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Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. He can be found at www.petermdewitt.com. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

3 Reasons You Need Twitter More Than It Needs You!

By Peter DeWitt — November 11, 2014 3 min read
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Let’s face it, Twitter has Justin Beiber and Taylor Swift. Why on earth would it need anyone else? Seriously, businesses, celebrities, politicians and thought leaders from around the world are on Twitter. It’s a free service, so it’s not like the social networking giant really needs anyone new. It’s huge!

But you on the other hand, may be feeling very isolated in your school. Whether you are a leader, teacher, parent or student, you may feel like no one around you understands what you are talking about...or feel that anyone cares There are leaders and teachers like you, who are outspoken about a variety of issues, from testing to technology, in your own districts and often feel as though you are the only ones who “get it.”

You’re not.

Educators are one of the fastest growing groups on Twitter. It helps them connect with like-minded educators from around the world and connects them with resources they would not normally find on their own. So many educators with an expertise converging in one area, which causes an explosion of dialogue...if you’re using it correctly.

Ask a group of teachers or leaders to raise their hand if they are on Twitter...and hands will go up. Dig a little deeper and ask them if they actively use Twitter...and most hands will go down.

If you have an account...try it again. If you don’t have an account, phone a friend and set one up together. There are 3 reasons why you need Twitter.

They are:

Personal/Professional Learning Network (PLN) - Sign up and start following people you admire, and then look for the suggestions Twitter offers as people you should follow. Don’t just follow them, but start sending Tweets to them. Engage in some conversations on your live feed that happens 24/7. Create some dialogue, and people will begin following you.

Twitter takes time. You can’t simply join and think you get it. You must try to get on regularly for about 20 or 30 minutes at first. Find ways to engage with people, much like you would if you were going into a social function by yourself. Would you stand next to the wall or would you look for someone you identify with and strike up a conversation. Do the same thing on Twitter!

Hashtags - This symbol # use to be called a number sign or pound sign. Now this...# is called a hashtag. If you put in the hashtag #education...every Tweet with the hashtag #education will appear in your live feed. This is what a live feed looks like when you use the hashtag #education. It keeps collecting all of the Tweets with that hashtag.

Hashtags can be used for schools. My friend Joe Sanfelippo, who co-authored (with Tony Sinanis) The Power of Branding (Corwin Press), uses the hashtag #gocrickets. This is just one example of what the #gocrickets live feed looks like!

Chats - The chat sessions on Twitter are amazing! #Satchat on Saturday mornings and #edchat on Tuesdays brings in hundreds of educators from around the world. Chats focus on one topic per chat. They might focus on student engagement, math resources, providing effective feedback or a multitude of other topics. If you are new to Twitter, try to find a chat within your own state which focuses on a topic but brings in less participants. It’s a good way to begin before you go to the behemoth chats like #edchat or #satchat. Jerry Cybrary Man has the best collection of chats and the times they take place.

In the End

3 years ago this month I wrote a blog called Why Educators Should Join Twitter. I wrote it because Twitter was something I didn’t get until I joined a chat session. In the blog I wrote,

Connecting with people from around the world who have similar interests and understand your passion for education can be inspiring. Although educators get accused of accepting the status quo and not wanting to move forward, Twitter is a place where that accusation is proven wrong. Educators, who do not know each other and have never met, and may never meet, share their best practices, wisdom or advice."

Three years later, my life has been changed by the connections I have made. Since that blog, I have connected with more and more colleagues who have become friends. Through my contacts I created a book series for Corwin Press called the Connected Educators Series, and found all of the authors through my Twitter contacts. I had read their blogs for months before the series came together, knew their passions, and we were able to find their best book ideas to write about.

Need more of a reason?

Five of us connected through Twitter and over a year, spent time creating a free Edcamp in our geographic area of New York State, where dozens of teachers and leaders spent a Saturday learning from one another.

Another reason?

Too often we go it alone when we could be connecting together. There was a time when I would go to conferences alone and not really meet up with anyone new. I would fly or drive in, go to sessions, and leave to go home. That is no longer the case. Every conference I go to, whether it is at the state or national level, I get to see friends I connected with on Twitter, and we go to lunch or dinner and dive down deeper with our conversations.

Give Twitter a shot. You won’t regret it.

Connect with Peter on Twitter.

The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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