Authors: Ashwini Shenoy, Danish Abdullah and Ashlesha Rodrigues Dsouza
How often do we hear (and mostly likely also say) ‘Please WhatsApp it to me.’ or ‘I’ll WhatsApp it to you’? When a brand name is used as a verb, it is truly a measure of its success! And in terms of must-have apps, WhatsApp clearly makes the cut. So why not use it for teacher development? It’s easy to access, bite-sized, and relevant. It can give you your ‘10-minute dose’ of CPD each day!
This blog is especially written for teacher educators who mentor or support teachers. We hope you find the ideas and techniques as useful as we have!
1. Getting started
WhatsApp groups are useful communities of practice and a place to share, learn and grow. As a mentor, you can facilitate discussions, encourage peer learning and promote healthy debates on issues related to teacher practice and development.
Once you have your WhatsApp group in place, it’s useful to look at strategies to help you manage your group effectively – here are three ideas from our Technology for Teachers series.
2. Making the most of the group
We’ve found three areas which are key to successful and thriving WhatsApp groups:
- Moderation: Irrelevant posts and forwards, or posts at odd times are inevitable! Mutually agreeing on group rules, as mentioned above, is a great way to combat this. You’ll be surprised at how participants remind each other about the rules! Your intervention might not even be required. The mantra, however, is to be patient.
- Engagement: Haven’t we all at some point taken on the role of passive readers in WhatsApp groups? A slight nudge can help get the quiet ones talking. Knowing your participants’ backgrounds and professional development needs helps. Look for opportunities to nominate passive participants, link posts to their experiences, and contextualize content to make it relevant to them. And if your efforts do not yield results, do not be discouraged! Focus on the enthusiastic ones; in time, the others will follow suit. Not all participants may be tech-savvy too, so they might need a ‘silent period’ before warming up to discussions. Don’t forget to appreciate and reward participation. Discuss highlights and share your own learning.
- Information: Too many posts may drive some away. Remember to agree about the day and time of posting; this will also give you that precious time off for yourself! Having a plan prepared on Excel or Word beforehand can help get you started
3. Posting and managing content
What you post is extremely important and can influence the level of engagement. Here are some ideas on how you can add variety without over-simplifying content.
- Theme-based resources: Sharing content such as articles, teaching resources, and audio-video resources is relatively easy. However, streamlining this content based on a theme makes it relevant. Consider posting resources that link to what the teachers are doing, perhaps a topic covered during a recent training, or introducing them to a new topic that they will find useful and exciting.
- Quizzes: Bridge knowledge gaps or practice language points by posting a series of questions on the group. These could be on topics from a recent workshop or areas that need attention, based on common errors. You can also create quizzes online on websites like Poll Everywhere and share the poll link on WhatsApp.
- Authentic audios and videos: Do you work with teachers who like to share stories from their classrooms? Think about getting them to record audio and video clips! If they try a new activity or methodology, or perhaps attempt a lesson stage differently from before, they can record it and share it with the group. Don’t forget to tell them about child protection and the importance of getting consent before recording and sharing media.
If a teacher posts a clip, get them to reflect on what worked and what didn’t. Other participants could also give peer feedback. And if the teacher does make these recommended changes, sharing the learning on the group is a great idea. This helps build and strengthen the community of practice.
4. What’s worked for us
- Share one article/video a day. Posting too many times can lead to confusing trails. Remember not everyone knows how to reply to a specific image or link.
- Don’t expect an immediate response. The idea of sharing on WhatsApp is that group members engage with the content at their own convenience.
- Don’t just send a link. Engage with the teachers too. Encourage participants to think and share their thoughts. Ask them if they agree with the ideas in the article/video. Elicit how they could use those ideas in their context.
- Ask your participants to select quiz topics and encourage all to participate. Remember to post the poll results and discuss. Get the group to reflect on them too.
- Here’s a short video clip for more ideas to make your WhatsApp group engaging and fun!
- Free resources to use technology for classroom practice and professional development: https://www.britishcouncil.in/teach/resources-for-teachers/technology-teachers-series
- Try this free British Council course on child protection
How do you use WhatsApp for professional development? Have you used any of the techniques from this blog? Share your answers in the comments section below.