By Teachers, For Teachers
Are you using Twitter in the classroom? You should be.
As an English teacher I used to snub Twitter in the classroom as a completely informal, dumbed-down platform that restricted any potentially valuable communication down to 140 characters. Then I got my own account – @BuffEnglish – and decided to see what all the tweeting was about. What Twitter in the classroom offered to me was immensely different from what I expected.
I joined Twitter to find a new way to connect with my students. Since “all the kids were using it,” I thought that if I set up a professional account then I could just use it to share additional information with them. However, I realized that there’s a lot more than just teens on this platform. Within a few days I was following Mark Cuban, the Pope, Margaret Atwood, a variety of top-tier news sources, and lots and lots of other teachers.
The more I delved into the Twitter community, the more I realized that this forum opened up opportunities for communication that I never thought possible. Not only was I receiving information directly from individuals I never thought I’d hear from, but I also could send messages of my own to them. Within days I was tweeting Salmon Rushdie and Ai Weiwei. I was rollin’ with the big dogs.
I felt cool, like I was with in the crowd. Connected. But even tweeting John Green to tell him I loved The Fault in Our Stars wasn’t the highlight of the experience. Instead, two surprising and completely unexpected aspects of Twitter have really served to open up my world: the hashtag and Twitter chat.
The hashtag looks like this: #. It’s a pound sign, or a number symbol. But when you put it in front of a word (#money) then your entire tweet becomes part of a community of other #money tweets. You can even make multiple-word hashtags (#IfIWereAnAnimalIdBe). Anything can be a hashtag. When I found certain hashtags – like #edchat, #21stedchat, and #engchat, I was able to learn what lots of other educators across the world were doing.
It was thanks to hashtags that I was able to find so many other brilliant educators. Other teachers, administrators, technology coordinators, and advisors were daily posting their thoughts, photos, and – my favorite – links to education articles. And without doing much work I immediately found access to tons of worthwhile insights that have made me a better teacher.
Twitter chats sounded strange to me at first: the rapid flinging of 140-character messages across the twitter-sphere didn’t seem like a constructive medium of communication. But with every education chat I joined I could openly ask questions, gain specific knowledge, and even lend my own two cents to the discussion.
Sure, Twitter does for spelling and grammar what the chainsaw does for trees, but I have learned there is a huge advantage to being a “connected” educator. The knowledge and resources I have gained from a few months on Twitter are truly invaluable. So look for @BuffEnglish on Twitter – I’ll see you there!