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Saturday, 5 January 2013

Why Every Educator Should Be Using Twitter

This year, one of the goals for my Annual Learning Plan is to incorporate technology more effectively in my teaching.  I'm hoping the increased use of technology in creative ways will lead to increased motivation and better differentiation.  Ultimately, the hope is I will see an increase in achievement as an end result.  I knew going in that this would be a rather tall order.

Knowing this would be my goal, I began this blog as a first step.  I also joined Twitter (at the behest of my son Stephen who said everything worth knowing is on Twitter).  In August, I went to the Pearson Literacy Conference where Heidi Hayes Jacobs reiterated my son's opinion.  Twitter is a must.

At first, I really didn't see the point of Twitter.  I don't care to know what Lady Gaga ate for breakfast.  But then I began to follow some professional organizations like the CSC, Pembroke Publishers, ASCD, and some of my favourite authors like Lisa Donohue, Kylene Beers, Dylan William, and Robert Marzano.  I could see the merits in this as I was updated quickly on anything new in the world of Education.  I even started following NASA and thought this would be useful as I could share updates with my students during our Space unit in Science.

Tweeting, however, was a challenge.  I was confused by the use of the hashtag, had trouble following conversations, and didn't understand the true power of Twitter.  So this holiday season, I decided that I would gain a better understanding of Twitter so as to use it more effectively.

I learned that Twitter is the IDEAL Professional Learning Community (PLC).  Actually, I found out on Twitter, many educators refer to Twitter as their "Personal Learning Network" (PLN).  I Googled Twitter and found helpful articles on how to use hashtags, how to search and follow conversations; I even found this most helpful Twitter Cheat Sheet.

The power in Twitter is in the people you follow.  It is great to follow our favourite authors and professional organizations, but it is in following our fellow educators and joining in on their conversations that true learning takes place.  I use the word "educators" rather than "teachers" because it is more inclusive, and I have "met" vice-principals, principals, consultants, coaches, and professors from all over the world using Twitter.

This is how I've seen Twitter used - educators find something that they question, or something that interests them, or something that they value and are passionate about - and they share it via a link to an article, a blog, a Youtube video, or a photo.  And then others comment and question and this incredible "dialogue" ensues.  The important thing is the hashtag.  You use a hashtag to thread a conversation.  I've been following #edchat, #cdned, #flipclass, #ipaded (there are "Apple Certified Educators" out there who let you know when apps are free for a day!!!  Downloaded three great apps for free this week!), and #onted.

Case in point - check out this blog post by Lori Cullen that shows just how powerful Twitter can be for teachers to scaffold one another's learning and understanding!

This link from from Teach Thought tells you which hashtags to follow on Education issues.

You can start a conversation with a new hashtag - post a question you need help with, there is SOMEONE out there with an answer!

Your Twitter Timeline shows all the tweets by people you are following.  It takes forever to go through them;  I haven't figured out the most time-effective way to do that yet; so I've been searching by hashtag and just following specific conversations.  When I find a link to something I like I've been "pinning" it to my "Pinterest" board to save it.  I am finding this is very effective.

If you aren't on Twitter yet, or if you are on Twitter, but not really using it, it's time to join the party.  Get in there.  Tweet.  Join a conversation.  You'll be amazed at how quickly your learning is stepped up a notch.  And if you have a message that you want to share - this is one of the most powerful and effective ways of getting your message out there!

To find me on Twitter:  @RaineCB - hope to see your handle in my timeline!

My next step - using Twitter in the classroom with my students!

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