Why Every Teacher Should Use Twitter

Twitter, a brief video introduction

If you consider yourself a “visual learner,” this brief video introduction to Twitter for Teachers may help. Follow the link here

I already have a Facebook account, why would I want to become involved on Twitter?

Twitter isn’t Facebook. Yes, they both are social media, but Twitter offers users a lot more control than Facebook. With Twitter, you only follow who you choose to follow. Even if someone follows you, you’re not obligated to follow them back. This offers a huge advantage over Facebook, which forces two-way feeds on all your Facebook “friends.” With Facebook, you are forced to see posts from anyone in your network. With Twitter, you can choose. I like this saying to describe the difference between Facebook and Twitter: “Facebook is the place where you learn to hate the people you like. Twitter is the place where you go to meet new people.”

“Teachers love to hear practical tips and strategies from others teachers. The problem is that we work in one building, in one district, in one small city, in one state – this not exactly what we might qualify as a network. Twitter gives you a chance to exponentially expand that network.”

I’m a teacher. I want to represent myself as a professional. I don’t want to blog about what I had for dinner or what I thought of the latest episode of Jersey Shore.

There is a common impression that Twitter is the place where Facebook content is posted with fewer characters. Thus, according to this impression, Twitter is like Facebook, only more shallow. There is no doubt that Twitter can be used in unproductive ways, and in that respect the impression is true. But this is not true across the board. There are many large, well-developed networks across Twitter where incredible, vibrant ideas are exchanged and professional connections are made. Twitter is what you make of it. Garbage in, garbage out. If you follow the losers on Jersey Shore, you will get looser content. If you follow quality professionals, you will get quality, professional information and connections. Twitter offers you the chance to connect with the top professionals in your field. Robert Marzano, Ken Robinson – they’re both on Twitter. No other medium gives you this opportunity to follow such high quality professionals. Excellence is determined by who you surround yourself with. Why would a teacher choose to not connect with the best teachers in their field?

So how does Twitter work for teachers?

There is an incredible network of hundreds of thousands of teachers on Twitter. The problem, in fact, is that there are too many. Knowing where to start can become overwhelming. If you feel overwhelmed, don’t despair. That’s normal. It’s also a good sign because that means there are unlimited possibilities for connecting with teachers on Twitter. Once again, the first step is choosing the right people to follow. Start with people in your network, or people who post on topics you care about, then look to see who they follow. All the hot topics in education are discussed on a regular basis: common core, Project Based Learning, 1:1 education, formative assessment – you name it, it’s on Twitter, discussed by quality, motivated professionals. But Twitter is also more than educational theories. By getting involved with Twitter you have the opportunity to hear practical classroom strategies that work, all from teachers across the world. Let’s face it – teaching is a practical field. Teachers love to hear practical tips and strategies from others teachers. The problem is that we work in one building, in one district, in one small city, in one state – this not exactly what we might qualify as a network. Twitter gives you a chance to exponentially expand that network.

“Over the course of a career, this exposure may mean the difference between being a slightly above average teacher and a teacher bordering on mastery.”

But I don’t have enough time for Twitter. I’m overwhelmed with what I already have on my plate

Twitter doesn’t have to be the time-sucking-monster some believe it to be. It’s like anything else. If you have a lot of time, you can give it a lot of time. If you don’t have a lot of time, then you just spend a few minutes a week. It’s up to you, and it’s a convenient medium. Standing in line at the store for 20 minutes waiting to check out with your Thanksgiving groceries? Pull up Twitter and read an article on implementing the common core. Waiting at the oil change for 15 minutes? Check out the latest posts on formative assessment and hear how dedicated professionals are changing their classrooms. You could decide just to read one article a week – that would be 10-20 minutes spent on Twitter per week. But over the course of the year you would be exposed to 52 new educational articles which may help expand your teaching practice. Over the course of a career, this exposure may mean the difference between being a slightly above average teacher and a teacher bordering on mastery. And what was the time commitment? 10-20 minutes per week, much of which could be spent while waiting in line at the store, or at the doctor’s office. Yes, this is a chunk of time that might have otherwise been dedicated to reading the latest columns on the celebrity gossip magazines. So if you’d rather read the latest celebrity gossip than constructive educational articles, then Twitter might not be for you. If you don’t mind this trade-off, then Twitter might be something to give a try. The point is that finding time for Twitter is not about finding more time, it about being more efficient in the time you already have. There may be some good reasons for teachers not to use Twitter, but time is not one of them.

Where to Start

Begin by searching for educational related hashtags (those funny tags that always start with #). Some great hashtags for education are: #edchat (general education tag), #satchat (Saturday ed chat), #MichED (Michigan teachers network), #engchat (ELA), #sschat (Social Studies), #mathchat (Math), #scichat (Science), #spedchat (Special Ed), #edtech (Educational technology), #musedtech (Music education). There are many more, but these are some of the best to start with. To search for a hashtag on Twitter simple enter the hashtag in the search bar on Twitter, then hit enter. It’s as easy as that. Twitter will sort through its millions of posts and find only those tweets that match your subject. Once you find these posts you can search through and glean for information. If someone says something that sounds good, retweet it out to your followers so you can pass the message along, then click on the Twitter user’s profile and follow them. Over time, you’ll build a great base of people to follow. If you find an educator who seems to be really well-connected, then click on their profile and see who they are following, then follow who they follow. If you limit who you’re following to quality educators who only tweet about education, then after a very short period of time you’ll build a solid foundation to build from.

Twitter Chats

The Twitter chat is my favorite way to participate in Twitter. A chat is a scheduled time where people log onto Twitter and search for a specific hashtag. Moderators of the chat have a topic and prearranged questions. Participants discuss the topic and the questions. It’s a lively discussion, usually with 4 or 5 threads or more happening at the same time. It takes some getting used to, but it’s a great way to use Twitter for ideas. Believe me, by participating in the Twitter chat you have no lack of ideas to choose from. Pick those that are of value, then forget the rest. Here are some of the most common Twitter chats and their times:

  • #edchat (general education tag): Tuesdays, 7:00 p.m.
  • #satchat (Saturday ed chat): Saturdays, 7:00 a.m.
  • #MichED (Michigan teachers network): Wednesdays, 8:00 p.m.
  • #engchat (ELA): Mondays, 7:00 p.m.
  • #sschat (Social Studies): Mondays, 7:00 p.m.
  • #mathchat (Math): Mondays, 3:30 p.m.; Thursdays, 8:00 p.m.
  • #scichat (Science): Tuesdays, 9:00 p.m.
  • #spedchat (Special Ed): Tuesdays, 9:00 p.m.
  • #musedtech (Music education): Mondays, 8:00 p.m.

Author: Jeff Bush, @BushjMS, epoxylearning.com


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