Few can argue the need to keep up to date in your field. In the same way that I would want a doctor who is current and knowledgeable in new methods, treatments, and techniques, I would want a teacher who is continually learning about the best their field has to offer and modifying their practices accordingly.
I thought that I was doing fairly well in the area of professional development before joining Twitter and creating a teaching account. I would attend at least one conference per year, would take advantage of webinars on topics I could stand to learn more about, and would quite frequently read online articles related to teaching and classrooms. I thought that I was even further ahead of many others, as I would test different methods in class with my students and wasn’t afraid to change the way I taught based on the results I got.
However, I must now admit that I was wrong. I was failing to take advantage of quite a powerful development tool – one that was free to use, on top of it!
Twitter has the ability to connect you to the world. More than enough people are using it for you to find and build a network of like-minded individuals who are interested in learning about the same topics as you. They are willing to interact and share ideas with you, and also offer support and advice when you encounter a ‘roadblock’. You can find someone who is knowledgeable in just about any area of need, and also offer your own expertise to others – all with the common goal of improving education.
Seems hard to imagine why I was so late to hop on the train! After some reflection on the matter, I came to the conclusion that the problem wasn’t the effectiveness of the media, but rather the reputation of the media.
Hashtags are thrown around left and right on television, and you are constantly hearing about Tweeting Tweens and following celebrities through every moment or thought of their day. It seemed as though it were something that I had ‘grown out of’ without ever having tried. I had no interest in telling the world where I was or what I was doing, let alone interact with reality television by sharing such wisdom as ‘luv da shw nvr miss it’.
What I had failed to do was to look past the hype. Beyond the crowd of people who I would not want to interact with was a whole bunch of people who I would. Dedicated educators from all around the world who share resources, apps, ideas, and anything that could help to inspire thinking and better teaching practices for students everywhere.
At first it was difficult. After joining I had no followers, and also followed no one. It takes some time to start developing your PLN (professional/personal learning network). If you want to create a haven for professional development, it’s important that you are critical about the people you include in your list. You want to add the ones who can bring something to your table; the ones who are willing to share and interact with you and others.
Then, there are the chats. My first chat was quite a learning experience! It was difficult to jump in, as I felt that I had little understanding of how it was done. Once I got into it, however, I found that I was enjoying it very much. Because so many users are participating at the same time, it becomes more like a conversation about education than just a bunch of posts. I have gained a few resources by participating in chats so far, and look forward to gaining even more in the future!
Beyond the tangible/useable resources I have gained, Twitter has also done fantastically with keeping me up to date on new trends in education. Users share articles and their thoughts/experiences on new ideas constantly. Imagine – one place where you can find an entire listing (linked to articles!) of concepts related to your field, which is updated each minute by users from around the world.
In short, Twitter has made it possible for me to connect with people I never would have been able to meet had I remained within my school and community. It has substantially more interaction than any webinar or article, and also is fantastic for keeping up to date with the latest ideas and theories in education.
With all honesty, every teachers in the 21st century should give it a try. It won’t take long to reap the benefits of the effort you put into Twitter. Even those who are ‘technologically resistant’ can learn to use this tool with relative ease.
I am a better teacher because of Twitter, and am very grateful that I made the choice to give it a go!
By Jennifer Rita Nichols, @JennritaEdu