Educators learn to navigate Twitter, hashtags & trolls
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