Top 5 Reasons Why Twitter Makes Me a Better Teacher

I have been on Twitter for almost 5 years now (started in July 2011), and I can honestly say that it has been a great decision since day one.  Probably there are lots of people who haven’t evaluated their Twitter decision, but I wonder if the reason I did is because I use it solely for my professional life (where I am often evaluating the effectiveness of decisions I make).  Nope, no celebrities or sports figures on my “following” list; I follow other educators (of all levels, not just the one I teach), authors, librarians, principals, consultants, instructional coaches and other related to education.  I do also have a few family members (although they don’t really tweet), and also news organizations because even thought they are not teachers, they inform my teaching and keep me informed as a person.  I decided that meant they fit the criteria.

I went back to look at if I had already written this post (sometimes I have the same thoughts over and over LOL), and realized I haven’t really ever done that.  I did write about the fact that I use Twitter in a reflection I wrote for grad school a few years ago, and I wrote a post called Why I Blog, inspired by educator and author David Warlick (@dwarlick).  I realized I mentioned Twitter in that post, but only the fact that I’m on it–not why.

So I guess in some ways this post is five years in the making–hopefully that doesn’t mean it will be five-years long!  Here we go!

  • Personalized Professional Learning–in my pjs!:  Because I have been particular with who I follow, I am pretty certain that every time I log on to Twitter I will read a tweet that includes something I didn’t know.  Whether it’s someone who’s tweeting from a conference they’re attending, someone tweeting an article they’re reading (or have written!), a blogger publicizing their latest post, someone tweet a meanginful quote, a chat in which I’m participating about a specific topic or just a statement about the day, I feel smarter for having spent that time there reading.  Sometimes I am able to read the whole thing right then, but often I will retweet or save the tweet for later so I can find it when I have more time.  Either way, I am able to cater the learning I am doing to my needs, on my time, and like I mentioned before, to where I am (and what I’m wearing!).
  • Publicizing: While it’s certainly not the only thing, having someone to read the blog you’re writing is kind of an essential thing to keeping a blog going and having a conversation.  I use Twitter as a place to publicize my blogs, as well as the ones that my students write.   I use hashtags to add to the readership, and cater them to the topic of the post I wrote.  For my students’ writing there is always #comments4kids, and some typical hashtags I add are #2ndchat (2nd grade teachers), #1stchat (because I taught 1st grade last year and many things I write about could apply to that grade as well), #moedchat (MO educators), #ksdpd (my school district), #803learns (my school’s new hashtag), #tlap (Teaching Like a Pirate), #LearnLap (Learn Like a Pirate), #elemmathchat (elementary math educators) and #miched (Michigan educators–just met many of them in a chat last week!).  Often I add in ones specific to ELA (#rwworkshop, #tcrwp, #kidlitchat), science (#elemscichat) or social studies #elemsschat).  I could really go on forever with hashtags because they are kind of endless, but adding them can maximize the number of people who see my posts as they far outreach the number of followers I have.
  • Quick Sharing: Sometimes I do have time to write a blog (at least not at that moment), so I use my Twitter feed (@jenbearden) or our class Twitter feed (@jbeardensclass) to share what we’re doing through out the day.
  • Collaboration: One of the BEST things about Twitter (maybe I should have put these in order!) is that it has allowed me the opportunity to connect and collaborate with classes and teachers from all over the world–something I would not have been able to do otherwise.  I forged a relationship with a fabulous educator in Australia early on (Hi, Tam!) and even 5 years and a couple of grade-level changes later, we’re still working together because of our connection on Twitter. I have found many connections on Twitter that allow me to bounce ideas off of others (even if I don’t really know them I know that they’ll respond).  One of the best layers of collaboration that I’ve found lately is the ability to reach out to authors.  It really is mind-blowing to 2nd graders (ok, sometimes to me, too!) that the REAL author of the book they just read would take time to talk to them and answer their questions.  We’ve been able to connect with many fabulous writers this year and I LOVE LOVE LOVE that my kiddos are now the ones who suggest that we tweet at them our thoughts.  Some of our favorites are Ralph Fletcher (he might be our bestie by now; we LOVE his books and he has become a mentor to my students as he has been to me for years and years; Betty Birney (she came to our school so we reached out to her before she came and told her how excited we were); Mary Casanova (also visited our school and we shared our favorite parts of her books); Kate Klise (we had a super author visit with her and have since asked her some writing questions), Marla Frazee and Maribeth Boelts (used their books for a craft study last year and still tweet to them when we find new books by them this year), and Charles R. Smith, Jr. who wrote an important text we used in Social Studies recently.  Lastly, my kiddos have been able to connect with other classes from around the world simply via tweets on our class feed or even better with Mystery Skype–which are set up through teachers on Twitter.
  • Validation:  Sometimes you just need to hear someone else say you’re doing a good job, you know?  While I by no means do what I do for a pat on the back, or to toot my horn, but it does feel really nice when someone else agrees that what you’re doing is a good idea.  Having someone retweet your idea or respond to you and tell you they agree with your thought feels good.  Often it doesn’t even take anything on the other end, but just for me to see that someone is doing something similar based on their tweets or retweets.  This often happens during chats (which could fit into the collaboration section, too), as you can talk to other educators about a common topic, learning and growing together, as you share ideas.

I’m not even sure that this covers all the bases (I’m sure that as soon as I hit PUBLISH I’ll think of something else I’ll want to go back and add), and in some ways it’s hard to even put it into words how much I feel like Twitter is an important resource for me.   I’m hoping that this list at least gives some small idea of it’s great possibilities for helping both me and my students explore and connect with the world!

Why do you use Twitter?  What would you add to my list?  Leave a comment and tell us what you think!!  🙂

 

 

 

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