Saturday, October 22, 2016

Twitter for Education? Yes!

I was not a Twitter fan. 

In a graduate class about technology in education I was required to make an account and find people to follow. At that time, I felt overwhelmed with Twitter's immensity, and underwhelmed by the posts that I found. Consequently, the account sat idle after fulfilling the course requirements.

Two years later I attended the Pennsylvania Keystones Technology Innovators Summit, and there began to discover Twitter's value. I found passionate educators who shared resources, experiences and inspiration, and I experienced Twitter chats about educational topics. This was a turning point in my professional development and in my view of "frivolous" social media. 

I developed a PLN (professional learning network), and that group of people and organizations helped to increase my desire to learn and grow, to take risks and try new things, to reflect and to share my reflections. 

Two years later (that's pretty funny, right?) I finally gathered enough boldness to share my view of Twitter with my colleagues. It began with an email to the faculty in my building: Would anyone be interested in learning more about using Twitter for PD? The responses came in quickly, and before the first session a dozen educators had expressed interest in pursuing the topic with me.

Our school has an open PLC (professional learning community) policy: 20 minutes at the beginning of the day are set aside for educators to pursue their interests. Twitter PLC began three Thursdays ago.

Session 1: Why use Twitter? How do I begin? Whom do I follow? (Click here to look at our agenda and resources: Twitter for PD 1.) I felt that the most important objective was to show them Twitter's value for educators. Here are some of the things that we discussed:
  • Develop a PLN (Professional Learning Network)
  • Encourage and/or be encouraged
  • Find teaching, classroom management ideas
  • Share resources
  • Connect and collaborate with other educators anywhere
  • Participate in chats about topics of interest
  • Acquire infographics
  • Learn more about educational technology
  • Stay informed about current news, educational updates
  • Conduct formal/informal research
  • Find relevant reading material
  • Connect to and read blogs: reflective pieces that challenge and encourage
  • Share what you are learning
  • Ask and answer questions
  • Enroll in contests, giveaways, trials of new apps/games
  • Sign up for free PD courses, edcamps
  • Subscribe to newsletters, blogs, classroom ideas
  • <announcements, connecting with parents and/or students> *These are bracketed because I haven't tried them yet.

In the intervening week: I tried to connect with each person on Twitter, and then to suggest people/groups to follow, share resources, infographics, links to blogs, contests, etc. In other words, I wanted to prove that I meant what I said about Twitter's value.

Some teachers didn't want to continue, but that's okay. Life is busy and we constantly have to prioritize.

Session 2: How do you Tweet? What do you Tweet? Why use a hashtag #? Could we create our own school #? (Click here to look at our agenda and resources: Twitter for PD 2.) Participants created Tweets and used #MASHPD to see how we could follow school conversations. I also shared accounts that they might like to follow. Everyone left with a Twitter Tweasure Hunt to complete, and two weeks to work on it.

In the intervening two week period: The Twitter PLC participants are working in teams to complete a Twitter Tweasure Hunt, with the winners receiving a Tim Horton's breakfast during our final PD session in November. I created the Tweasure Hunt using Google Sheets. It's designed to serve as an introductory guide to developing a professional profile, finding and connecting with a PLN, and beginning conversations about educational topics. (Click here to view the Twitter Tweasure Hunt)

Session 3: In Session 3 we will learn about the many educational chats available on Twitter, participate in an educational "slow chat," and learn about Tweet Deck.

Session 4: We will participate in our own Twitter chat from our classrooms/offices.

I'm hoping that we will develop a Twitter community at our school, and then in our district. These four sessions may lead into more, who knows? Perhaps we'll have a regular PLC meeting on Twitter. It's a beginning, and I'm excited about the possibilities. I want other educators to see and experience the passion and professional dialogue available through Twitter.

Do you have a professional account on Twitter? 
How does Twitter help you develop as a professional?
How might you find time to pursue it?

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(This blog is a conversation between my good friend (and instructional coach), Mrs. Stephanie Sandrock, and myself. As is often the case, I...