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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

Are Educators Really Listening to Each Another on Twitter?

By Peter DeWitt — February 01, 2013 3 min read
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Twitter is so much more than just sharing information. It’s about engaging in conversation.

If you’ve never been on Twitter, you’re probably wondering what all the fuss is about. Perhaps you believe that it’s just a way for one educator to feel they are more connected to the education community than a non-Twitter user. You know those tech people...they love to throw their technology muscles around! Or, maybe you’re somewhere in the middle and see the relevancy but do not engage in too many conversations.

If you’re the kind of Twitter user who checks your account before you check your personal e-mail, than you may be in a whole different category. You love that instant connection and instant feedback. But are you listening to what your PLN is saying? Or are you randomly sharing everything you find on-line so people know you read educational articles?

I’ve been on Twitter for about a year and a ½ and have been amazed by how much information there is out there in cyberspace. I’ve connected with a great PLN and look forward to some educational chats. It has been a breath of fresh air and can be very addicting because there is always something new and exciting. There is always a new opinion about education and let’s face it, educators love their field.

However, I am concerned that we are at risk of losing what Twitter is about for educators because there seems to be a lot of sharing and not always a lot of talking. Sharing articles, blogs, news clips and other items is great because it keeps us in the know and we all do it. I just wonder if we engage with each other as much as we share links.

Sharing is Caring
Let’s face it, we’ve all seen people on Twitter (serial Tweeters!)who seem to link to an article every five seconds. Don’t get me wrong because they are great resources. We all find an article or two that we enjoy. I get links of articles I find fascinating and send to the teachers I work with but there is no way possible people are reading everything they are Tweeting and maybe that is a part of being on social media.

I just wonder whether they are Tweeting just to Tweet instead of Tweeting to build a conversation around articles, blogs and research. I’m not judging! I just think that we are at risk of losing what is good about Twitter. Twitter is so much more than just sharing information. It’s about engaging in conversation. That’s what inspires us!

Every Saturday morning I wake up and get ready for #satchat at 7:30 Eastern Standard Time. It’s awesome! It brings together educators from across the country and around the world. The conversations are real and they focus on problems that educators face on a daily basis. Whether it’s about helping out after a hurricane, the Common Core State Standards, dealing with the aftermath of Sandy Hook or discussing how to help a first year teacher or administrator, #satchat really dives into ways to make education better.

However, the conversations around the idea are the most beneficial aspect. Educators really engage with one another and the conversations go on after the formal chat ends. It’s not about who talks the most or who shares the best links. It’s about engaging with one another! Chats, like #satchat and #edchat are the venues that keep Twitter alive.

What This Means for Students
The way we engage with each other on Twitter has ramifications for our students. Many of our students who are on Twitter engage with one another. They are sharing links but they are talking about issues as well. Sure the issues are age-related and may not interest us but they are talking. Teenagers are less afraid to say their real words than adults are. Too many adults are afraid to say something so they share a link instead.

Do we do this in the classroom? Do we listen to our student’s ideas? Do we listen to our colleagues? Or do we share our knowledge and walk away? We need to do both...without the walking away part! And I worry we are losing that on Twitter as well. Not that Twitter is more important than classroom interactions! But our behavior on Twitter has ramifications for real life.

We spend time following who we want to hear from and sharing links with people we agree with but do we engage with a variety of people in social media so we can expand our own thinking? Find your voice. Share your opinion because it matters. Everyone has a story and they all make us who we are.

Twitter has the power to bring educators together from around the world. It doesn’t matter if we teach in urban, suburban or rural settings. It only matters that we learn from one another. Real social-emotional learning that we can bring to the classroom or school setting. We just need to make sure that we listen and engage as much as we share.

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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.