Have you heard of the MFL Twitterati? 13 Oct 2012

The mainstream media often portray Twitter as a sensationalist vehicle for attention-seeking celebrities to broadcast the trivial minutiae of their everyday lives. This is a shame I feel as in my humble opinion, the social networking site is in fact the most powerful tool for improving teachers’ professional development there has ever been … ever … and it’s free! Does this news sell papers though? Probably not!

I personally don’t care what Jonathan Ross has for breakfast or how many million followers Lady Gaga has which is why I don’t follow them on Twitter. What I am interested in is connecting with innovative educators from around the world, sharing ideas and having meaningful discussions about the issues of the day. For me, Twitter is an invaluable way of keeping up with the latest developments of topic areas I’m exploring and for sharing them with my 5000 followers!

In 2007, when I joined Twitter, the number of language teachers from the UK using the service were few and far between. Over time, however, more and more dipped their toe in the Twittersphere and thanks to word of mouth and events like the Isle of Wight Conference, we reached a critical mass around 2010/2011 when the growing community took on a life of its own and was even given its own name!  The MFL Twitterati as it is now known is a dynamic grassroots group of language teachers, consultants and associations from the UK who are passionate about language learning and love sharing their expertise with like-minded colleagues around the globe.

Described by some as ‘the best MFL staffroom in the world‘, the MFL Twitterati has proved to be an invaluable professional and personal support for many of its members some of whom say they couldn’t now imagine teaching without it! Wow!

The success of the MFL Twitterati is down to the fact that you get to know a little about people’s personal lives as well as their ideas about language teaching (it’s not all serious work stuff, there is some banter too!). You can also choose who you follow and who follows you back, (unlike a forum) encouraging you to be pro-active about nurturing your own personal learning network. Lurking and learning is fine to begin with, but essentially with Twitter, you get out what you put in, meaning if all you do is read other people’s tweets, but never reply or start your own discussions, you’re missing out. ‘Joining the conversation’, as one says, will allow you to get the full benefit of Twitter and life will never be the same again! In a nutshell, the MFL Twitterati = a staffroom without cynics, a place to reflect, experiment and discuss with supportive experts in their field 24/7. Heaven!

For those teachers saying ‘I haven’t got time for this’, my reply would be to check out the MFL Times, a free daily e-newspaper made up of stories harvested from the links sent by language twitterers from around the world. How cool is that! For the more adventurous among you, you may wish to take part in one of our regular video conferencing sessions where we discuss the issues of the day from the comfort of our own homes. All you need to get started is a microphone and webcam (if you’re not too shy) and go to the sign up wiki to put in your details and join the meeting. The MFL Flashmeetings started in 2009 and there have been twenty or so to date. By clicking on the link you use to join a meeting you can watch the replay as everything is recorded making a permanent and valuable resource. Each Flashmeeting normally gets over 100 views, sometimes more, proving their worth I feel.

The latest example of the collaborative power of the community is the introduction of MFL Twitterati Dropboxes where invited members can freely share their digital resources whilst still retaining the copyright. The brainchild of MFL Twitter stalwart Amanda Salt, the Dropboxes (organised by language) have proved a huge success and invite requests appear daily from newbies wanting to join!

To get a flavour of what all the fuss is about, I’d like to set you a challenge, namely to read the MFL Twitterati’s tweets for 10 minutes every day for the next week and see if you find anything helpful you will be able to use in your lessons. As you can access Twitter on a mobile device as well as a computer you could do this during some dead time during your day such as waiting for the bus or having a coffee break. I can guarantee that by taking ‘the 10 minute challenge’ you will unearth at least one gem of an idea that you can either put into practice straight away or you can adapt to your own tastes. Want to hear about useful government documents, Ofsted guidelines, eBacc initiatives, primary languages consultations etc as soon as they are published? Join the MFL Twitterati! You could also do a search for the hashtag #mfltwitterati which is now being used by language teachers globally. Cool!

I created the list MFL Twitterers to give language teachers a helping hand to ‘get’ Twitter by giving them a ready-made community to follow. Over 530 are subscribed to the list to date so my plan seems to be working. Mwhahahah! Some users really like using Twitter clients such as TweetDeck on a PC or Tweetbot for iOS devices as you can have the list as its own column making it easy to read when you have a spare moment.

Last term, I ran a course for Network for Languages London called Get Inspired, create and share with social media. If you would be interested in attending this course in the future just get in contact with Network for Languages London or send @languageslondon a tweet … I’m @joedale by the way. See you on Twitter!

Joe Dale is an independent consultant who works with a range of organisations such as Network for Languages, ALL, The British Council, the BBC, Skype and Microsoft. He is host of the TES MFL forum, Vital MFL Portal Manager for the Open University, former SSAT Languages Lead Practitioner, a regular conference speaker in the UK and recognised expert on technology and language learning. He has also spoken at conferences and run training courses in Europe, North America, the Far East and Australia. Joe was key in updating the ICT elements of the QCDA SoW for KS2 Primary French; he also designed games for Heinemann's 'Expo'. Joe has featured in several Education Guardian articles and has himself both written for and been quoted by the TES. Joe has also written for the TES ICT blog and produced video tutorials for the CILT 14-19 website. Joe recently starred on a Teachers TV programme and has spoken about the Rose Review proposals on BBC Radio 4. His blog www.joedale.typepad.com has been nominated for four Edublog Awards.

Comments

anne anne October 14, 2012

This is a really useful digest of links, thank you Joe. It prompted me to view the Flashmeeting and I’m really pleased to have discovered this – it’s such a great idea. Count me in for your 10-minute a day challenge!

joe joe October 14, 2012

Thank you Anne for your lovely comment and for being up for the 10 minute challenge! Please report your findings here with a comment in a week’s time. I would be fascinated in the results!

Best wishes

Joe

kate kate October 21, 2012

Joe, I’m ashamed to say I have avoided Twitter all this time through a lack of understanding and for fear of opening a can of worms I can’t manage, but now I can avoid it no longer. Your succint overview of the benefits of Twitter has inspired me to go and take a look, and I too will be taking up your 10 minute challenge in the coming week. Bring it on!
And thank you.
Kate Scappaticci

joe joe October 21, 2012

Great news Kate! Thanks for your comment. Please post your feedback here. Would love you to share your experiences of the ten minute challenge!

Have a great day!

Jane Croft October 21, 2012

Hi Joe,
Pretty much managed the challenge – and of course what it did was made me much more Twitter aware! I’m just making a resource for my Year 11 students – instead of just going through the vocab they were struggling with from a past paper – I’m finding tweets for the relevant vocab – much more interesting and of course, the vocab is in context! Thanks so much for your encouragement! Me encanta el twitter…
Jane

joe joe October 21, 2012

That sounds great! Twitter can be an awesome resource for authentic language. I think @amandasalt has put together a list of famous Spaniards who tweet. Worth checking out :-)

anne Anne Farren October 23, 2012

Reporting back on my ten minute challenge … I looked at your talk, Joe, at the Isle of Wight conference and almost despite myself (!) became interested in how Twitter has developed over time as a teaching resource and means of connection between teachers. You also show how Twitter can be more effective than a forum and I found that really helpful. If anyone else feels like taking up the 10-minute challenge, I can recommend the MFL Times Daily (today’s edition includes Michael Gove’s apology to his French teacher) and MFL Flashmeeting 18 (Helen Myers on severe grading is particularly good, as ever). Thanks again Joe!

joe joe October 23, 2012

Great synopsis Anne! As predicted you did come across some gems. The MFL Times is a great daily fix which always includes at least one cracking idea. I feel you are at the beginning of a beautiful journey. Well done!

Jeremy Jose Dean February 10, 2013

I’ve always been ICT literate, but could never (be bothered to) fathom the ‘point’ of twitter. Thanks to your Guardian Teacher Network piece and a subsequent head-first dive into the MFL Twitterati it all makes sense!
And I don’t have to read about Jonathan Ross’s breakfast after all! Thanks Joe, you’ve swerved my career yet again!

vinita December 19, 2013

What about blogging as a way of teaching english?
I’d like to try that. Please give suggestions

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