Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Twitter for Teachers

This post was originally posted at the ICATS 30-Day eLearning Challenge. Twitter is my ultimate learning playground and I hope this post helps some find their way into this form of learning.

For those who haven't ventured very far into the Twitterverse, the micro-blogging service Twitter can seem as though it's only purpose is to give people a platform for over-sharing ("Eating a cheeseburger at The Pub with my buddy @TechECoach") or to give snarky people a place to amuse themselves ("Flip-flops in 40 degree weather? #Genius #YourToesArentCuteIfTheyFallOff") or to give obsessive fans a place to gush about their latest passion ("Check out this pic of #LadyGaga taken at an #Arbys! Link").

Yes, this stuff exists on Twitter, but those who have gone deeper with this tool have discovered that Twitter has a lot to offer educators in terms of making connections with students and parents, collaborating with and learning from colleagues, and extending and enhancing learning.

Another complaint from those new to Twitter is how foreign the language seems with all of those symbols and abbreviations in each tweet. If this is off-putting to you, you may want to check out this link to help you get started. Learning just a few basics can make Tweets much easier to understand:

Twitter in Plain English
Twitter in 60 Seconds
Twitterholics Ultimate Guide to All Things Twitter
Mom This Is How Twitter Works

Twitter in Education

As more and more educators join Twitter, the number of ideas for using Twitter in schools grows. A simple Google search for Twitter in Education will bring up many resources worth exploring, and I encourage you to do so, but for those of you who are short on time, here are a few resources to get you started:

60 Inspiring Examples of Twitter in the Classroom
100 ways to Use Twitter in Education
28 Simple Ways to Use Twitter in the Classroom
100 Twitter Tips for Teachers

Some of my favorite examples of uses for Twitter in education include:
  1. Using Twitter as a backchannel for live discussions around an event. For example, students live tweeting to a hashtag during the Presidential Debate.
  2. Crowd-sourcing resources to a Twitter handle. For example having the student body tweet pictures of school events to the journalism department Twitter account.
  3. Using Twitter to find answers. For example, creating a Google survey and tweeting it out to collect responses from the world.
  4. Learning the art of brevity. For example, having students tweet book summaries, main ideas or short poems to share.
  5. Promoting the great things that are going on in class or school. Example, having a class hashtag or school account as a resource for parents to get updates or learn about your class/school.
And my absolute favorite use for Twitter is as a personalized method of professional development. I use Twitter to learn in several ways. First, I follow as many great educators as I can. I find that the educator Twitter community is full of people discovering and sharing great digital resources and teaching ideas. So, really, I am putting the Twitter community to work for me. The resources they share come to me pre-vetted by fellow teachers. Also, I like that I can pop onto Twitter at anytime and find something worth investigating because sometimes I only have a few minutes to spare, but I can use that time well by learning something new. Of course, I also do my best to share great resources that I find for others on Twitter.

Second, I learn by taking part in formal Twitter chats. There are several Twitter chats that happen weekly that really push my thinking and learning. It's nice to know that not only do I have local colleagues with whom I can learn and collaborate, I also have a world-wide community of educators who are dealing with the same issues that I am.

Finally, I learn via Twitter by engaging in direct conversations with great teachers who I otherwise wouldn't be connected. The Twitter education community has a very positive and welcoming culture that makes reaching out to someone I've never met easy and rewarding. I can honestly say I've had meaningful conversations with education leaders that I would otherwise have to pay a lot of money to see in an impersonal setting at a conference. I also know that if I tweet out a question to my followers, I will likely find someone who will tweet me back with an answer. The power of this personal learning network constantly amazes me.

Your Challenge

Take a few minutes to explore the links above. If you don't already have a Twitter account, start one, and try following a few people. Here is a link to some recommendations. You might also look at an education hashtag like #edchat or #INelearn.

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