The question is why do I use Twitter?
I was recently asked to explain the allure of Twitter. Why would people choose to spend their time on Twitter when they could be engaging with family and friends. This is my response.
Well, it is a loaded question with a potentially lengthy answer. Everyone has their own reason for using technology. Technology by definition is a tool, and we tend to use tools to make our lives easier or better. I personally love technology because it has allowed me to create and provides efficiencies?. It provides me opportunity to make things that I otherwise wouldn’t. But that is technology in general.
What is the appeal of Twitter?
I was skeptical about Twitter when I first learned about it. I didn’t understand it, or why people would spend time posting what they were doing at every moment. That was until I connected to an educator in California. I was looking for resources for my sociology class and he shared with me everything on his Google Drive for his sociology class. Let me say that again- he shared every file, lesson, presentation, test, and activity with me. I never met him in person, I emailed him, talked to him a little bit, and he shared with me his year’s worth of work. He then explained that educators are using Twitter to connect and learn. He pushed me to try it. He suggested my first Twitter chat which was based on a book his colleague wrote, Teach Like A Pirate. I checked out the chat, purchased the book and have been hooked ever since.
I have found other Twitter chats that have helped me become a better educator. I started out looking through the feeds for resources and people who were passionate about the educational topics I wanted to learn about. I could share with you examples of Twitter chats, explain how they work, but that is for another conversation if you are interested.
For me Twitter is an opportunity to learn and grow as an educator. Twitter never turns off. I can access it anytime I want. I can be part of a chat, or I can look through the archived records when it is convenient for me. I can choose to engage or not engage in conversations. I can ask questions and receive answers, support and resources within minutes.
The question I have for those who don’t use Twitter is: how do you grow and learn?
What do you do for Professional Development? I seek it out. I am passionate about learning and improving as an educator because my students deserve it. I have the potential to improve, so I owe it to myself and my students to get better. I have worked hard to develop a PLN (Professional Learning Network) of Twitter community members that have relevant thoughts and ideas to share. These people are my support system. They help me by sharing out the great ideas they have developed and by providing me feedback to improve my lessons. We share lessons via Google Docs and collaborate on them. In the end we create better - more engaging lessons - that all of our students benefit from. I have many examples of these including my Survivor Renaissance, Presidential March Madness, Speed Dating, Reconstruction, Indian Removal Act to just name a few. All of these were lessons made better through collaborative efforts that started with Twitter.
Why would you sit in front of a computer for more hours?
I don’t see it as staring at a computer screen. My time on Twitter is interactive. I am conversing with other passionate educators. I am enhancing my own practice. I am fostering relationships. Some of the people that I am connected with on Twitter I have met face to face at Edcamps. Edcamps if you are unfamiliar are voluntary, free educational conferences that usually take place on Saturdays. The people who attend these are giving up their own time because they see the value in collaboration and expanding their own abilities. It provides opportunity to fill our buckets with inspiration, motivation and excitement about the profession of education and working with students.
To the question about missing out on time with family and friends. How can you justify this?
Well to be honest I can’t completely justify this. The reality is anyone who has a job has to leave their families and with that there comes sacrifice. When I was in the classroom I spent too many hours to count creating lessons, grading papers, studying to keep ahead of my students. I did this for about 13 years in isolation most of those teaching a multitude of different classes (about 18 total 7 different in a 1 1/2 year span). All of which demanded subject specific knowledge. The past 2 years, the time since getting on Twitter, I have spent less time planning lessons. The lessons that I have created and used are better than I have ever made in previous years. I have forged friendships with real people who support my efforts to take risks and improve in my practice. My time on Twitter is more productive than the time I spent working alone, and that time was significantly higher than the time I currently spend on Twitter.
So the real question is how to balance teaching and family?
I come home hangout with my kids make supper clean up, read stories, play and get them ready for bed. When they are tucked away in bed, I then have the option to engage in conversations on Twitter. I host a chat on Thursdays that I am committed to, but otherwise I can pick and choose when and how long I engage.
In the end Twitter is revitalizing to me. Where else can you go to connect with so many passionate positive educators? People who are negative or bitter about education or their situation aren’t on Twitter, or they don’t get the response they are looking for. Twitter is a platform to discuss educational issues in a non-threatening way. I have modified my educational practices including homework, grading, student projects and many other areas because of these conversations. This leads me to a few questions for those who aren’t connecting on Twitter- Who are they collaborating with? How do they get their passion reignited?