About a year and a half ago I attended a professional development day with a session on Twitter. I was rather incredulous that such a session would be considered worthy of my time, but to enable myself to scoff and ridicule in a more informed manner, I decided to attend the session. Educators are busy people and social media can be very time consuming – what benefit could there possibly be in following celebrities and seeing pictures of their breakfast each day? I was about to learn that Twitter could be used for more than celebrity gossip. Little did I know that my professional world was going to be radically affected by my decision to attend this session.
Why I Appreciate Twitter
Educators have really done a spectacular job of creating a sub culture and community on Twitter. When utilized as a network tool among educators and others with a vested interest in education, it has the capacity to profoundly impact and improve one’s practice. Here are some of the reasons why I fell in love with Twitter:
Personalized Learning: Twitter is easy to manipulate so that your learning is personalized to your passions, strengths, and weaknesses. Find and follow people who excel where you don’t, and learn from them. Offer your insight to people who need it. Follow your passions and grow with others who are just as passionate about the same topics.
Vetted Suggestions: People don’t typically become passionate about things that they haven’t tried. Most of the ideas that flow through the pages of educators on Twitter are things that have been successful. They have been revised and tweaked and are practical, useable, and worthy of consideration.
Accessibility to ‘Gurus’: It took me multiple days to stop flying high after my first Twitter chat. I was dumbfounded. These education ‘greats’, whose works I had read, who had greatly inspired my practice, and who I hoped to be so fortunate as to meet one day, had just sat down and chatted with me – directly – through an organized Twitter chat. Questions that I had after reading their books or roadblocks I was encountering with applying their theory – all of that could be addressed with them personally.
Portion Control: We’ve more than likely all been in a professional development situation where we reached our saturation point but the conference or session was still in full swing. On the contrary, it’s not uncommon to attend some form of professional development feeling like it was just enough to get you interested but then drew to a close and left you hanging. Twitter is adjustable to your own learning needs. If you’re the kind of person who needs to take one idea at a time and let it percolate for a while before moving on, no problem. If you prefer to feel like you’re drinking from a hydrant and fully immerse yourself, there’s more than enough content available for that, too. Similarly, learning on Twitter is on demand. Learn anytime, anywhere. It’s incredibly convenient.
Fresh Perspective: One of my colleagues comments on the risks of incestuous professional learning. When most of our own professional learning happens within our own four walls, or even within the parameters of our school district, we can get locked into circular thinking. Twitter blasts through all of that. Interact with people in every type of school imaginable, in a myriad of education-related positions, and in locations across the globe. You’re certainly not going to agree with everyone, but that’s wonderful: expand your thinking, learn to better justify why you stand by your practices, and call into question some of your practices that might need re-examination.
Budget friendly: Professional learning is expensive! Conferences quickly add up with costs incurred from travel, lodging, meals, and substitute coverage, not to mention the cost of the conference itself. I’ve often come away from an hour on Twitter with more useable, practical, personally relevant learning than I could ever hope to glean in a day or weekend of traditional seminars. The fact that there is endless, meaningful learning available completely free of charge is not something to overlook.
Twitter has been great in terms of inspiring confidence in me. It has validated not only my thoughts and contributions to discussions, but it has also validated my struggles. To know that someone else, somewhere, is struggling with the same thing as you is comforting. It’s also comforting to know that there are people who are able and willing to coach you through the struggle and walk the journey alongside you.
My venture into Twitter was also very timely. I had come to a place where I was, for a variety of reasons, feeling disillusioned with education. My interactions on Twitter renewed my hope in the pillar of education and breathed new life into my passions in education. My online learnings have snowballed into much more self-directed study and I am now much better equipped with knowledge of how to fuel my passions.
A year and a half ago, when I attended the Twitter session with the intent of harshly criticizing it, I quickly learned that I had no idea that this world of professional learning was happening. There was a wealth of learning available and I wasn’t in on it. I suddenly felt like I was missing out – and I was! I was missing out on more than I could ever know so I jumped in, hit the road running and haven’t stopped since.