Observations on the Edutwittersphere: 10 Trends Noted

Whenever I recommend Twitter to teacher-friends or colleagues, the first thing I’m often asked is what educators tweet about in 140 characters or less. When I started using Twitter almost a year ago, I wondered the same thing. So I started paying attention and then eventually,  I began capturing my observations along the way. Here’s how I notice educators making great use of this powerful tool:

1. Identifying and Retweeting Favorite Links and Resources: Many of the educators that I follow on Twitter spend at least a portion of their time sharing their links to favorite blog posts, resources, and tools. How do they find things to share? They bookmark them as they read through their RSS feeds, take note of them during workshops, trainings, and conversations with others, or favorite the tweets that are most valuable to them by clicking on the small star that appears to the right of each tweet in mouse-overs. The wonderful thing about sharing what you value is that it connects you to others who have similar values….and they share back. Angela Maiers models this for us better than anyone I know, and I’m grateful for that.

2. Creating Community: Finding others to follow is easy on Twitter. Users can access the “Find People” tool at the top of their home pages, and the newly improved search function can connect them to others. I also enjoy using Twellow to search by location, category, or name. Twitter has helped me connect friends and colleagues together who did not know each other before, and communities begin to build within communities. I love that!

3. Surveying: Educators often use Twitter to seek opinions, get support as they brainstorm, and poll people about resources quickly. If you need direction or input, Twitter is a great place to find it.

4. Problem-Solving: Several months ago, I was ripping my hair out futzing around with a data report that I needed to complete. I shared my frustrations on Twitter, and moments later, @datadiva tweeted back potential solutions and then offered significantly more help. I observe similar interactions daily on Twitter. It is, for many educators, a tremendous source of support.

5. Finding Company: I have watched everything from episodes of The Office to the victory of President-elect Obama in the company of friends on Twitter….even those who are states or countries away.

6. Garnering Support for a Cause: If it’s a worthy one, edutweets will often throw their support behind it.

7. Building Blog Readership: Edutweets who have something worthwhile to say often invite their followers to join in conversation by tweeting about their latest posts and inviting followers to provide feedback or comment.

8. Living Beyond Work: There is more to life than work, and the educators I follow on Twitter know how to live and laugh….well. They share jokes, funny anecdotes about their kids, recipes, and sometimes, even their worries. How about that time @datadiva was stuck in a cab in New York City on her way to a pd session? She was held hostage there for nearly 24 hours…after drinking massive amounts of water. Don’t know if that qualifies as a funny anecdote or a worry, but it was memorable!

9. Fisbowling a Conversation or Debate: One of the things that I love about Twitter is the opportunity that it provides everyone to observe and participate in meaningful conversations about what we do and why we do it. Some of the top minds in the field interact in this space regularly, thinking aloud, sharing what they know, and inviting all of us to the table. Here is a prime example of that sort of thing.

10. Growing a Personal Learning Network: Establishing a personal learning network on Twitter is one of the first steps educators take in growing an even more powerful one. In gaining new followers or choosing to follow others, we have the opportunity to meet those they value most and learn from them as well. Who do your followers follow? Who do those you are following follow? Visit their pages and grow your community!

Engaging on Twitter isn’t as difficult as it would seem, and giving thought to how you might maximize your use of this tool ensures that it will become a resource that you will value. You can follow me on Twitter at @angelastockman, and please consider following those in my community too! You’ll be happy that you did.

This piece was also posted at The English Companion Ning.

10 Comments

  1. Angela, you are really cooking with these great posts. Thanks for stating so clearly why an educator might consider Twitter for professional development and some fun, don’t forget the fun. Cheryl

  2. Angela says:

    Thanks Cheryl! I’ve been using the last two weeks of “down time” to do a bit of goal setting and to begin thinking about the way I use this blog. Hoping that refining my practices and working hard to pare down my words will help me be of better use. I’m a former English teacher…tend to ramble. Studying what others do helps quite a bit.

  3. Angela,
    Cheryl is right- you are on fire! You have made such important points here. Tools like Twitter can redefine personal and professional development. I have been pondering how to systematically implement Twittering, Reading feeds, and book study into staff development requirements in school.

    Ponder this…What would the conversation, the learning, the implementation rate of new strategies and thinking, be if every school had a “Social Media Time” once a week-45 minutes before or after school where teachers were required to engage using these tools.

    Principals and team leaders would follow-up with sharing time, professional reading, and resources to support what they were learning,…Think of the possibilities, and it is ABSOLUTELY FREE!!!!

  4. Lynne Horiuchi says:

    Mahalo for this blog post and linking it on Twitter! I have been trying to get some of the admin and educators at my old school to use Twitter but they don’t get it. Maybe if they read this it will make sense to them. Twitter is a key component of my PLN. Unfortunately they don’t know what a PLN is either. 🙁

  5. Angela says:

    Angela–
    These are incredible opportunities, and I’m a believer in PD that is meaningful and free. It blows my mind what some consultants charge, quite honestly, for work that doesn’t effect long-term change.

    As an instructional coach this year, one of my main goals is to leave the team of teachers I’m working with in a place where they no longer need me. Putting processes and protocols in place so that this independence can be built over time is important, and one of the benchmarks for success is the creation of a PLN that moves beyond the boundaries of the school. The idea of building social networking time into the schedule is really interesting. Right now, we’re easing teachers in comfortably. This added time would be a huge bonus for those who are interested. Thanks for sharing!

    Lynne–
    The majority of people who I introduce to Twitter don’t get it either, at first. I usually begin by asking those I am working with to follow me, and I try to share as many relevant resources with them as possible so they see the rewards of using the tool. Then, I try to connect them with others (especially local people) who do the same work that they do or share similar values. It doesn’t take long for people to love Twitter once they begin using it…it’s getting people to give it a try that is sometimes hard. And I respect that resistance—there is only so much time in a day. Perhaps as PD structures shift and change, space for social networking can be made…as Angela suggests.

  6. Linda704 says:

    Fab post, Angela! You did a great job of capturing the essence of twitter and expressing the range of uses. Learning, Fun, (not necessarily mutually exclusive!), business, personal. So glad to be part of your PLN!

  7. Angela says:

    NOT mutually exclusive–so important and so true. I’m thrilled to have met you there, Linda!

  8. Maryanne Burgos says:

    Angela,

    I’m so impressed with your blog. You really cover each topic in depth and have useful insights to share.

    Regarding Twitter, your post was just what I needed. I was just deciding to give up on it. My frustration is that the people I have followed in the past mix in too much personal info (IMHO) with the valuable professional info. I don’t mind reading about someone’s personal moment for the day. Atually that is often interesting, but when people write 5 posts in a row about beign stuck at the airport, I don’t appreciate it.

    I’m sure the usefulness of Twitter depends on who you connect with. Perhaps I’ll just have to refine mine.

    So glad to reconnect with you. Keep blogging!

    • Angela says:

      Hi Maryanne! Thanks for dropping by–I’m going to look for you on Twitter. My early experiences with Twitter were much like what you describe, but over time, I became more selective about who I followed and what my purpose was there. It’s become incredibly valuable to me as a result. I hope to connect with you there!

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