On July 6, 2017, two of my PLN buddies, Ellen Deem and Mark Weston co-hosted a #WhatisSchool Twitter Chat on educators and superpowers. Recently, Lia Gyore, the author of Reflections of an Evolving Teacher posted Why Twitter? and it made me think of my story which led me to the conclusion that I do in fact have a superpower and it’s Twitter. You could technically argue with me and say Twitter is an accelerant of excellence in education and I’d agree. Ellen posted why she tweets here. Without Twitter, I would have never met Ellen or Mark or many of the Super EduHeroes in my life!
It’s hard to explain Twitter to educators who aren’t using it: Bethany Smith, you know what I’m talking about because I was one of those peeps not too long ago…right? Hearing Bethany share about Twitter at the North Carolina State Beginning Teacher Institute in Summer 2014 was similar to listening to an informercial about an amazing skin cream with special melons, only this one didn’t require multiple payments of $19.99. It was free! If you’ve ever been lucky enough to hear Bethany present, you know she is lights out awesome and is an excellent resource for education tech. So the informercial analogy is strictly a commentary about me and how I wanted to believe her but just didn’t get it…yet. How could one product, Twitter, do so many amazing things for your educator life? Yup…I was a little skeptical.
I already had a Twitter account: Dr. Angela Wiseman at NC State had us create one in Spring 2012 and Tweet to the world as part of our Language Arts course. Even then, we had some vocal critics of Twitter in our discussion and they weren’t very positive either. As part of coursework, I had found a rubric and tweeted out while crediting the company. Not too long afterwards, I had a response from that same company which happened to be in another part of the world! While this was so cool, I wasn’t ready…yet.
Somewhere during late Fall 2014, I started using Twitter. It was my first full year in 3rd grade teaching my first class of my own students and let’s just say I didn’t want to become one of the teacher statistics Dr. Jackyl referred to often during our Cultural Diversity class. I remember clicking on the link to “40 Books to Read Before You Start Teaching” by John Spencer. (I bookmarked the link and referred to it often. The link is no longer active, so if you know where a current one is, let me know and I’ll update this post). That’s where I found Angela Watson‘s books, Awakened and Unshakeable, now two of my favorite go-to resources throughout the school year.
I was a Twitter consumer at that point in time, until one day in February 2015 (I think), I saw a tweet about #Read4Fun…I either liked it and/or may have even retweeted it. This may have been one of my very first interactions since Spring 2012. Little did I know that someone named Sean Gaillard was paying attention…next thing I knew, I had been tagged in a photo. Suddenly, every worst nightmare we’d been warned about during preservice was flashing before my eyes. A little extreme in hindsight, I admit, but remember I was a newbie teacher and a newbie at Twitter and the message was “Sean Gaillard has tagged you in a photo” and I didn’t know anyone by the name of Sean Gaillard. Little did I know at the time, tagging users in a photo was a great way to get a message to specific individuals and to prevent it from getting “lost” in the Twitter feed. This ‘photo’ was an invitation to join the #Read4Fun Twitter chat which took place weekly at 7 pm EDT on Sundays. You can read more about #Read4Fun here where you will also find more information about the chat creators: Jennifer Williams, Connie Rockrow, Lena Marie Rockwood, and Sean Gaillard. I haven’t participated in this great chat in a long time; however, I do still occasionally check the feed for book recommendations. By accepting this one invitation, I not only met the creators but also was introduced to many other fantastic educators like Stacey Lindes, Mandy Castro, and Ellen Deem. Sean was particularly thoughtful in welcoming me as a NC neighbor and introducing me to Mandy and Ellen who were neighbors as well. #Read4Fun was where I heard about #LearnLAP, which I read over Spring Break 2015 and enthusiastically tried to implement upon returning. You can read how that went here. Sean went on to create #WileyChat, then #EdBeat where I met his amazing co-host at the time, Natalie Krayenvenger, and #CelebrateMonday!
Somewhere in this same timeline, maybe even in the #Read4Fun chat, I met Mark Weston, @ShiftParadigm. If you’re on Twitter and haven’t connected with Mark you’re missing out on a fantastic opportunity to grow you PLN and start following other educators in your specific area of expertise. Mark regularly sends out #FridayFollow posts listing as many fourth grade teachers, for example, as a Tweet will allow. Mark is a Connection SuperHero in the Education world without a doubt! This Spring 2017, our 4th grade class was trying to help our 2nd graders with their mall projects. We reached out to Mark to help us connect with other 2nd grade classrooms in order to get their feedback for the project. Within the day, Mark made it happen! Now that’s a superpower!
If you do decide to try out Twitter, be forewarned that it isn’t always rainbows and unicorns. There will be suspect followers. Learn what to do. Thanks to Anna Marie Hunter for sharing with the #ITA17 group, because it’s always helpful to reach out to one another for advice and support. Depending upon the scenario, you can mute or block. Realize while you may no longer be a doubter, many of your peers may likely remain skeptics. Remember your humble beginnings as a Twitter cynic, and be willing to share when others ask. Be prepared to be labeled: In my own schoolhouse, I was indirectly referred to as a “Twit” ~ “someone who Tweets”. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, a twit is “a silly annoying person: fool”. The same source defines a fool as “a person who acts unwisely or imprudently”. Arguably, there are users of Twitter who could be nominated; however, my experience has been that educators as a whole are not the exemplars. By the way, the full term, “Twit Wit” isn’t any more complimentary. Name calling isn’t the best tactic for encouraging constructive dialogue, but having been a doubter not too long ago,
…I shake it off ~Taylor Swift
Is Twitter a superpower or an accelerant or both? What do you think? Please share your ideas in the comments below. Thanks for reading and sharing! A special thanks to all of the EduHeroes mentioned in the article and linked in the resource: I am who I am because of you and your courage to share!