ing con­ver­sa­tions on ‘Wish­ful Wed­nes­day’ and ‘To­day I will’—some­thing she picked up a few months ago from in­ter­na­tional schools on Twit­ter to as­sess the needs of her chil­dren. “It’s fab­u­lous the way Twit­ter opens you up to the world of in­for­ma­tion. Not just aca­demic but also lead­er­ship, mo­ti­va­tion, tech­nol­ogy, cur­rent af­fairs… Not that we weren’t aware of it ear­lier but helps im­ple­ment it when you see oth­ers talk­ing about it,” says Husien with 80 tweets and 74 fol­low­ers to her credit.

HRD min­is­ter Prakash Javdekar too has in­dulged ed­u­ca­tors in a spe­cial Twit­ter in­ter­ac­tion on Teacher’s Day this year with the hash­tag #AskPrakash Javadekar to ad­dress ques­tions about ed­u­ca­tion pol­icy and recorded 57,000 tweets.

TWITTERATI: Teach­ers feel em­pow­ered with so­cial me­dia

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