If Twitter is brought up in the media, you probably expect to hear the words Clinton or Trump follow. Today’s fast-paced political responses are engendered by Twitter’s short character limit and even shorter half-life (about a billion times shorter than carbon-14 for all my fellow science teachers out there.) If I asked you to imagine yourself as an active member of the Twitter community, you might think, “me? on Twitter? Isn’t that like a political hotbed of opinions and assumptions and people who can’t spell correctly?”But this speed and this instant connection to millions of different viewpoints is what makes it the perfect network for teachers. As one of the busiest professions out there, we need quick access to answers, support structures, and opportunities to reflect. All items that don’t often get attended to as we spend our days as the only adult in a classroom full of small humans we want to help!
I hope that I can convince you to at least give teacher Twitter a chance. I think it could change your life. Well, at least your teacher life.
When I signed up for Twitter in 2008, I was a senior in college and mostly concerned with tweeting about the upcoming election, when I was meeting my friends, and that new Radiohead album. Last winter, I applied to be a Washington State Teacher Leader. There were two foci to chose from, Twitter or blogging. Not having any idea how tweeting about teaching could be in any way useful, I decided to try my hand at blogging.
Sitting in our initial morning of connection for this year’s cadre of Teacher Leaders, they asked us to get our Twitter accounts pulled up. First off, reading anything you wrote from middle school to college when looked at with a ten year lens is pretty mortifying. Delete. Delete. Delete.
With a fresh Twitter account (@johannabrown if you like) I was ready to get myself out there, not sure what would happen. And honestly, not much did. I didn’t really know how Twitter worked and what it could do for my students and my teaching. Over the next 6 months, I picked up hashtags, followers, and most importantly my very own professional learning network (PLN.)
Let’s explore what that looks like.
As the only chemistry teacher in a high school under construction, it’s hard to find time to talk shop with my colleagues. I spent an hour last night discussing implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards with science teaching leaders from across the country! This is how it ended:
I came out of last night with links to helping admins understand NGSS, new fellow chemistry teachers to learn from, and a vision for how I can help my school better support science teaching. All while on my couch, under a blanket, with a dog snoring at my feet. If that doesn’t sound like the most efficient, enjoyable, interactive, and personalized professional development in the world, I don’t know what does!
Here’s a list of topics on which I have been able to grow professionally because of Twitter:
When to teach nuclear chemistry, NGSS aligned labs, how science teachers can support Common Core, planning a book study on The Art of Coaching Teams, flipped communication, using Instagram in classrooms, supporting students that are transitioning, Class Dojo, Google Forms, what teacher leadership looks like, standards-based grading, socratic seminars, getting National Board Certified, bringing passion to teaching, racial inequity in education.
Imagine trying to go to all of those sessions on your next PD day. Plus, I got to pick them out of an infinite number of options!
Have I convinced you yet? Or do you still feel like Twitter might not “be for you?”
Here’s a question:
Do you like to learn?
If yes, it doesn’t matter if you don’t identify as outgoing, or tech-savvy, or “hip with the kids.” Being a teacher on Twitter is as simple as if you are ready to learn a whole bunch, really fast. You have nothing to lose by trying it out.
Here’s how to go from 0 to Twitter hero, just like that!
- You need to have an @ handle (could include content area like @larkscience, or your teacher nome de plume like @MrsAldous, or have it describe what you do like Al over @educatoral) you will get to put your name to your handle so it’s okay if it isn’t your first and last name. The @ is how Twitter understands that you, and only you, are being intentionally associated with a post.
- Get a pic! (Don’t be an egg.)
- Fill out your bio with your roles and professional interests.
1. Follow people that interest you.
- Find your friends and co-workers via e-mail and Facebook.
- Find other teachers with similar styles, ideas, and inspirations! Might I suggest starting with @nate_bowling 2016 Washington State Teacher of the Year.
- Here’s my list of movers and shakers in Washington State Teacher Leading.
2. Find chats and hashtags that interest you. Often, hashtags (aka octothorpes, pound signs, or these things –> #) are associated with times that groups of people meet up on Twitter for a facilitated discussion. We use the hashtag to identify people that are joined in on the chat. Please, consider this your official invitation to join the #WATeachLead #TPEP chat on June 26th.
This is a welcoming first chat to help you engage via Twitter. Coming to your first chat is HUGE! You’ll gain new connections to educators, have tons to contemplate, and you get to wear your pajamas. I’d love to help you set up for it, just hit me up on Twitter! @johannabrown
Other great chats to checkout include:
- General Ed: #edchat
- Specifics: #educolor #edtech
- Math: #mathchat
- Arts: #arted #musedchat
- Science: #STEMchat #NGSSchat #scichat
- ELA: #engchat #litchat
- History: #histedchat
3. Commit to five minutes of professional development on Twitter each day!
Consider this your little bit of time to explore what interests you about teaching. Twitter is constantly updating, so you need to check it in short little bursts and be present. Your five minutes can even be some #teacherhumor over coffee to get you ready for your day.
Hope to see you on Sunday night, June 26th, at 7pm PST using the hashtag #TPEPChat. As you sign up, feel free to tweet me @johannabrown for any help or teacher discussion. I’d love to follow you.
I challenge you to make this summer full of fun and engaging professional development. Happy Tweeting!
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