If you are a teacher who likes to learn, collaborate and connect, you should be on Twitter. If you are a teacher who wants to grow and is looking for ideas, resources and inspiration, you should be on Twitter. If you are a teacher, you should be on Twitter. If you are a teacher and you aren’t on Twitter, you are missing an incredible opportunity for some of the most invigorating, free, and convenient professional development out there. Get on Twitter. Start using it. Now.
I remember my introduction to Twitter, in 2011. Brian Mull, along with Alan November and other November Learning consultants visited my school to facilitate several days of PD as we got ready to introduce iPads in classrooms. During one session, Brian asked each of us to set up a Twitter account. I did, knowing I would never use it. I didn’t understand the platform and couldn’t see a use for it, but I listened to Brian. He said something that stuck with me- that Twitter is an invaluable tool for following real time new and events. After he left, I din’t look at Twitter for over a year.
Then came Hurricane Sandy. My then 77 year old mother, who lived on the Connecticut coast, elected not to evacuate. I was in Virginia, far away from her and panicking. I called her neighbors and nearby friends to get their assessments of the situation and asked some of them to check on her. And then I remembered Twitter. I logged on, for the first time in over a year, and started tracking the storm and tweets from people in the storm’s path. Nothing that I read made me feel better, but there was some comfort in getting steady updates from people who were right there. And I was able to keep my mom informed. Her power was out and she had no idea what was happening beyond what she could see from her windows. We devised a plan, should she need to leave her house quickly and we scheduled regular phone calls until the high tide had passed. Twitter helped. Some days later I thought to myself, “Brian was right. Twitter is an amazing platform for following real time news.”
After October of 2012, I didn’t use Twitter again, other than to check my teenage daughter’s tweets. Then, in the summer of 2013, I decided it was time. I’m not even sure why I made that decision- I think I had just become aware of how global and connected learning and teaching were becoming that I needed to know more, and one way to do that was to become active on Twitter. Perhaps what had held me back was that I wasn’t sure how I would use it or how it would benefit me. And then somewhere along the line it occurred to me that I would use it as a professional tool, to help me as a teacher.
Once I understood my purpose, I figured out how to proceed. I updated my pictures and profile information. Next I began searching for people to follow. I started by searching for some of the authors of blogs I read regularly, and there they were. Then, I looked at who they followed, and explored the pages of other educators active on Twitter.
And then I stumbled on a steady stream of tweets with a hashtag that caught my eye. Mind you, I hardly knew what a hashtag was, much less how or why they were used, but I know what TCRWP stood for, and #tcrwp looked like something I should investigate. Suddenly I found myself in the middle of hundreds of tweets coming straight from the August Writing Institute at Teachers College. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. For the next four days I soaked up every nugget of wisdom that attendees shared. I came away with new ideas, increased understanding of the Units of Study curriculum, a renewed crush on Lucy Calkins, a long list of books to read, and many new Twitter friends. Did I mention that I did all this while sitting on the beach? Yup… I was learning and tanning all at the same time.
Well, one thing led to another. I applied to TCRWP and was lucky enough to attend the June Writing Institute this summer. And guess what I did? I made a point to tweet while I was there. In 5 days, my group of Twitter friends doubled. Not only that, but I met some of those who I’d only known on Twitter, live, in person, in New York at Teacher’s College. Pretty cool.
So, how can you use Twitter? Well, here’s what I do. I use it to connect with other educators who teach reading and writing. I read somewhere that it takes time to develop your presence and network on Twitter. It’s true. I’ve been active on Twitter for about 11 months now. I have a small presence, but a growing network. I follow organizations and established professionals who host twitter chats. I look at who they follow and that often leads me to new Twitter connections. I participate in Twitter chats. That can be a little scary. They move fast and you need to stay on your toes to keep up. I suggest using a platform like TweetDeck when you participate in one. Twitter chats are incredibly energizing. The opportunities for give and take are endless. Every time I join one, I make new connections, get advice and feedback and walk away having learned something.
My next goal is to learn how and why to use Twitter in the classroom. I will set up a different account for that. This coming school year I plan to use it with my Fourth Grade reading and language arts group.
It’s free. It’s easy. If you teach, you should be there. Get on Twitter. now.