The Value of Twitter on the Education Profession

Social media is such a powerful tool. It can provide up to the second news from around the globe, keep you connected with your favorite athlete/actor/musician, or let you know what Carol had for lunch…every. single. day.  It’s amazing how it has changed how humans interact. I cannot remember the last time I saw a handwritten note passed in class and is there any real reason to go to class reunions anymore? I see all of my high school peers on Facebook.

Education has found some wonderful uses for social media, too. I’m writing this post to discuss some of the ways social media (in particular, Twitter) is changing the landscape of professional learning and why teachers need to be in this space. Now, if you’re reading this, you probably know some or all of these reasons…so, feel free to pass this along to any teachers or administrators you know who are reluctant to join in or question the validity of social media’s impact. Also, if you can think of another benefit that I haven’t listed, please leave a comment.

Instant PD (professional development or professional learning)

I’ve also seen it called ‘pocket PD’ on twitter. If you’ve got anytime at all, you can simply scroll through your feed and read articles on a plethora of topics, assist a fellow teacher by answering a question, pose your own question to your followers, or check out the latest posts from your favorite hashtags. I have heard of some school districts actually providing professional learning hours for time spent participating in edchats. While I do see value in the traditional face-to-face schoolwide or departmental meetings, this ability to access information is quite the paradigm shift.

Instant connection with other teachers, researchers, authors, and students

Although I touched on this a little in the previous paragraph, I want to expound on its value. Yes, you can connect with teachers from around the world, but you can also connect with your favorite educational authors. If you’ve got a question or comment about a text, in many cases, you can just tweet directly to them. Amazing. Imagine trying to do anything like that a decade or more ago…it was simply not possible. You can also keep up with your students, answer questions, or host review chats before tests. I definitely have some reservations with this point, but it works for some.

Access to journal articles and books

So many of the wonderful teachers and researchers I follow frequently tweet links to interesting articles and books. You don’t have access to that journal and can’t get around the paywall? Email the author(s). I have never been told no when I’ve asked an author for his/her paper. They are always happy to share.

Connections with voices in education that are similar and different from your own

I believe it is important to follow those you agree and disagree with on twitter. Be careful not to create an echo chamber…you don’t want your twitter feed to be so like-minded that biases develop with respect to others’ opinions. Please also follow those you come to respect in the field but don’t always agree with. They will be the ones to ‘keep you honest’. Often times, discussions/debates with these educators force me to really know my stuff…know what I believe and why. And, outside of social media, how many prescribed whole-school PD sessions provide the ability to have in depth conversations about education (philosophy, pedagogy, curriculum)? At least, for me, not too many at all.

Opportunities for growth

Social media is a great place to really stretch yourself. When I began on twitter, I never thought I’d be blogging or writing for different educational outfits. But I was given the opportunity (thanks, Yana) and it’s grown into something that has rejuvenated my professional fervor and connected me with people in just wonderful ways. If you are stagnant and simply feel like you’re not growing as a teacher, social media can cure that really quickly.

Really, all of the purposes listed above relate to my last point:

Stay ‘in tune’ with the professional aspects of teaching

Before I began using twitter approximately four years ago, I was a teacher who loved the profession, but was not learning anything. I graduated with my Master’s degree in 2006 and I wanted to put all of that learning to good use…and there’s nothing wrong with that. But, after graduation, I didn’t actively seek out new information on the profession; pedagogical advances and/or educational myths, for example. I believed the PD provided by my administrators was enough to develop. I was just treading water and surviving…blissfully ignorant that I could continue to learn and improve my classroom practices for my students.  Social media helped me to combat this feeling. Once I was plugged in, there was no looking back.

What did I forget? Please feel free to comment with another reason teachers should use social media.

Are you a teacher/administrator who is skeptical about social media’s purpose in education? Please leave a comment with your reservations. I’d love to have a conversation.

5 comments

  1. I agree with this. I started using Twitter as my outlet to post whatever is in my mind. We need that, right? But, when I started to develop my blog, which focuses on Education Niche, I realized that there is more Twitter can offer. It made easier for me to connect with educators around the world. I have acquired some information I need for my class and for the contents of my blog.

    You are right. We need Social Media to become part of out strategies in order to keep up with the fast changing educational system.

    Thanks for sharing this. Your thoughts triggered me to write a post on the advantages of using Social Media sites for teaching. Some teachers just fail to recognize that. I hope everyone can read your post. I will be sharing this my blog site.

  2. agree with everything that you said here Blake. As someone who stayed away from social media for a really long time, it was because I did not understand the value in it, especially the value for educators. With Twitter, the reasons that you mentioned are similar to ones that I’ve also shared with other Educators, based on my own experience. A few days ago I gave a keynote to teachers as part of an induction ceremony, and a quick survey of more than 80 Educators in the room, only about 5 raised their hands to indicate they had a Twitter account and or use it.
    I definitely stayed isolated for many years and being connected through social media, especially Twitter has made a big difference on me professionally, but more importantly, it has connected me with opportunities that I would have missed out on providing for my students.
    Connecting through Twitter, or other forms of social media, definitely helps with that problem of not having enough time to get new ideas or to connect with other educators.
    I was speaking with a colleague yesterday about the point that you mentioned, using Twitter as a way to keep up with the news and changes and things that are happening in the world.

    Thanks for a great post.

  3. Social media is a great place to celebrate successes, and for one to see the successes in other places. Also, what’s not working!!! This then allows a more efficient method of designing opportunities at one’s own school. (Yesterday I had pasta for lunch!)

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