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Technology in the Classroom: My Favorite Kinds of Teacher Tweets

Jordan Catapano

I’ve been on Twitter for a little more than two years now. Originally I created an account because I thought it was stupid, and I wanted to see for myself how silly this whole platform was. I thought, “I’m an English teacher – there’s no way 140 characters can contain my thoughts!” Then I maniacally laughed and thunder rumbled.

But then I discovered something unexpected: Thousands of teachers were using Twitter to connect with one another. Who knew? Not only could I follow my fave celebs and catch breaking news, I could actually chat with teachers about all kinds of educational topics.

Needless to say, I’ve been enjoying Twitter a great deal. Whether lurking on others’ Tweets or sharing my own, this platform unexpectedly changed my approach to education. I’m so sold on this as a teacher tool that I’m actively proselytizing my coworkers and trying to convince them to join in as well.

Over the years I’ve found that there are certain kinds of tweets that I particularly benefit from. Sometimes these are tweets that others share, sometimes they’re my own. But if you use Twitter as a teacher – or even if you’re considering joining the platform – then consider if any of the following types of tweets are appealing to you.

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“Here’s what I’m learning”: I love it when fellow teachers demonstrate their own exploration. Not only is it an inspiration to me to see what they’re learning at conferences or reading on their own, but it helps open my eyes to topics or ideas that I too might take an interest in personally studying.

“Here’s what I’m thinking”: When teachers share a simple thought via a tweet, I often feel encouraged, motivated, or just reminded of what great teaching or learning entail. Tweets don’t have to be complicated, and a small little tidbit from a fellow teacher can be the right ingredient to help me have a good attitude or improved approach to my day.

“Can someone help me?”: Our Twitter followers are not just passive consumers of our tweets – they can often serve as valuable resources. Sometimes when I have a question, I swivel my desk chair and ask a colleague in my office. But many other times I just Tweet out my request to hundreds of followers. Usually I get a response within just a few moments with exactly what I need! As one teacher reminded me, “We’re all in this together.”

“Take a look at this resource I found helpful”: I follow certain teachers because they tend to tweet out resources that I find valuable. Twitter comes with a certain low obligation to those you follow, so when someone shares a link to a resource or article, I take a look if I think it’ll be helpful or pass it up if it doesn’t appeal to me. I’m always grateful for other teachers who share, since they’re bringing to my attention resources I might never have been aware of.

“I had success doing this – maybe it’ll work for you”: In addition to sharing thoughts, I like when teachers share about something that’s working for them. It doesn’t come across as bragging on Twitter; rather, their successes are inspirations for my own teaching. If teachers have success and share about it, then others could replicate their successes too. On the flip side, I also like when teachers open up about failures. It makes me feel a little more normal when I see I’m not the only one who has struggles.

“How you doin’?”: Conversation on Twitter can be very fun. Sometimes I respond to something another teacher has posted. Other times I just use Twitter to check in with others whom I haven’t chatted with recently. Short responses, ongoing discussions, edchats, and other conversational-style tweets go a long way to forge relationships and develop our profession.

Bonus: My Favorite Kinds of Tweeters

In addition to my favorite tweets on Twitter, I’ve also developed a preference for certain types of teacher tweeters I’ve had the privilege of interacting with. Here are a few characteristics that relate to my favorite tweeters (and which I try to emulate as best as I can).

My favorite kinds of tweeters …

  • Go the extra mile. If I’m talking about a topic or looking for some support, some people have just taken those extra, totally unexpected steps to help me out. Like the time someone took pictures of their classroom just so I can see how they designed it. Or that time a teacher moved our conversation from Twitter to e-mail so she could fully explain to me what a particular program at her school looked like.
  • Are always positive. It’s easy to abuse Twitter and the partial anonymity that comes with it. But my absolute favorite people are those who are persistently positive. They seem to always have something optimistic or uplifting to share.
  • Support, listen, and facilitate. I also love it when others are supportive of my thoughts and ideas, even if they disagree or are confused. They’re the type of people who ask clarifying questions or share encouraging words. They also like to facilitate conversation and bring others into the dialogue who might have good perspective or resources to add.
  • Build connections. Some teachers just share, share, share content. As good as that content might be, it’s equally fun to feel connected to the person behind the content. I love it when tweeters treat me like a person and engage with me, even despite Twitter’s limitations.
  • Leave their personal politics out. I connect with teachers on Twitter because I want to share and learn about education. When teachers tweet about all kinds of personal affairs or political perspectives that have nothing to do with education, that’s not what I followed them for and I am likely to tune out.
  • Don’t have all the answers. I especially love tweeters who are honest. They don’t act arrogant or more sophisticated than they actually are. They’re just themselves, with their flaws, quirks, and perspectives on their teaching experiences.

I’ve engaged on Twitter for more than two years, and have enthusiastically shared with colleagues how positive an experience I’ve had. I’m still learning how to be the best connected educator I can be, but in the mean time I’ll call out my favorites. Twitter is home to so many profound educators that I feel privileged to have such an easy way to connect with them. I hope that as time goes on I’ll learn from these talented teachers and that my own students will continually benefit.

What are your favorite ways of interacting with others on Twitter or another social media platform? Tell us about it in the comments below!

Jordan Catapano is a high school English teacher in a Chicago suburb. In addition to being National Board Certificated and head of his school’s Instructional Development Committee, he also has worked with the Illinois Association of Teachers of English and has experience as a school board member for a private school. You can follow him on Twitter at @BuffEnglish, or visit his website www.jordancatapano.us.