Sunday, November 18, 2012

Twitter: How and Why, An Educator's Perspective by Gary Feltman

           At first I didn't get it. Now I'm hooked. I’ve been using Twitter for almost a year. I’ve learned so much, and I have so much more to learn. I'd like to share how and why I use Twitter by describing my experiences, examples, and opinions. At the end of this posting, you will find links to articles and blog postings by education professionals about Twitter.

I use Twitter to enhance what I do as an educator by:
   Learning about educational technology and professional development opportunities.
   Building a PLN.
   Reading news tailored to my interests.
   Using hashtags for education and inspiration.
   Keeping up with tech trends, research, and resources.
   Reading about other professionals’ experiences.

            I've been using Twitter for almost a year. I began using it to bookmark resources; links, articles, or tools I could use in the classroom. My very first tweet was How Twitter is Changing Professional Development for Educators which opened up my eyes to a whole new world.  Since my first tweet, there have been many posts about how educators are using Twitter.

Professional Development

When I hear "professional development," the first thoughts that come to mind are: 1-6 hours in a room, hoping the presenter is good, hoping the content is useful, and hoping the PD session is worth my time. Twitter puts an end to those concerns. I choose how much time I spend. I choose the people, content, and resources to follow. Since I choose the links/articles to read, I know the information is worth my time; if it's not I move on to other information.

When I attend a PD conference, I can pick and choose sessions that will help me improve instruction and learning in the classroom. Some sessions are winners; some are losers.  The conference website posts links to most presentations and presenter’s links. Twitter allows me to share this information with my followers. I tweet links I can refer back to. I follow presenters; the presenters Tweet their presentations, new information, other useful links. Through Twitter, I find other conferences throughout the nation and the world. Even though I may not be able to physically attend, I can find links to useful resources and presentations from those conferences.

Twitter often provides quick blips of information. l prefer lists (top 5, top 10, 25 ways, 100 links....etc). I like bullets so I can quickly find relevant information. When I find information to be useful to my situation I will dive deeper and spend more time studying. I try to make efficient use of my time by finding and applying information as necessary.

Building my PLN

I didn't know what a PLN was until I joined Twitter. Now I understand networking for professional purposes, I view it as an integral part of my profession.

Yes, Twitter does seem a lot like it’s about “I.” I choose who to follow; mostly ed-tech professionals and other educators with similar interests and objectives. I choose the resources I get to view. In return, others follow me if they’re interested in what I have to say. Through this process, I have a lot of information at my fingertips. I choose how long I study the information. With this in mind, all educators can learn a lot from each other from sharing info and resources.

One of my favorite blog/tweets of all time is by Jason Markey @jmarkeyap The Principal Dropout: Why I stopped pursuing my PhD in Favor of my PLN. I get it. I totally agree. I can honestly say this blog and post changed my view regarding learning and applying new information; this helped me confirm my thoughts about using your strengths and resources to apply relevant information in your life. 

One thing that bothers me about research, which I learned from writing my Master's thesis, is that it is such a long process to research and write one scholarly paper. By the time the committee approves this process (years later) the research is old. Should the committee and other experts deem it worthwhile, it may get published. When it gets published, people can find it either through their academic library membership, or by paying. This process takes years. To me this doesn’t make sense.  Compare this to reading a recent blog post from an expert in the field, willing to share it knowing that somebody may find it useful in significantly less time. Twitter allows sharing of crowd-sourced blogs and resources in real-time. Technology trends move at such a rapid rate, it would be ridiculous to wait even 1 year to research, write, and publish a technology article that would be outdated by the time that process was complete.

I'm very pleased with my PLN. It allows me to have useful resources at my fingertips. My PLN keeps me informed. I don't see it as an obligation. I view it as a relaxing activity in an online environment to learn and study relevant information.

News of Interest

I stopped watching the news a few years back. Waking up listening about murder, hearing expert opinions on hypothetical scenarios, political debates, government corruption…etc, is not a very motivating way to start your day. Over the years, I’ve also come to realize that the only news you see on TV is the news that the media wants you to see. On Twitter, I tailor the news to the type of news I want to hear about. If there is a news story important enough to know, either the people I follow will Tweet about it or people I work with in the physical world will tell me about it. If I want to know more about this, I will type in a hashtag, and receive real-time updates, photos, and opinions from people experiencing the event.

One example of this is Hurricane Sandy on the east coast. I was on Twitter, and people involved in the storm on the east coast were taking pictures and posting them on Twitter. These photos would get retweeted. I was watching actual photos of the storm as it was happening. To be clear, it’s not my intent to glamourize a catastrophic event; the goal here is to compare Twitter to mainstream media news. As I was on Twitter, I thought maybe I should watch the news. I turned on the news, and they were covering the hurricane too; only it was quite different. It was a reporter standing in the rain, far from the actual disaster, answering questions and giving opinions of hypothetical scenarios of the damage the storm may cause, for example the type of damage salt water may do to the NY subway. My point is, I learned more about the effects of the storm from tweeted camera images and Youtube videos a lot sooner than I did from watching the mainstream news channel.

Educational Hashtags

It took me a while to undestand what a hashtag is and how to use it. I think the hashtag is one of the best inventions ever. I search the hashtags #inspiration #motivation and #leadership to find inspirational quotes, stories and resources. Experts in this field post inspirational quotes or have links to list on how to self-motivate or improve leadership skills.

One of my favorite motivational quotes posted via @lifehackorg is “Either you run the day or the day runs you.” Powerful quotes like this first thing in the morning or just before I go to bed can make a huge difference in the way I feel about myself. I re-tweet the same advice to my followers in hopes this brightens up their day too. Many times I share it with my students as necessary and it seems to make a huge positive difference.

Lately, I’ve been participating in education chats through hashtags with other educators and professionals. These moderated chats generally take place once a week for about an hour, then are archived. #globalchat on Saturday morning is interesting as it allows one to see expert viewpoints on global education. I enjoy #1stchat to hear about 1st grade parents and teachers points of view so I can have a better perspective of my daughter’s education. Recently I participated in my first full #1to1echat moderated by @leydenasci discussing 1:1 topics. It was an excellent discussion that offered many insights indo curriculum and instruction by many experts. Often times, well-known online educational technology experts will make guest appearances in these chats to offer their advice or resources.

Tech Trends and Research

Twitter helps me quickly learn the new technology trends about technology, education, and social media. This information is crowd-sourced from technology companies, research experts, and professionals in the fields.

            What do I do with this information? I look at the tech trends, and I see if I’m familiar with the trend. If I’m not, I research further and see if I should get involved in the trend: I see if it will enhance anything I do, see if it will assist in increasing efficiency of reaching my goals, or just to see if I’m already a part of the trend.

            It’s always good to be familiar with the latest research. The sooner I find out the research the better, so I can share it with others that would be interested or begin applying it myself in the classroom and to improve my quality of life.

            In addition to trends and research, many other teachers with a passion for technology know and share excellent resources, links with endless materials, lessons, ideas, interactive websites, educational apps and so much more. I try to organize these resources in an easy to find manner. This way, when my colleagues or I need ideas or resources to enhance a particular lesson, I can find them easily, share, and assist them in enhancing their lessons. One of my favorite examples of an online resources created by Jerry Blumengarten @cybraryman1 categorizes many resources by teacher tool, class and grade, or subject/content area. Another one of my favorites is by Kathy Schrock @kathyschrock lists educational resources by category. Not only do these ed-tech experts provide you with resources; if you ask them a question, they’re pretty good about getting back to you right away with a great response or resource. This makes Twitter even more awesome!

Learn and Share Experiences

Some teachers are better writers than others. The really good writers (combined with being good teachers) enjoy writing and blogging about their experiences. It’s good to read about their experiences, successes and challenges in the classroom, because I can relate to this experience; especially if its either math, special ed, or ed-tech related. One of my favorite education bloggers is @pernilleripp because I can relate to her views and postings, and in my opinion she models appropriate digital citizenship behavior by blogging and responding to comments. Recently, she posted an interesting blog about un-following Twitter followers.

At first I thought blogging was weird…why would I want to hear about some else’s experience. Then I realized if I find bloggers I can relate to, I follow them and learn a lot! It’s like hearing about your colleagues experience in their classrooms, except this is a similar classroom in another part of the world. These teachers have the same objectives and goals and mind as I do: providing the best possible experience for the students to enhance the overall teaching/learning/exploring experience. So when I read about other’s experiences, I get an understanding of things I’m already doing well, other things I could be doing to improve my lesson, knowing that others face similar struggles as I do, or even anticipate struggles they’re already experienced in their classrooms.

           The experience through Twitter has led me to a greater appreciation for other’s blogs, as well as starting my own. I knowingly admit my blogs are nowhere near as good as people who do write for a living or have been blogging for a long time; but I do feel I have some really good ideas. I have found that writing about my ideas and thoughts helps me think about my experiences and helps me gain understanding of said topics. It’s a bit therapeutic. Also, other people may benefit from reading my thoughts. The way I see it, if my blog or thoughts change one person’s life, I’ve made a positive difference.

Final Thoughts

There are other ways to use Twitter as well as including in the classroom and for entertainment purposes. Everybody uses Twitter differently, and for different reasons. Upon seeing Twitter for the first time, regardless of the context or purpose, it seems as people just put their thoughts and opinions out there for whatever situation. Should one look a little closer, and surround themselves with professionals, there is a world of creating and sharing the best crowd-sourced education resources. 

            Thank you for reading. Comments are welcome. Below is a list of Twitter articles, links, and blogs I’ve gathered relating to Twitter.

Links & Resources

Twitter for Educators (Professional Development)

How Twitter is Reinventing Collaboration Among Educators

How Twitter is Changing Professional Development for Educators

Teachers Use Twitter As Their Preferred CPD Tool by MentorMob

Blog post: Using Twitter as a Professional Development Tool
25 Ways to Use Twitter to Improve your Professional Development

25 Twitter Tips for your Professional Development

Can Twitter Replace Professional Development

Using Twitter as a Professional Development Tool

Twitter for PLNs

PLN Challenge: Using Twitter To Build Your PLN

Building and Maintaining an Online PLC

Why and How You Should Create a Personal Learning Network

Rebuilding a PLN "Twitter is What Twitter Does"

1133 Educational Leaders to Kickstart Your Twitter Feed

Twitter, Social Media Guidelines and Suggestions

30 Twitter Community Management Tips

12 Most Must Have Habitudes for Social Media Success

Teacher's Smart Guide to Social Media

Social Media Lessons for High School Students (video)

On Social Media and the Power of Real World Serendipity

Social Media: Guidelines for Administrators

Will it Take Another Suicide Before Parents Start Talking To Their Teens About Twitter

Educational Chats & Hashtags

Cybraryman's Educational Hashtags Website

The 2012 A-Z List of Educational Twitter Hashtags

Sneak Preview: The Must Have Guide to Educational Hashtags

50 Great Twitter Chats in Academia

Twitter in Education and the Classroom

Educators Finding Time NOT to Tweet

Tweeting for Schools

How Twitter Can Be Used as a Powerful Educational Tool

100 Ways To Use Twitter in Education by Degree of Difficulty

50 Things for Teachers to do on Twitter

It's Official: Twitter Makes Students More Engaged

“Using Twitter Makes Students More Engaged” (study)

50 Ways to Use Twitter in the Classroom

An Educator's Guide to Twitter

Is This a Problem? Twitter in the Classroom.

Everything else Twitter

26 Twitter Tips for Enhancing your Tweets

Why is Twitter so Powerful?

How Twitter Changed Everything

The 6 Type of Twitter Trolls

Buy and Sell Tweets

We Need Legally Protected Tweets

Twagiarism: Does a Copyright Protect a Tweet?

45 Simple Twitter Tips Everyone Should Know About

How Do You Cite a Tweet In an Academic Paper

Fake Outrage on Twitter: Being Tricked into Retweeting People Manipulating You


  1. When I hear "professional development," the first thoughts that come to mind are: 1-6 hours in a room, hoping the presenter is good, hoping the content is useful, and hoping the PD session is worth my time.

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  2. NICE BLOG!!! Technical education is a study of technology, in which students "learn about the processes and knowledge related to technology". As a study, it covers the human ability to shape and change the physical world to meet needs, by manipulating materials and tools with techniques. Thanks for sharing a nice information.
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