If teachers want to truly prepare students for the future, we must accept that social media is not going anywhere. Read on for tips on getting started in Twitter as an educator!
“Isn’t Twitter just another mundane way to micro-share everything in your life?” “Twitter just seemed too complicated with all the symbols and rules.” “Even if there are educational resources on Twitter, I just don’t have the time to join another social media website.”
Do any of these thoughts sound like you? If so, you’ve come to the right place, because we’ve been there, too! This article is designed to help you understand its benefits as an educator, as well as to provide basic steps and ideas to get started–all from the perspective of a fellow educator!
5 Reasons You Should Join Twitter As an Educator
#1: Professional Development:
We very purposefully place this reason first! Resources like Twitter are the reason professional development is increasingly becoming a personalized experience at schools. Once you establish yourself with few educational hashtags combined with tools such as TweetDeck (see Simple Steps below), you will instantly have a wealth of current topics and resources to explore. For example, check out the screenshot that I randomly took of my own Twitter feed below:
Just glancing at the feeds, you can see resources and conversations ranging from math fact apps, to tips for using QR codes, to ideas for supporting inquiry! Many professional development days at schools currently involve the entire staff listening (often halfheartedly, especially if it doesn’t apply to them individually) to a couple of admin-selected trainers. Envision PD instead becoming days when the staff breaks into groups to spend the day truly exploring their areas of professional interest/needs–reading/discussing articles and contacting experts online with questions. Twitter has the potential to revolutionize each teacher’s development as professionals not only on a school-wide basis, but on a personal basis as well!
“The Twitter shift puts each educator in control of her own professional development with self-direction and personalization of content at any time…during planning periods or outside of the school day…If I want, I can get a daily dose of professional learning to go with my early morning cup of Joe. Through the Twitter platform, I discover best practice, research, solutions and ideas delivered to me in 140 characters or fewer, for just in time learning.” ~Meg Ormiston [source]
The relevance with regards to using Twitter goes beyond just relating to our more tech-savvy students (although that can be quite significant as well)! It goes back to what we described in professional development above. Twitter is an incredible vehicle for teachers and other educational experts to quickly and effectively share their most innovative and valuable ideas. If we continue to “go it alone,” despite the ready availability of such a goldmine, we will quickly lose touch with the growing possibilities within our own field.
“Social Media is here to stay. Its form may change, and certainly the applications we use will not remain the same, but the idea of openly exchanging information in whatever forms it is produced is not going away. As educators we can use it or lose it. If we don’t start to understand and use this technology soon, we will lose the opportunity to harness it, because we will be irrelevant. We don’t need social media to teach, as much as we need it to learn.” ~Tom Whitby [source]
#3: Help Students Recognize Global Society
As long as our discussions regarding current events and issues throughout the world remain within the confines of our own classroom, such ideas will continue to seem remote to students. Once we use Twitter to communicate with individuals actually involved in those issues and/or living in those places, students will begin to see themselves as real participants in a global community.
“Educators who participate in Twitter networks are well placed to support students in the use of relevant digital technologies because the Twitter community shares knowledge, resources and expert advice.” ~Tania Sheko [source]
Resources like Twitter provide educators with heretofore unheard of levels of genuine, global collaboration. We are perfectly poised now to share what works and what doesn’t, to seek and receive feedback when we’re stuck, and to showcase examples of great student learning. This last ability in particular can create increased community connectedness as parents truly witness and participate in their children’s learning. Classroom learning today looks drastically different than it did a generation ago–it calls for increased focus on process over product, on problem solving skills over memorized facts, and on student ownership over teacher control (see more ways learning has changed). Parents, administrators, and fellow teachers need to see the benefits of such changes in order to cultivate understanding and support; in other words, we need transparency across the board to further improve teaching and learning practices!
“…they started with the why, and then created a vision for sharing beyond the walls of the classroom. Their purpose was to share with the community the great things happening in classrooms in the three-building prek-8 school district.” ~Meg Ormiston [source]
#5: Professional Development
Wait, did we say that already? Yep. It’s that important.
“Imagine if every teacher shared just one of their best sources with other educators, who in turn could tweet them out to the tune of 700,000 tweets in a half hour. Everyone would benefit. The idea here is to get educators familiar with the concept of connectedness and its possibilities…” ~Tom Whitby [source]
Simple Steps to Get Started
Twitter is less simplistic than other social media platforms when it comes to maximizing its use, especially in a professional capacity. However, it is well worth the time invested in establishing your own Professional Learning Network (PLN–check out our article on building PLN’s here). We have included some simple steps below to help you get started! Also, be sure to check out the 13-page Handbook from plpnetwork.com, which breaks down definitions and steps in easy-to-follow detail.
- Set-up a username using the @ symbol (called your Twitter handle)
- Upload a picture and short bio to help potential followers know who you are!
- Find hashtags that interest you! Some of our favorites include #edtech, #edchat, and #comments4kids. Click here for a fantastic list of other educational hashtags recommended by PLP network!
- Download TweetDeck! In our view, this is an essential tool to manage your time on Twitter, because it allows you to easily scan through happenings in your favorite hashtags, as well as your own notifications and news feed. Just add columns by hitting the + icon, or by searching for individual hashtags/people and clicking “Add Column.”
- Start following individuals and leaving comments to grow your network.
- When you start creating Tweets, if you want to share a link, be sure to use URL shorteners such as Bitly or Owly to conserve your precious 140 characters!
- Start participating in educational Tweetchats, which are scheduled at live times for people to have discussions. Many hashtags schedule regular Tweetchat times for their followers to have live discussions (ie, #pypchat schedules every other Thursday at 7pm Eastern Time), and keep an eye out on educational blogs you follow for their scheduled chats!
- Check out the Infographic to the right for additional information and details, as well as the PLP Handbook!
Practical K-12 Uses
If you teach at a BYOD school (Bring Your Own Device) or in another circumstance in which mobile devices are 1:1, the ways for students to use Twitter in the classroom are broader. Below are some specific ideas.
- Debates: Your students can engage in a voices-off debate in which they must articulately craft their responses into 140 characters.
- Research: The possibilities are endless in collecting both secondary and primary resources on Twitter–particularly since experts on virtually every topic are available to give short responses to tweets.
- Build their OWN PLN: Students can begin networking with other individuals and experts who share their interests, well beyond just a pen-pal capacity.
On the other hand, if your students are very young, if your school does not use BYOD, or if, for any other reason, you are the only person with access to Twitter in the classroom, there are still incredible and practical ways for you to use it!
- Microblogging: Download the Twitter app to quickly snap photos, upload videos, and post Tweets on amazing classroom happenings with your mobile device! Add your own classroom hashtag to each post to keep them organized in one place! (Read our article on when and how to blog vs. microblog!)
- Parent Involvement: Not only can you boost parent involvement through microblogging, but you can also host your own regular Tweetchats using your classroom hashtag! Simply share with parents the above steps to get started on Twitter, and then give them the date and time for your chat! You can either set the topic in advance to generate interest and ideas, or you can have an open forum for questions on homework, school events, projects, etc.
- Facilitate Student Research: You don’t have to let students’ inability to personally tweet hold them back when it comes to their research! When students generate their own questions and consider who would be knowledgeable on the topic, you can act as their Twitter research facilitator by sending tweets to experts on their behalf!
- Seeking feedback for student work: This is similar to the above idea, but with the additional idea of sharing all student work! Using hashtags such as #comments4kids–designed specifically for sharing student work with other classrooms–you can share their essays, questions, blogs, and more, with the added benefit of receiving feedback from other classes around the globe!
Happy Tweeting! We’d love to hear your success stories in the comments!
Featured Image: Scott Beale / Laughing Squid