November’s EdTechTeacher’s iPad Summit (which, by the way, I found through Twitter) completely amazed, overwhelmed, challenged, and inspired me. I left feeling empowered about the 1:1 iPad environment in which I was teaching and excited about the possibilities of technology inside and outside of my classroom.
I also left the conference with a mild addiction to Twitter. Mild as in I stopped taking notes within the first 5 minutes of the keynote when I realized that I could just tweet the links for great resources, apps, articles, images, videos… And went from following one or two people to dozens of the brightest stars in the edtech realm – including the EdTechTeacher staff and some pretty amazing teachers I met at the conference.
Like I said, it was a *mild* addiction. It went something like this:
Presenter: I’ve used ______ with my students…
(Frantic search – copy link – insert witty comment – hashtag – tweet – done).
Repeat … several hundred times.
But it was more than just a running list of sites to check out and apps to investigate. It was a conversation – those seemingly silly #hashtags and @symbols were the not-so-secret keys to phenomenal discussion. Using the hashtag #ettipad in my tweets made my ideas visible to others both at and away from the conference. By following tweets by others at the conference, I was linked to things that were happening everywhere in the conference facility – in other rooms there were other wonders of information just waiting for me to explore – all in real time. Tagging other users in my tweets led to a public/private discussion – and I connected to even more educators and resources as we bantered in our 140 character blurbs.
My November tweets were frantic – a rushed effort to somehow document the torrent of information that surrounded me in presentations, online conversations, and Google excursions. And then, for a while, I was over Twitter. There was just too much there – too many nuggets or hunks of information to digest and it all seemed overwhelming. I fell off the bandwagon for a few weeks – but have recently rediscovered its utility.
The people I had connected to in my PLN (personal learning network) share amazing materials about all aspects of education. Articles about the importance of rhetoric, critical thinking, and emotional intelligence or another article giving teachers a crash course on cellphone use in the classroom. Articles like this would have been buried in the vastness of the web for eternity – but I read them because they appeared in my feed.
Exploring the hashtags #FormativeAssessment or #ProjectBasedLearning results in a wealth of information, opinions, and ideas. But also challenges. And questions. It’s not just endless posts gushing about the glory of current educational trends – but a dialogue.
As a teacher, I have made a commitment to Twitter-time. At some point during the day – be it when I have finished an exhausting task or can’t cope with said task anymore – I will check Twitter – usually through other avenues like Flipboard or HootSuite. Few of the people I follow post anything about themselves; I’m not reading the drivel of status updates and attention seeking blasts people think of when they first learn about Twitter. My PLN cronies post links to the articles they’ve read, the trends they’re following, and proud updates about their students’ work and accomplishments. They ask for advice. They post questions. We collaborate across the country and continents, and I can engage as much or as little as I want.
For me, Twitter is a way of consuming information targeted to my interests. Using a hashtag like #sschat connects me to topics that will interest and intrigue Social Studies teachers – from all walks of life – and all because I know what to look for. Twitter isn’t overwhelming anymore – it’s incredible. I’ve connected myself to an extensive personal learning network of educators, entrepreneurs, and innovators through a little bird – and found it the best professional development I’ve never paid for.
Be sure to follow Denise Danielle Scavitto on Twitter @dscavitto. Thumbnail via aralbalkan.com