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Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, Peter DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. Former superintendent Michael Nelson is a frequent contributor. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

Seriously, Why Haven’t You Joined Twitter Yet?

By Peter DeWitt — July 17, 2013 3 min read
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(Courtesy of iStock Photo)

You’ve heard all about Twitter by now. Your friends are talking about their PLN and who they have Tweeted with over the last few days. They’ve probably even mentioned that they engaged in some chats and they’re throwing their Hashtags around in the conversation. I’m joining them by applying a little more pressure. Don’t worry though...it’s positive peer pressure.

No, I don’t get a kickback from Twitter. That would be awesome though. However, I have had many defining Twitter moments but by far the most profound moment came last week. I attended (and presented) at the annual conference of the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) in Baltimore. I have to admit that it was one of the best conferences I have ever attended.

I mean...how could you go wrong at the conference? There were numerous breakout sessions, along with some engaging plenary sessions. And of course, there were some inspiring keynote speakers. Todd Whitaker, Michael Fullan, and Eric Jensen to name a few. Conference director Honor Fede did an outstanding job. It was the first time I saw Todd Whitaker present, and he didn’t disappoint...by far the best speaker I have seen.

NAESP made a very smart decision by having the conference during the summer. It made it so much more relaxing. As much as those things made it a great experience, the best part about it was meeting up with some people who I have been talking with for a long time but had never met...until the conference. Those people are part of my PLN on Twitter.

Twitter PLN
I’m kind of a quiet guy, and a bit of a creature of habit. I don’t always like to go away to conferences because, as much as speaking at them is an honor and I get excited, I don’t always do well with the downtime in between and don’t always do a great job meeting other people. Believe it or not, I’m shy when I’m out of my element.

That’s what made the NAESP Conference experience so much better. I knew that I was meeting up with people I “knew” because of Twitter. Sure, some of them I recognized by their Twitter name more than their face but we wore name badges with our Twitter name and participated in a Tweet-out.

Sure, poke fun if you want but it was a blast.

My PLN consists of Joe Mazza, Tony Sinanis, Vicki Day, Erin Simpson, Jane Tremblay, Spike Cook and Justin Baeder; all of whom I was able to meet in person and spend time with over the three days of the conference. These are people I have been on Twitter with for well over a year.

You get out of Twitter what you put into it. If you get on for a few minutes and you’re unclear what you are looking for, then you’re probably not going to get the full experience. However, if you get on during a great chat session like #edchat (read Jerry Cybraryman’s page about it here) on Tuesdays or #Satchat on Saturday mornings (read #Satchat cofounder Brad Currie’s page here) you will get so much more out of it.

During his presentation at NAESP, Todd Whitaker gave a very compelling reason to join Twitter. He spoke about Sandy Hook and how people who were following the tragic events on Twitter. As school leaders, we all lost a bit of ourselves that day. As we prepared how to tell our own parents about the steps we take to protect our students, educators began sharing their letters with one another on Twitter. No one had to reinvent the wheel.

Todd’s right for many reasons. In a strange way, Twitter bonds us all. We are building a community of learners. And, it provides an opportunity for shy guys like me, to meet people at conferences who I have been talking to for a long time through Tweets and e-mails. I encourage you to give a try. When you begin following the people listed above, and join a few chats, it can be a game changer for your career. It certainly was for mine.

Connect with Peter on Twitter

Joining Twitter:
• Think of a good Twitter name.
• Find a good pic for your profile
• Begin following some people you have long admired.
• Follow the educators I mentioned above.
• Participate in #edchat and/or #Satchat
• Read Cybraryman’s Twitter resources

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.