Classroom Technology

Stay or Go? Educators Weigh Their Future on Twitter

By Alyson Klein — November 15, 2022 4 min read
The Twitter splash page is seen on a digital device, Monday, April 25, 2022, in San Diego. Twitter is once again adding gray “official” labels to some prominent accounts, Thursday, Nov. 10. The company, in its second chaotic week after billionaire Elon Musk took over, had rolled out the labels earlier this week, only to kill them a few hours later.
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For more than a decade, educators have used Twitter to connect, get inspired, air gripes, and maybe even promote their side-hustle as a podcaster or author.

Enter Elon Musk. The billionaire entrepreneur, who took over Twitter in late October, has promised big changes that he says will bolster free speech on the social media platform. He’s expected to shun past practices that Twitter’s former leaders said were aimed at a more-informed, civil discourse. Those include fact-checking public figures, and banning accounts that spread misinformation or hate speech.

Musk has already laid off roughly half of Twitter’s staff, fired some top leaders, and deep-sixed its board of directors.

The changes could have major repercussions. Back in 2021, Twitter famously ousted President Donald Trump when he declared that voter fraud had cost him the presidential election, despite an overwhelming lack of evidence to support his claims.

Now educators are wondering whether they will be able to continue using Twitter as they always have, or whether it will become a dumping ground for racism, dangerous misinformation, and threats.

We asked educators whether they planned to quit immediately, stay for the foreseeable future, or play a waiting game. Here’s what they told us:

Nate Bowling, teacher at an American embassy school in the United Arab Emirates, former Washington state teacher of the year.

Twitter followers: 23,700

Status: Definitely leaving, moving to Mastadon, a newer entrant to the social media space.

Bowling, who is Black, was harassed on Twitter in the past, often with racist comments and threats to his safety, by accounts that largely ended up being banned under Twitter’s former management. Now, he said. “I’m not going to contribute my thoughts and my opinions to a platform that is owned by somebody who I find contemptible and who is gonna bring people I find despicable, and frankly, a threat to my safety, onto the platform.”

Mary Beth Hertz, a teacher at the Science Leadership Academy at Beeber in Philadelphia

Twitter followers: 27,900

Status: Staying, but becoming active on Discord

Hertz isn’t planning to leave Twitter, but she’s begun to put her energy into other platforms. “I’m not leaving because I’m just curious to see how it will play out. The fear is that this is going to turn into 4chan,” a website known as a hub for dark conspiracy theories and white supremacy, she said. “And my thing is, well, if it turns into 4chan, they’re going to bleed money. ... I don’t have strong feelings of like, I have to leave now.”

However, Hertz joined another social platform, Discord, relatively recently and began connecting with educators there who share her interest in new technologies. “I have my feet in both places. [So] even if Twitter went away, I still have a community of educators on Discord.”

Rachelle Poth, foreign language teacher in Pennsylvania’s Riverview school district, and an author, consultant, speaker, and blogger

Twitter followers: 33,500

Status: Staying put

“I’m thankful for [Twitter] and the connections that I’ve made through [it] and will continue to make through [it]. I don’t personally plan to leave Twitter,” said Poth in a Facebook Live conversation she hosted as part of her work with ThriveinEDU, a consulting organization. “My biggest base is on Twitter. And it has led me to other networks and so forth.” Without Twitter “I would just be teaching myself and not knowing about places … where things happen that are different [from] what my experience is.”

Mark Sass, executive director, TeachPlus Colorado. Recently left the classroom after more than two decades as a high school teacher in suburban Denver.

Twitter followers: 1,111

Status: Likely to leave

When Sass first joined, “Twitter operated as a wonderful clearinghouse for me to pick up on recent research work [by] following people like Edweek, the Shanker Institute, state councils and stuff like that. I was able to really find that nice research, but also just stay up on top of what else was taking place,” especially on politics and education. He liked that Twitter would fact-check misinformation, or even just ask users if they wanted to read an article before sharing it.

But, with Musk coming on he fears that “it will lose some of that intentionality. It’s just going to be opened up,” to vitriolic speech that “will suck me in if I’m not very careful.”

Dyane Smokorowski, digital literacy and citizenship coordinator, Wichita Public Schools in Kansas

Twitter followers: 7,906

Status: Expects most educators to stay put

“Many educator conversations on Twitter are tied to hashtags and have regular Twitter chats,” Smokorowski wrote in an email. “Unless they have a platform where they can all move together, I doubt they will leave. I do know great learning and collaboration happens amongst connected educators in Twitter, so it would be challenging to find another place to continue those communities easily. For now, I believe folks will stay.”

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