Sunday, September 1, 2013

To Tweet or Not To Tweet?

This post is my attempt to clarify some misconceptions about Twitter for teachers. I have had great conversations with several colleagues this past week and would like to share my insights.

First, we need to travel back in time. Stop in the year 2010. As a graduate student in a Technology licensure program, I was given the assignment to create a twitter account. I was angry. I felt that it was beyond the realm of my instructors' rights to tell me to create a social media account. When instructor Carl Anderson tried convincing us of the benefits of using Twitter with personal examples, I rudely commented that it seemed like a waste of time. (I later apologized.) He and Scott Schwister suggested educators to follow. I completed my obligatory assignments, including tweeting (which I considered ridiculous as I had my instructors and classmates as my only followers!) For the next 11 months, I never used my account.

Fast forward one year. I began some Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds challenges with teacher, author and blogger, Vicki Davis, aka Cool Cat Teacher. With her guidance, I began following teachers who shared resources and ideas. I lurked on twitter conversations much the same as I eavesdropped in restaurants. It felt a little "shadowy."

My breakthrough came when I discovered chats. People hold open conversations on Twitter by using a hashtag (# followed by letters). A user can read all the comments in a chat by searching the hashtag and viewing ALL. A moderator asks questions of the group and others answer. During this "free for all", we can also address individuals by replying to their tweets. It is a great way to get more information about a topic that is of interest. After lurking on a chat or two, I took the risk of jumping in with my own answers. I was pleasantly surprised to find others retweeting my responses and commenting on my ideas. I frequently follow many new "tweeps" after interacting with them during a chat such as #edtechchat or #tlap, both on Monday evenings (in my time zone).

As an elementary technology specialist, I have no one in my building with the same job as me. It is very different from the 22 years in which I had grade level colleagues with whom to share ideas. Now I have colleagues in my PLN (personal learning network) from many countries to learn with and from. If I have an idea or question for Vicki Davis or Dave Burgess, author of Teach Like a Pirate, I tweet them and they tweet back! It energizes me professionally. Because of my PLN, I have even created a second Twitter account as techteachtiger to use with parents. I plan to tweet with my students about our learning so parents can be informed.

Now, FINALLY, back to the present, September 2013. Many educators are being asked to join Twitter. Some are ready to jump right in and travel the fast path. But others may have some of the same frustration, hesitation and even fear that I did regarding Twitter. We have heard the news reports of individuals making extremely poor decisions that lead to their political downfalls and it is popular to denigrate celebrities and their fans for their use of this communication medium.

I am trying to balance my enthusiasm for Twitter as an excellent source of professional development with respect for those who are reluctant to use social media in their profession. If you, like me, join Twitter because you have to, please know that you will find great information if you follow other teachers and that you never even need to tweet unless you want to. On Twitter, even lurking can lead to learning!


  1. Great post, Meg! We love having you in #tlap on Monday nights. This is an important message for those who are hesitant to jump into the fray on Twitter or who don't yet see the point. Twitter is an amazing source for 24/7/365 day personalized PD, access to innovative educators, and unbelievable professional connections without any geographic barriers...and free!

    1. Dave,
      Thanks for the positive feedback! My copy of your book, Teach Like a Pirate, is being shipped as I type! I really enjoy learning from #tlap participants.