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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

Using 21st Century Skills: Join the Twitter Conversation

By Peter DeWitt — July 03, 2012 4 min read
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The summer offers educators a time to reflect on the past year and focus on the year to come. During the summer we can unwind, get to see family and friends a little more often and we get time to read. As much as we like to read something non-education related we often find ourselves reading articles and new books that solely focus on education. It’s important for us to maintain a connection to the career we love. And for some educators who have lost the love of education because of changes that seem more about blame than about educating kids, those connections can help those individuals find the love again.

Education, along with many other career choices, is experiencing hard times right now. There are a plethora of changes in education like the Common Core State Standards, new evaluation procedures, etc. but one of the biggest changes to get used to is doing more with less because of budget cuts. We float between being thankful we have jobs and wondering how we will manage to do the other jobs being added to our plates. As much as it’s important to have a support system at home and within our districts, it is equally as important to branch out and connect with other colleagues who may not be as close, and we can do that through social networking.

There are many social networking options for us these days but one of the most influential is Twitter. I know many people are weary of social networking, especially Twitter because of all the celebrities who are on it, and may believe it is just a fad but it’s turning into a very important communication and professional development tool for educators. 140 characters can turn into some really great conversations.

It’s hard to get out of the office or the building. Sometimes we never have the time to talk with other colleagues. It feels as though we are plate spinners, running from one plate to another making sure they maintain their balance on a stick but we need to make sure we talk with colleagues.

How many of you have gone to conferences or meetings outside of the district and feel better just knowing that other people are feeling your pain? Or that as much as you feel you are behind, you realize other people are in the same boat? The great thing about Twitter is that you get that kind of support from colleagues but at the same time there are other educators who are willing to push your thinking and get you to step outside of the box.

Engaging in Conversation
On Saturday mornings at 7:30 a.m. Easter Standard Time educators from around North America get up and have a conversation on #Satchat. Brad Currie and Scott Rocco, both school administrators moderate the conversation. They ask poignant questions and those participating in the chat session respond and offer their insight. In addition to #satchat, there are some great chat sessions that take place during the week. #Edchat (education related), #Elemchat (elementary education) and #PTchat (parent-teacher conversations).

We all have conferences that we love to attend and conference presenters who get standing room only kinds of crowds. Sometimes these conferences and presenters can be very one-sided, not through the fault of the presenter but because of the format of the conference. If we’re lucky we get a few extra minutes with a speaker so we can ask questions.

Twitter is different because its strength is how it engages an audience. One person does not speak while others listen. Everyone has the opportunity to use their voice which makes the conversation that much more engaging and rich. It doesn’t matter whether you are an educator with thirty years worth of experience, a published education author with ten books to your credit or someone who is new to the field, all educators have a place at the table when it comes to Twitter.

Novice teachers can learn from veterans and vice versa. Urban educators can talk with suburban and rural educators or with well-known authors and conference presenters. There is something that makes those conversations less intimidating when they are done in the comfort of our own homes. It allows people to build rapport before meeting in person.

In the End
There is still a big difference between educators and students when it comes to technology. Educators talk a great deal about finding new and innovative ways to use technology, and students don’t need to talk about it because they do it naturally. Those educators who naturally use technology are referred to as connected educators and they understand that they need to model the 21st century skills they expect all students to use.

As a school administrator I know that if I want my staff to use technology and social networking I have to model it for them. Being a part of conversations on Twitter help me reflect better on my practices and assist me in finding new tools for staff and students. Chat sessions run for one hour and they offer educators an opportunity to focus on important topics like how to meet the needs of students or communicating with parents. All the educator has to do is create a username and password and begin connecting with followers.

Connect with Peter on Twitter

For More on Twitter, see Jerry Blumengarten’s webpage for great information on how to get started.

Other Twitter related Blogs on Finding Common Ground:
How Twitter is Changing Professional Development

Why Educators Should Join Twitter

An #Edchat with Tom Whitby

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.