Let’s face it—teachers out there often work in isolation, even in today’s “collaborative” world. We struggle to find the time to collaborate, often rushing through the process, then we hole ourselves up in our rooms trying to work through lunch.
Even if we want to collaborate and we’re able to find the time, it’s often tough to find—well—the people. My department has nine people including four dual-certified teachers who are currently serving in other departments.
This makes it nearly impossible to find a large group of colleagues working on enough of the same material at the same time to generate a large-scale brainstorming session. This is the case with most schools, and it results in the loss of many successful teaching moments that could have gone viral.
Twitter Chats: A Love Affair
That is why I’m so in love with Twitter chats. Like most people, I had some logistical difficulties to overcome in the beginning—like trying to explain my thoughts in 140 characters or less—that’s shorter than a Hallmark card written by an English major untouched by ed reform. I also had to remember to temporarily disconnect my Facebook and Twitter in order to avoid spamming Facebook with a thousand tweets to which my Facebook friends would not be privy.
In those chats, however, I found that there is a very large group of collaborators, colleagues, motivational cheerleaders, and “professional friends” waiting to inspire me. While difficult to brainstorm in small departments locally, the law of large numbers virtually guarantees that everyone will find a collaborator during Twitter chats. This is especially true during some of the larger chats. I know I will always get tons of tips from teachers as inspired as I am about history, social justice, using hands-on learning, looking to be early adopters of key ed tech apps, or just plain seeking a small bit of inspiration. And I am grateful to them.
The Superheroes Of Twitter
One of my personal favorite chats is Social Studies Chat (#sschat). It’s fast-paced and full of ideas. So many ideas, in fact, that I find myself with about seven open windows, and sometimes even a laptop, desktop and a phone side by side. I use every multitasking neuron in my brain to keep up, disobeying the research that tells us multitasking will be the downfall of the universe.
Last week, I even simultaneously curated a board on Learnist while I was participating, because the ideas about hands-on learning were so good that I wanted something more than the standard chat archive tweeted out after the chat. I wanted the ideas right there in front of me, so I could access, share and use the information I had gathered immediately.
There are many people I credit for the success of these chats. One of the first people I discovered in chats was Cybraryman. Cybraryman, “digital curator of the Twitter chat world,” is actually an educator by the name of Jerry Blumengarten. Blumengarten has over thirty years experience in education and he is a true Twitter superhero. He maintains a stellar compendium of resources available to the public on his website and he can be found in several Tweet chats weekly using the handle @cybraryman1.
One of the extremely helpful things in his collection is an organizer of Twitter chats arranged by time and subject, helping participants to find chats easily. His website, Cybraryman.com curates this and other critical educational information, cataloguing over twenty-thousand pieces for parents, students, teachers and educational leaders—in short, it’s one-stop shopping for all stakeholders in education.
Another person I have encountered on several chats is author, literacy expert, and educational coach Christopher Lehman. Lehman, who himself teaches and dedicates his time to helping other teachers, is a senior staff developer at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University. He has authored and co-authored several works on Common Cores, teaching, and literacy as well as other topics which he also addresses on his blog. You will find Lehman contributing to Tweet chats under the handle @ichrislehman.
I recently crashed a #Satchat where I was able to encounter some truly inspirational educational leaders. Here’s my confession–#satchat is a chat for administrators. I’m not an administrator, but I’ll hang with the visionaries if it’ll give me some good ideas. The topic of this week’s chat was “ways to recognize teachers and students,” led by Scott Rocco. Rocco is an Assistant Superintendent and adjunct professor who, in addition to co-moderating #satchat, authors an excellent blog, Evolving Educators which discusses topics from global educational leadership to technology.
A surprise connection I made through the #satchat, who is also featured on Scott Rocco’s blog, was Principal Salome Thomas-El. He is one of the public inspirations to whom I turn when I need to refocus myself on how and why I teach. Principal Thomas El’s students have traveled the nation defeating world leaders and dignitaries in chess—a game he uses to teach critical life strategies like thinking ahead, planning, and the use of analytical skills. His blog, The Principal, keeps me thinking. Additionally, he can be found on national TV shows like Dr. Oz stepping in to make a difference in the lives of families. Principal Thomas El co-authored the books The Immortality of Influence: We Can Build the Best Minds of the Next Generation and I Chose to Stay, a memoir about his experiences teaching in inner city Philadelphia.
These are just a few of the masked Twitterheroes of the cyberworld seeking to change the face of education. The beauty of these Twitter chats is that we can all interact with them, get advice from them, and offer thoughts of our own. This is the true essence of collaboration, and thanks to Twitter chats, I am doing a lot more of it.
Add Your Superheroes!
Want to share the love for someone not mentioned in this article? There’s certainly no shortage of amazing tweeters out there so be sure to mention them down in the comments!
Image courtesy: The Heavy Chef