Any time that I get to talk to other educators and they ask about what tips I have, I always start with telling them they need to be on Twitter. I have said this when giving presentations at conferences, I have said this when talking with teachers at my school, I have said this when talking to administrators and I even got the chance to say this when talking to pre-service teachers at Iowa State University.
To be honest, Twitter probably saved my teaching career. A few years ago I started looking at Twitter mostly as a way to post reminders for my students. I even put a gadget on my Wikispaces site so that it would show my tweets for students that did not have a Twitter account.
My school was starting a 1:1 initiative at this point where every student was given a white Macbook laptop. Even as someone who loves playing with technology, I was trying to find ways to use this new tool effectively in my classroom. The problem was that my school was small and there weren’t many teachers there and even fewer that had a lot of experience using laptops regularly in the classroom. This was also a problem with my content areas as I was the only teacher teaching my subjects and did not have a lot of physics teachers nearby to talk to.
I don’t remember why, but I started to read tweets that others were posting more often. I started following other educators and following certain hashtags related to education. I even lurked during weekly chats that were held on Twitter that focused on various topics in education. It was through Twitter that I first learned of the Flipped Classroom. I started reading posts people were making about how they were flipping their classroom and how standards based grading could be integrated with it. I started connecting with other educators and our conversations really triggered ideas and changed how I was viewing things. I started to figure out how to do things differently so that my students had a better learning experience. I learned so much and was able to connect with so many educators, people I get to see at conferences and people I hope to meet at a conference someday.
Twitter helped me change how I was teaching and opened me up to so many new ideas and techniques to use in the classroom. I am able to follow along at conferences I am attending and to conferences I am not attending. I find resources that I can share with others. I get to learn about something new not just daily but almost hourly. I have connected with educators in other countries and even to people in charge of the Department of Education in Iowa. I have connected with professionals in the science field and with some awesome educators. I know that if I have a question, there are many who follow me who may be able to give me an answer. Twitter is the primary source for my personal professional development and it really is the one tool that I could not teach without.
Biggest Tips I Have for Twitter Beginners
- Don’t be too selective who you follow initially, you can always unfollow down the road. Do not be afraid to follow people you may not agree with, that is part of our learning experience.
- Use a program like Tweetdeck in your Chrome browser as it makes it much easier to follow different subjects using hashtags.
- Know that it is ok to lurk during weekly chats. Do not feel like you have to post right away but the best learning takes place when you do start posting.
- Be professional. Remember that anything you put online will reflect on you as a teacher and make sure you do not post anything that can damage your career.
- Follow people outside of teaching too. I follow many different scientists as well as NFL writers and teams. I have even won contests using Twitter so it can be for fun as well as for work.