There comes a point when we have to acknowledge that one-size-fits-all professional development isn’t cutting it. Just as the students in your class need to be treated as individual learners, so do you, as their teacher. And while your district may offer workshops and webinars, there’s another PD resource right at your fingertips. It’s open 24-7, connects educators from around the globe, and covers countless topics across grade levels and subject areas.
We know what you might be thinking. Twitter? Another social media site for me to check? There aren’t enough hours in the day! Well, we have good news for you. You can spend as much or as little time as you want exploring ideas—wherever and whenever you want. Twitter is a giant professional learning network (PLN) that helps teachers step outside of their classrooms and schools. Together they problem-solve, share, and refine their craft as educators.
We’ve assembled a guide to making the most of Twitter as a PD tool for tweeting pros and hashtag newbies alike.
To get the scoop on Twitter as PD, we spoke with two tweeting teachers, Lyssa Sahadevan (@lyssareads), a first-grade teacher at East Side Elementary in Marietta, Georgia, and Allison Hogan (@), a transitional kindergarten/first-grade teacher at the Episcopal School of Dallas.
Instructor: For teachers who have never been on Twitter before and have just created an account, where should they start?
Allison: My first piece of advice is to take the time to create your profile. When someone follows me, I look at their profile to see if they’re a teacher, principal, etc. Also, follow people in your school community to see how they use it.
Lyssa: A friend of mine took an online Twitter how-to. She was so overwhelmed! I suggested she just go for it, and that route worked for her.
Instructor: When it’s time to start tweeting, what’s your best advice?
Allison: Start with a chat in your comfort zone, like your grade level or content area. Move to larger groups once you get the format down.
Lyssa: I started simple with #1stchat (first-grade chat) and just sat on the sidelines!
Instructor: How do you start to form a PLN out of a sea of strangers?
Lyssa: It all starts with hitting reply. If something speaks to you (and you might not always be in agreement), you reply. A conversation ensues. You retweet them, they retweet you, you ask questions and share resources. You might meet them in person one day at a conference. It’s awkward, but it’s also exciting! You already know you have something in common.
Instructor: How do you maximize your Twitter time without it taking over life?
Allison: I investigate topics and lean toward what I will need and what I have to offer. Think strengths and weaknesses.
Lyssa: I often miss my favorite chats because the times do not work, so I devote a little Saturday-morning coffee time to going through the archives. I pick and choose. If I’m working on an improving math workshop, I make time to attend the chat. If there is a conference going on, I try to check in on Twitter or make a note of the hashtag so I can follow.
Instructor: In terms of social media, do you think Twitter has something unique to offer teachers that Facebook and other platforms don’t?
Allison: Twitter is way better than Facebook just because of the access—meaning a hashtag can unite hundreds of educators at one time and for a purpose. I can also ask a question using the same hashtag, and it will reach those who follow the hashtag, so more ideas will flow.
Lyssa: The openness of Twitter is unbelievable. The year I co-taught, I posted a tweet asking for tips. At least 10 or 15 teachers reached out to me with advice, special education resources, and blog posts. It was so encouraging! These teachers were strangers who just wanted to help. I had expert advice immediately.
Allison: Once teachers see the effects of Twitter, it will be easy to transition to a class account to share their work and wonderings with the world. I feel Twitter and Skype have torn down the walls of my classroom.
Hashtags are keywords that categorize what you’re tweeting about. For instance, you might use “#edtech” at the end of a tweet about how your students use tablets. You can also search Twitter for a hashtag that you’re interested in. This will bring up tweets from other users who have tweeted about that topic. Here’s a look at some (but definitely not all) of the most popular education hashtags.
General education: #teaching, #teachers, #learning, #k12, #PLN, #edreform, #commoncore, #ccss, #teacherproblems, #edcamp, #globaled
Educational technology: #edtech, #elearning, #edapp (or #edapps), #byod, #blendinglearning, #ipaded, #1to1
Content or grade-level specific:
Literacy: #kidlit, #literacy, #readaloud
Math: #math, #mathed
Science: #scied, #STEM, #NGSS, #scienceteacher
Social studies: #socialstudies, #historyteacher
Arts: #artsed, #musiced
Early childhood: #earlyed, #preschool, #ece
ESL: #esl, #ell (or #ells)
Special education: #sped, #specialneeds, #autism, #dyslexia
Physical education: #PEgeeks
Speech and language: #SLpeeps, #speech
Other hashtags to note:
#tlap: Inspired by Dave Burgess’s (@burgessdave) Teach Like a Pirate
#comments4kids: Denotes when teachers want others to comment on students’ blog posts.
#flipclass: The latest and greatest ideas about flipped learning
Educators join up for Twitter chats every day of the week. Moderators pose questions to keep the discussion on topic. Everyone uses the same hashtag in his or her tweets so it’s easy to follow the conversation. (You’ll also find that people use these hashtags throughout the week.) You can search for the hashtag manually on the Twitter page or try programs like Hootsuite and TweetDeck to follow along. Ready to give it a try? Pop in on some of these popular chats.
WHO TO FOLLOW
Companies and Organizations:
@ScholasticTeach: Scholastic’s official account for teachers
@IRAToday: Literacy ideas for all educators
@NCTE: Teaching tips for English teachers
@NCTM: All things math education
@NSTA: Ideas and opportunities in science education
@ASCD: Professional development and educational leadership resources
@NAEYC: News and tweets about early childhood education
@edutopia: Inspiration for K–12 educators
@TeachingChannel: Online community of K–12 teachers
@Edudemic: Education and technology
@MindShiftKQED: Trends in education
@KleinErin: Erin Klein, teacher and ed-tech blogger
@cybraryman1: Jerry Blumengarten, co-moderator of #edchat
@donalynbooks: Donalyn Miller, a.k.a. The Book Whisperer, and a facilitator of #nerdybookclub
@bradmcurrie: Brad Currie, school leader and #satchat cofounder
@pernilleripp: Pernille Ripp, middle school teacher and creator of Global Read Aloud
@kylepace: Kyle Pace, instructional technology specialist
@Larryferlazzo: Larry Ferlazzo, urban teacher and ELL specialist
@coolcatteacher: Vicki Davis, blogger, teacher, and IT director
@web20classroom: Steven W. Anderson, instructional technology expert and #edchat cocreator
@mssackstein: Starr Sackstein, teacher, blogger, and co-moderator of #sunchat
@pamallyn: Pam Allyn, literacy expert and founding director of LitWorld and LitLife
Illustration: Jing Jing Tsong/theispot.com