Thanks to user growth and books like Teach Like a PIRATE, Twitter has grown into a professional tool used by many educators. From tweet chats to networking, Twitter can be a dynamic support for teachers. If you have never used Twitter before, or if you are participating in a chat tonight, here are some insights and advice that you can use to get more from Twitter.
Share Detailed Strategies
I was participating in a Twitter chat a few weeks ago, and an excellent question was posed: “How do you avoid power struggles with students?” One educator responded by saying, “Be the guide on the side, not the sage on the stage.”
While in general I agree, the platitude was far from answering the question at hand. Power struggles are something that many teachers (myself included) experience and are challenged with in school. This question was an excellent opportunity for teachers to share real strategies they use to avoid this common occurrence.
Teachers can get more from Twitter if pragmatic strategies are shared in detail. Conceptual statements certainly have their place in a discussion – but when possible, I believe sharing detailed strategies can help teachers more. Twitter is now 280 characters – let’s use them!
Engage With The Unanswered
One observation I have noticed is that popular Twitter users will often get many more responses than those without. This makes sense because they have a lot more educators watching their posts. Unfortunately, many teachers don’t have the time to build a large base of followers, and instead rely on hashtags or scheduled chats to connect with other educators.
Teachers can get more from Twitter by engaging with those who have gone unanswered. If you see an educator with a question, especially a teacher with few followers, engage! Help support this educator – you may be the only one to see their post!
Have a Goal in Mind
I have talked to many educators who have tried Twitter once, and never returned. Many of these educators shared a common theme – they didn’t know what they wanted to do with Twitter. Teachers can get more from Twitter by having a specific goal in mind. Is your goal to share ideas and strategies? Is it to ask for help and support from challenges in your school day? Is it to share your classroom and student work? Is it to network professionally, or with other classrooms?
If you are able to use Twitter with a goal in mind – and seek out educators who have similar goals – you will end up with a much more rewarding experience.
Create Your Network
Similar to the above, Twitter gives teachers the ability to find and connect with others around the world in just a few seconds. This ability to share knowledge has never existed on this scale before in human history. Whatever your goals are for Twitter, seek out similar educators and follow them! Teachers can get more from Twitter by building a network that works for them!
As an aside, there is one aspect of Twitter that I do believe is underutilized. With how easy it is to connect with other teachers from around the world, more teachers (myself included) should be connecting students from across the world. Understanding global context is an important aspect to education, and what easier way than to ask a teacher from somewhere else in the world if they want to send student messages over Twitter (or become even more engaged and creating pen pals, video chatting, etc.).
Twitter Can Be Like a Textbook of Strategies
Let’s estimate that 1,000 teachers are sharing ideas and strategies on a regular basis on Twitter (this is a very low estimate). Let’s also estimate that these teachers average 10 years of experience between them. This means that with these very conservative estimates, there are ten thousand years of experience and knowledge available on this single media platform.
Think about that for a moment. Ten thousand years ago, humans were just learning how to cultivate wheat and barley in present day Iraq. The amount of learning related to farming and harvesting crops has come a long way since then. In a similar way, teachers can get more from Twitter by using it as a repository of knowledge.
Twitter Can Be More Than a Social Platform
Sharing memes and quotes can be fun, but what gets me excited about Twitter is the opportunity to directly share pragmatic and detailed advice between educators. The ability to share a problem or ask a question and expect a response in just a few minutes is quite powerful. As many teachers have found out, Twitter can become more than social media – it can be a professional learning network. If you have the time and haven’t done so already, I would suggest trying out twitter today.
You can follow me personally @MrHron, or the blog @ITeachAndAssist. Please reach out with any questions, insight, or comments on education, this blog, or anything else! I look forward to hearing from you!