Over the last two weeks, I have heard multiple times about the benefits of being actively involved on Twitter as an educator. I’ve heard this before but, for some reason, it had a greater impact upon than in the past. Perhaps it is the number ofd times that I have heard about it in a week or that I am ready to increase the amount of time I spend on professional development. Perhaps it is both.
The first time I heard about Twitter for professional development was several years ago as I attended my first Google Apps for Education (GAFE) summit. At the time, I was completing my master’s degree in Educational Leadership, so professional development was coming out of my ears. I started by Twitter account, posted about half a dozen items, and only returned to it sporadically over the next several years. Honestly, I think that the combination of my regular duties as a teacher, graduate student, and coordinator of several on campus programs was enough to cause me to lose some interest in seeking out my own professional development. After this, I knew that Twitter was beneficial for professional development as a teacher, but I had found myself busy with so many things that the idea of using Twitter was pushed aside.
The second time that I realized Twitter could be a great professional development tool was during our book club meeting, where we are currently reading “Kids Deserve It” by Todd Nesloney and Adam Welcome. Chapter 2 of the book is titled “Don’t Live on an Island” which I think is an incredibly important topic in education. In the book, they write:
“Whatever the reason for the isolation, if you want to create that spark, you have to ‘get off the island’ and start collaborating. The good news is you can choose whom to connect and collaborate with – and they don’t have to be within the walls of your building.”
I’m not sure what it was about this quote, but it really struck a chord with me. It’s not so much that I have not been or have not had the opportunity to collaborate. That isn’t it at all. Instead, the idea that really hit me was that collaboration can extend far beyond the walls of your classroom or the gate of your school. As someone who deems herself to be fairly tech savvy, I find myself embarrassed that this thought never occurred to me. How could I not realize that collaboration amongst teachers could done through social media? Or, better question…Did I know this and I was too afraid to take the jump, to take the risk? Quite frankly, it is a bit terrifying. The idea of writing and putting your thoughts into physical words can be very intimidating. After all, what if someone doesn’t like what you have written? What if they think that you are just trying to show off? What if no one cares?
The authors continue to write:
“So, I began to connect with others, share my ideas, and even collaborate! When I began my teaching career, I never imagined I’d work with people from all over the world. But my connections via Twitter have led to opportunities for my students and me to work with students in other countries, Olympic and Paralympic athletes, White House personnel, and so many others.”
Doesn’t that sound amazing? I think so!
The third time I realized Twitter could be used as professional development was when I attended the GAFE summit within my own district. Everyone was using Twitter! I even attended a “Twitter Chat Live” session that discussed joining online chats on education. Apparently, there are ton of these chats on Twitter all the time! So, I made the decision then and there that I needed to use Twitter as a professional development resource. I had found myself with a great desire for more professional development and discussions with other educators. However, this was not only for myself, but for the growth and success of my own students. The only way that they can grow and succeed is if I am willing to do the same.
Falling Down the Rabbit Hole
I started simply retweeting interesting topics or ideas. Then, I started posting some of the articles from fledgling website. Then, today…Today, I decided I would join a live Twitter Chat.
I had found several chats that seemed interesting. The first chat I tried to join never actually appeared. I am not sure if it no longer existed or if it was user error on my part. I found myself slightly discouraged, but I had another chat that I had read would be good to join.
At 4 PM, I sat in my classroom at work, opened TweetDeck, and typed in #edchat to the search bar and added the column to my deck. Almost immediately, I saw the #edchat start to show up on the feed and I knew I had found a live Twitter Chat that actually existed! I was thrilled but really nervous to join. I typed in my introduction about a half a dozen times before I actually sent it. However, when I sent it, I was immediately greeted with encouraging responses from other educators. From there, everything moved really fast.
Live Twitter chats move fast. I think I did pretty well for my first time, but I did find myself struggling to keep up at many moments. There were so many things to read and notifications that were popping up as I participated. But, honestly, I loved every second of it.
The hour of the live Twitter chat flew by. The topic was “Should digital literacy be a job requirement and how would that be defined?” From there, it grew into a discussion about what are the basic skills needed by teachers, EdTech strategies at our sites, the SAMR model, and personalized learning. As someone who loves talking about education, I found myself completely engaged and excited to be talking with other educators, particularly some educators with some impressive backgrounds and accolades.
Would I participate in another Twitter chat? In a heartbeat. It was everything that I hoped it would be, as well as everything that I needed it to be. I have a great desire to grow as an educator and leader, but the only way that I can do that is by reading, learning, and collaborating with others. So, yes. Without a doubt, I will find myself back on Twitter quite soon.
This is a part of a set of blog posts from the Transparency: Real Stories from a Real Classroom series.