Twitter is (or can be) a wonderful source of networking, sharing, discussion, debate and learning. There are so many communities on Twitter. I was quite oblivious to most of these communities as I have been in my own Twitter bubble with the wonderful “EduTwitter” community. There are even smaller communities within the EduTwitter community – such as WomenEd, BameEd, Edtech, leadership and subject-specific groups such as the History teacher community. These online communities are not exclusive and everyone is free to read what others share ( private accounts can restrict who can view their profile). Recently I became a finalist in the UK Blog Awards 2018 within the Education category, winners to be announced in April. There is now a community of #UKBA18 finalists communicating on Twitter (sharing their excitement) and this has opened my eyes to all the other bloggers and writers online in their chosen fields including arts & culture, events & wedding, fashion & beauty, food & drink, green & eco, health & social care plus much more! The finalists in these categories also use social media such as Twitter to connect with their audience and promote their material online.
In 2016 I made the decision to leave the UK and teach in a British International School in Abu Dhabi. I am now a member of the educational community in the United Arab Emirates (there is a very large teaching community across the region and also a very large expat community too). Communities on Twitter use hashtags to share and communicate with others such as #WomenEd #BameED #Edtech #SLTchat and so on – you can read a post by Mark Anderson where he shares 50 different educational hashtags here. Since being in the UAE I have used and searched hashtags to stay in touch and up to date with educational news and updates in the UK – mainly using #UKEdchat. I have also used Twitter to connect with different teachers across the Middle East, many of whom I have met at educational events and have since stayed in touch with via Twitter and some have even become my close friends. There were hashtags that teachers in the UAE were using but there wasn’t a specific hashtag that educators across the UAE could use to share, communicate and network with other educators in this region. So I decided to create a hashtag. After some consideration and searching what hashtags had previously been used before and what had never been used I decided to launch #TeachUAEchat.
Initially, I started sharing some tweets and resources using this hashtag but I thought to go a step further and make the launch of the hashtag more well known I began a fortnightly Twitter chat. A Twitter chat usually lasts about one hour where one or more Twitter users will ask questions using a hashtag and others reply and respond, again using the hashtag. I would regularly get involved with #UKEdchat in the UK which takes place every Thursday at 8 pm UK time. However, due to the four hour time difference, this became difficult to do and join from the UAE. I have hosted various different Twitter chats including #MovingOnEdchat, #BETTME for BETT Middle East and a one-off Twitter chat for Teach Middle East magazine. Hosting the Twitter chats were really enjoyable, led to new connections and received a very good response from the online teaching community that got involved. I created an online poll to find out what time would best suit educators for a Twitter chat – the results showed that 8 pm was the most popular choice. I decided against hosting a weekly Twitter chat as I would be the main host I didn’t want the Twitter chat to impact my social life and every two weeks ( not including holidays as there has been no #TeachUAEchat over the winter break) suited me better than weekly.
The first Twitter chat focused on ‘innovation’ because it is fair to say it has become a buzzword in the UAE perhaps due to the importance placed on innovation by inspection and regulation bodies. Innovation and enterprise are also what the UAE is well known for – a country that continues to grow, expand and surprise all – it is truly a wonderful country. The second Twitter chat focused on Edtech – again an area that is very important and topical across this region, as well as other parts of the world. The Twitter chats were a great success – much better engagement than I had anticipated. #TeachUAEchat isn’t just restricted to educators in the UAE as teachers and leaders based in Oman, Canada, Vietnam, the UK and beyond have also got involved.
The third Twitter chat was very special as Mark Anderson agreed to be the guest host. Mark Anderson is a former teacher and senior leader who is now an education consultant. He has worked extensively with schools across the UAE as well being the keynote speaker at the JESS Digital Innovation Summit in Dubai and opening speaker and panelist at BETT Middle East in Abu Dhabi. Mark has a good knowledge and understanding of the region, as well as a very large global following. I told Mark he could select the topic of his choice for the Twitter chat but he decided to ask his followers what they would like to discuss. The response from several teachers in the UAE showed a demand to discuss teacher wellbeing and workload. This proved to be another very interesting online chat. Despite many thinking that expat teachers in the UAE have a much better work-life balance and reduced workload (which in many cases compared to teachers in the UK is likely) there are still challenges that teachers in the UAE experience – some similar to those in the UK and some different. You can view all the tweets from this chat by clicking the storify Mark created and curated here.
Moving forward I am very excited to announce that former Headteacher and best-selling author, influential blogger and education consultant Tom Sherrington will be another very special guest host, hosting a one hour #TeachUAEchat on the 21st February! You can visit his website to find out more information about Tom and read his very popular and widely read blog here. In addition to Tom Sherrington, senior leader and CPD consultant Amjad Ali has also agreed to host a future #TeachUAEchat – he is very excited to connect and chat with educators based in the UAE. #TeachUAEchat with Amjad will take place on Wednesday 7th March so add both of these dates to your CPD diary! I will continue to host #TeachUAEchat but I have also asked a very inspiring and successful female leader – Sarah Findlater a Principal based in Dubai and author/editor with Bloomsbury, to also host a future #TeachUAEchat with more information and date to follow soon. Make sure you check out the #TeachUAEchat hashtag and if you want to connect with educators within the UAE – whether you are based in the region or not – then include the hashtag in your tweets. I retweet most tweets that use this hashtag to share with my community too.
Thanks for taking the time to read this post. The next #TeachUAEchat will take place Wednesday 10th January at 8 pm UAE time. The topic will be focusing on our new years’ resolutions and aims for 2018 – academic and non-academic! Please get involved and join the discussion. I would like to wish all educators in the region and beyond a happy new year and the very best for 2018!