I admit, when I first heard about Twitter, I thought the concept was ridiculous. Shooting a message of 140 characters or less into the world? Why? Who would care? Since my initial incredulity, Twitter was to become one of the predominant social media platforms, one with a markedly professional bent. Many authors, businesses, marketing consultants, tech gurus, and the like use Twitter to promote their ideas, their products, and their brands. One professional group that has taken Twitter by storm is educators. Perhaps because we often feel isolated in our individual classrooms and schools, or because we must keep up with the tech-saavy digital natives in our classrooms, we teachers are a major Twitter force. Virtually around the clock, one education group or another can be found chatting on Twitter, sharing ideas, keeping current, brainstorming best practices.
Just over a year ago, inspired by my social media-forward friend and colleague Amanda Hartman, I joined Twitter. I remember my intro to the platform as one recalls their first date with a beau. Amanda sat at my dining room table, grabbed my phone, and installed the Twitter app. We later brainstormed my handle over text messages. Not too far after that, Amanda asked me to lead a Twitter chat with Emily Butler Smith about research-based writing as taught in the Units of Study for Teaching Opinion, Information, and Narrative Writing (Heinemann, 2013).
Since joining Twitter, my network has exploded, and so has my learning. Here are just a few of the ways I use Twitter that make a huge impact on my professional life.
- Joining chats on topics on everything under the education sun. Many school districts are hosting their own Twitter chats, which are great ways for teachers to connect with each other and swap ideas that are pertinent to their particular students.
A few other education chats of interest:
#21stedchat is about 21st century education skills. Log on to get great ideas for digital publishing, student blogging, and the like. It’s Sundays 8-9pm EST.
#engchat is for all teachers of English. Join this chat to talk about best practices and share tips you’ll be able to incorporate immediately into your teaching of reading and writing. This chat is 7-8pm EST.
#edchat is a general chat for all educators. Warning: it is huge and can be extremely fast-paced. It took me a few times just hanging back and watching this chat unfold before I felt comfortable jumping in.
#tcrwp is The Teachers College Reading and Writing Project’s weekly chat. If you are a writing workshop devotee, this chat cannot be missed. Check it out Wednesdays 7:30 – 8:30pm EST.
Last but certainly not least, Two Writing Teachers will be hosting a chat on November 10 to discuss our upcoming blog series: Working Smarter, Not Harder. Follow the chat with #TWTBlog.
- Connecting with like-minded individuals. It was on Twitter that I connected with Jessie Miller and Allison Jackson, two brilliant educators whose paths I never would have crossed had I not joined Twitter. Inspired by one of Jessie’s tweets, the three of us, along with several other super-smart educators, formed a nonfiction book club over the summer and met on Twitter to share our ideas and takeaways for instruction.
- Discovering opportunities. I learned from one of Stacey’s tweets that she was searching for new co-authors for Two Writing Teachers. What can I say? Thank you Twitter.
- Keeping au currant on education news. I recently discovered via an article posted on Twitter that Carmen Farina, New York City’s education chancellor, did away with the letter grade system for evaluating schools. She is updating the system to more accurately describe a school’s progress. With Twitter, I found this out right away. Without Twitter, considering my work and family schedule, who knows when I may have heard.
- Promoting educators who deserve a shout-out. Last year, a colleague at a school where I was coaching created several lovely charts to support realistic fiction. Though she was new to workshop teaching, she was a natural at chart-making. A quick tweet of pictures of her charts garnered over 20 nearly instant favorites and retweets, as well as gained her some much-deserved kudos for her hard work.
Whether you are Twitter pro or novice, you might benefit from a free course Heinemann Publishing is now offering on their Digital Campus learning platform. The course is led by Heinemann’s Social Media Manager Brett Whitmarsh and details everything from how teachers can get started on Twitter, to how to make the most of Twitter chats, to how teachers can get connected with mentor authors and educators.
Click here to access Brett’s blog post that tells all about it.
Hope to see you soon in the Twittersphere!
Anna is a staff developer, literacy coach, and writer, based in New York City. She taught internationally in places such as Sydney, Australia; San Pedro Sula, Honduras, and Auckland, New Zealand in addition to New York before becoming a staff developer for the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University (TCRWP). She has been an adjunct instructor in the Literacy Specialist Program at Teachers College, and teaches at TCRWP where she helps participants bring strong literacy instruction into their classrooms. Anna recently co-wrote Bringing History to Life with Lucy Calkins, part of the 2013 series Units of Study in Opinion, Information, and Narrative Writing (Heinemann). She has been a researcher for Lucy Calkins, contributing especially to Pathways to the Common Core (Heinemann, 2012) and Navigating Nonfiction (Heinemann, 2010).