By CUE guest blogger Jo-Ann Fox
Twitter has become a powerful place for educators to collaborate and to build a strong Personal Learning Network (PLN). Social media has redefined how teachers connect and collaborate with each other. At one time collaboration meant meeting with your grade level teams once a month within your own school.
Now, with the power of Twitter, educators are collaborating far beyond their school walls and all throughout the week. While I can come up with pretty new and innovative ideas while planning inside my classroom, I can gain so much more from sharing my ideas, curating ideas, and connecting with other educators to collaborate about even more inspiring ideas. This movement of becoming a connected educator is known as creating a Personal Learning Network (PLN). Using Twitter to become a connected educator empowers you to personalize your professional development. I will even go far enough to say that becoming a connected educator is a Teacher Superpower!
I tweet. What is your superpower?
Connect with Other Educators
Twitter is the place where I go to connect with other educators. This isn’t where I follow family members or friends from high school; I leave that stuff for Facebook. Twitter is my place of learning. This is where I follow educators who inspire me and challenge me to be a better teacher. You can find teachers to follow by visiting my Twitter profile and seeing who I follow or follow some of the speakers from a recent conference you attended. Once you start following others, they will begin to follow you back, especially if you are not an “egghead” (meaning you have added an image to your Twitter account) and you have included a bio about yourself that explains what grade level you teach and what your special interests in teaching are.
Curate Your Learning
Just what are teachers and educators tweeting about? Educators are are tweeting out links to articles, photos of their classrooms, quoting speakers at educational conferences, and sharing inspiring ideas about what is happening in their classrooms. Many educators who find 140 characters are just not enough to share their idea extend their Tweets to blog posts (which are then shared on Twitter).
One of my favorite lessons from last year came from a tweet by Lisa Highfill (@lhighfill). She tweeted about a QR code scavenger hunt she designed for her fifth graders. I was so inspired and excited about her idea that I asked if she would share her resources with me. In less than an hour, she shared her entire lesson via a Google doc. I was then able to adapt the lesson for my 4th graders and before I knew it, I had one of the most memorable math lessons of the year. And yes, this entire collaborative conversation happened in a series of Tweets that were 140 characters or less. (You can read about the lesson in my blog post here.)
Collaborate: The Power is in the Hashtag
This is perhaps THE most important part of using Twitter for professional development. The superpower is truly in the hashtag. Basically the hashtag is the pound symbol followed by words without spaces. For example, #thepowerisinthehashtag. Twitter created the hashtag as a way to categorize tweets and make them searchable. Now let me explain the hashtag a bit better. There are four main reasons educators use the hashtag.
Educational Categories: When I am tweeting about a great app that I use in the classroom, I usually follow my tweet with the hashtag #iosedapp. Many people in education use this hashtag to share apps so if I want to find all the tweets about this topic I can go into the search window in Twitter and type #iosedapp, then select “all” and I can see all the tweets on Twitter with this tag. There are MANY educational hashtags out there. Just do a quick search for “educational hashtags” and you will find all of the resources you need.
Educational Conferences: If you attend an educational conference there will usually be an official conference hashtag. For example, if you attended the Annual CUE Conference last spring, people were using the tag #CUE13. The tag was used to share what people were learning while in sessions. But the truly amazing thing about conference hashtags is that the tweets not only share with others who are attending the conference, but they are also shared with those who are not at the conference and are using Twitter to follow the conference feed. If you happen to be at a conference that has not created an official tag, be the one to create one and share with others the power of Twitter.
Just for Fun: Sometimes people use the hashtag as a sort of a joke or just to be silly or witty. Here are some examples of “just for fun” tags: #EduAwesome, #EduWin, #SaidNoTeacherEver.
Educational Chats (known as edchats): On any given day, at any given time, you will see some educational chat trending on Twitter. I kid you not! An edchat is a group of educators meeting on a certain day, at a certain time, to discuss educational issues. For example, every Sunday at 8pm Pacific Standard Time California educators collaborate using the hashtag #caedchat which stands for California Edchat. Again, if you do a quick search you will find resources for edchats about any educational topic you can think of. Every grade level has an edchat, every content area has an edchat, and even special interest groups, like #flipclass, have their own edchats. You do not need to be invited to join these chats. If you have an interest in the chat, then feel free to join!
My favorite thing about participating in edchats is making new connections with educators. If you participate in an edchat, be sure to follow your new #edubuddies and continue the conversation all week long by using the official chat hashtag on your tweets.
You now have the power in your hands. Using Twitter for professional development is entirely dependent upon you, your level of commitment, and considered a great way to access personalized professional development. If you just visit Twitter every now and then, your learning will be minimal. However, if you make connections, curate content, participate in edchats, find colleagues in your area willing to meet with you for a #CoffeeCue, and begin to add to the steady flow of educational discussions you will certainly be a changed educator forever. I wholeheartedly believe that joining fellow educators on Twitter will impact you and your classroom more than you think.
Just try it. What do you have to lose?
Want to Learn More About PLNs? Check out these additional articles that go into more detail about your Personal Learning Network (PLN):
- David Theriault: What’s a PLN (Personal Learning Network)? It’s a SuperHero Team Chosen By YOU!
- Jen Wagner: To Blog or Not To Blog…Is No Longer a Question
- Karl Lindgren-Streicher: G+ The Next Frontier
Jo-Ann Fox is a 4th grade teacher in Escondido, CA who strives to seamlessly innovate with technology in her classroom. She is a Google Certified Teacher and was a semi-finalist for 2012 California Teacher of the Year. Jo-Ann is a co-founder and co-moderator of California Edchat and a co-planner for Edcamp San Diego. You can follower her on Twitter @AppEducationFox or visit her blog at AppEducation.com.