Whenever I share my Twitter experience I face the inevitable, "Oh, I don't use Twitter", and I must admit that the first time I heard about teachers using Twitter, I was skeptical, too. My knee-jerk reaction was, "Social media is for keeping up with family and friends. Twitter, specifically, is for people that, at best, participate in politics and debates, and at worst those who enjoy instigating others. Why would a teacher invite that!" I completely dismissed the idea and patted myself on the back for not following in the trappings of social media.
The second time I became aware of Twitter as a possibility for me was at a conference. Like many others before me, I joined so I could post the happenings at that particular event, but it was more a feeling of shouting things out to the wind. I even remember that there were prizes given out for the most tweets, which pushed me a little to participate, but nothing more than that. Follow others, why? At the end of that conference, I did not go back in. This cycle was repeated at the next event, and three or more times after that.
A couple of years went by and as I became involved with Edmodo as an ambassador, I completed the "Participate in an #edmodochat" challenge. That was the turning point for me. I started to read the posts, occasionally overcoming the risk of replying with my own ideas. All of a sudden I was involved in a deep conversation about best practices in education with a bunch of people that I had never met. That first hour went by in a flash, and at the end, I had specific ideas that I could put into practice the next day. I left that chat energized and hungry for more.
Fast forward to where I am now, writing about why educators should have Twitter accounts and participate in conversation often.
Twitter as Professional Development
Find and Share ResourcesGone are the days when the work of a teacher was a solo endeavor, or when you could open the file cabinet and teach the same lesson the same way for years on end. At our fingertips we not only have a plethora of resources, but these resources are constantly updated. New tools are imagined every day and ideas are flowing freely. Teachers all over the world are discovering and sharing ways to teach specific content and/or using ed-tech tools in a variety of ways. You may never have thought of using the board game Pandemic to teach about The Columbian Exchange, but @MatthewFarber has.
Staying UpdatedEducation is changing. Whether you are now an expert at the Common Core Standards, struggling to implement the 3 Dimensions of the NGSS, awaiting Social Studies standards or interested in changing your delivery to include PBL or gamification, the conversations are happening now. And wouldn't you know it, many of these conversations are happening on Twitter. Just take a look at the calendar of education Twitter chats below (managed by @cybraryman1, @conniehamilton, @thomascmurray, @cevans5095 and @jrochelle). You could say, "There is a chat for that!"
For those of you that have never participated in a Twitter chat and that may feel overwhelmed by trying to follow a conversation while remembering the "rules", here is a handy "How To" written by @kelseynhayes. The only thing I would add is the use of @participate's tool - Participate Chat simply because it allows you to focus only on that particular chat and automatically adds the #hashtag to the chat you joined, lessening the risk of tweeting to the wind.
Grow your Professional Learning NetworkAll of these educators that are sharing on Twitter and participating in Twitter chats are offering up their perspectives. They are also connecting with other educators who are willing to help out when the teaching work gets hard. Perhaps you are struggling to reach a particular student, and you need a sounding board outside of your own site. Maybe you would like to infuse more kindness or creativity into your classroom, or even would like to have a speaker come into your classroom, but do not know where to start. The PLN you create by using Twitter is there to help out. The beauty of this is that Twitter is available 24/7 so those ideas or questions that came to you at 2:00 a.m. as you were grading the last batch of essays can be posted and tagged to be answered by your Twitter connection in Europe as he/she starts the day.
In a similar vein, leaders in education are also on Twitter, and connecting directly with them is only a click away. Perhaps you are not ready to engage them in conversation, but you can infuse what you learn from their posts into your own practice. Here are a couple of lists to get you started:
How to'sIf you are ready to get started, I invite you to read Edudemic's The Teacher's Guide to Twitter, and if you are new to the Tweetverse, look below for a handy infographic.
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