29 February 2012

Day Nineteen: Twitter

It is hard to find a good place to start this final post because Twitter can be used in so many different ways.  Let's start with....

To Tweet or Not to Tweet

Educators have pretty much always functioned in isolation.  Yes, we would share with our colleagues within our school and those we met at conferences, but for the most part the things that happened in your classroom were known to only those in your immediate circle.  Twitter widens that circle, significantly.  Actually the circle is a sphere.  And that sphere is the entire world.  Through Twitter, I share ideas with educators from Indiana, Colorado, Chicago, Canada and Australia.  I can be involved in a conversation with one person from Alabama or participate in a chat with thousands of educators across the globe.  Because these conversations are not limited by the time frame of a conference, they can go on for hours or even days and involve a variety of perspectives.  Twitter has absolutely changed my life and especially my teaching;  I barely recognize the teacher I was 2 years ago (I celebrate my 2yr Twitter-versary in April!)

Why should you tweet?  The real question is why aren't you doing it already?  If someone said to you there's this amazing conference.  It has some of the best instructors in the world, educators that are leading educational reform.  It is free and located extremely close to your home.  You can go to it during school and you won't have make sub plans.  If someone said this to you, would your response be "No thanks"?  Of course not!

Let's look at it from this perspective.  Educators are constantly tweeting ideas and resources 24/7.  If you were to spend 30 minutes per week simply watching the twitter feed (the scrolling tweet of people you follow), I guarantee you will find  at least 1 new idea for your classroom.  Now if you do that for an entire year, that's 52 new ideas.  52 ways to improve as an educator and learner.  Would you ever be able to come up with 52 new ideas doing what you currently do?

Twitter:  The Basics
So hopefully I have been able to convince you to sign up.  Let's walk get you started with your account:
  1. Go to Twitter.com and register.  I use Twitter almost strictly for educational purposes so I chose a name that relates to what I do (@DaretoChem).  You can something simple like your name (@reginaschaffer).  It doesn't matter what you pick, just pick something that you can identify with.
  2. Don't be an egg-head.  The default picture is a white egg on a colored background and no one will follow you with this picture.  Find something that clearly shows your face and more people will want to hear what you have to "say."
  3. You can follow celebrities and sports teams, but you can skip most of this.
  4. Here is the tougher part:  finding people to follow.  You can only get good ideas if you find people tweeting out good ideas.  The best resource I have found is on www.cybraryman.com under his PLN All-Stars.  Here the top tweeters from each category are listed so this is the best people to start following to get ideas related to your classroom.  At the bottom of this post, I have included a Google Spreadsheet with the Middletown educators that you can follow as well.  If you sign up, please add your name to the list.
The First Tweet
Well, it's not that simple.  Before you venture out into this new social media (well, new to you), watch the following video by Josh Stumpenhorst.  Josh is the Illinois Teacher of the Year and an absolute must follow.
Like Josh, I recommend downloading a third party program like Tweetdeck or HootSuite for filtering your tweet streams.  Once you are following a number of people, twitter's website become too cumbersome.  For your first tweet, introduce yourself, say hello to the world, ask people to follow you.  Some tweeters will follow you if you follow them; others are more particular.

If you trying to find good info, you will want to search by the hashtag (#).  Here is a link to all of them that are out there for education, but below are the most popular.
#edchat is used for anything education related
#mtwnchat is for anything related to the Middletown district (March 1st at 8pm is our 1st live chat!!)
#scichat anything science related
#sschat is for social studies
#engchat is for English topics
#ntchat is focused on resources for new teachers
#edtech is for educational technology

We all know that it is important to grow as an educator.  Sure you can do this by attending yearly conferences, but if you are like me, you are starting to get bored with what you are seeing or, worse, saw it last year.  Twitter is constantly changing, constantly growing, and always current.

How You Can Use It With Your Students
While Twitter is a great resource as a professional growth tool, one of the most interesting ways that I have changed is by using it with my students.  From an informal Twitter poll, my students have said about 1/4 of the students at South are tweeting.  They are sending out messages before school, after school, during school.  They are shouting to the world their thoughts and views, and we need to know them to better meet their ever-changing needs.  If you don't believe me, check out this report from CNN.

What are you going to do with it?

To keep you thinking and give you some additional resources, here are some great links to follow:
Twitter in Education Livebinder
Everything You Need to Know About Twitter
Teaching With Twitter

And if you don't believe that Twitter can revolutionize, ask the Egyptians, Syrians, and Libya.  Oh, and after the earthquake in Haiti, Twitter was used by rescue teams to locate survivors.

Here is the Google Spreadsheet of who to follow from Middletown.  If you have a Twitter account and are not the list below, please add yourself (or fix your info as I didn't have a complete list when I made this).
You can find the spreadsheet here.


  1. Do we have access to twitter on our network?

  2. I wasn't sure where to leave this, so here I guess. I really enjoyed this blog. I wanted to share a presentation I made using Prezi. Enjoy! Just make it full screen and click manually on the "play" triangle. Do not use autoplay-it doesn't work well with video.


    1. Very nice job on the presentation. Unfortunately for me, Prezi makes me dizzy. But then again, I am prone to motion sickness anyway. Nevertheless, you really did a beautiful job.

    2. Very nice Prezi; thank you for sharing!
      I thought it was just me with the 'dizziness' feeling.
      Because of that, I now have a preference for Animoto.

    3. Great job, Kristyn! How long did that take you to complete?

    4. @Janet not long, maybe 45 minutes to an hour tops. It is so easy to insert the video and I used one of the pre-made templates which made it easier.

  3. I love Twitter. After several failed attempts at finding a PLN for SAC's I started one in hopes of connecting and sharing ideas with SAC's throughout NJ. It really has been a great tool for getting the latest news and updates from various social agencies across NJ and the US.

  4. I recently signed up for Twitter but am still getting the hang of the whole thing and following people etc. My question is why are we allowed to access Twitter on the network but not Facebook. I like Facebook better because it doesn't limit you to 140 characters. I have a lot to say HA-HA.

  5. I agree with Rose...I know that some teachers have created Facebook pages for their classes, (account separate from private, so there's no crossover of private information) and that seems to work very well for after-hours discussions, study groups etc., plus longer discussions can happen. I think it's really just a preference for one over the other, and I wish that FB wasn't blocked for teachers for this reason. I can see the argument, of course, that a handful of teachers might use it for personal reasons while at work. (This also brings up the issue of non-social websites being blocked by the network as such, but that's another kettle of fish!) I could definitely see Twitter being used in the classroom.

  6. Kristine, I use twitter with my students both in and outside of the classroom. It has helped my Honors students especially as they can still ask me questions when I miss class for district meetings (which happens all too often). I also find it a great way to make adjustments to my lessons based on what they are tweeting. I had a day when one girl tweeted about the class being upset of the results of a test in a different class. Knowing that many would be upset walking into my class, I dropped the pop quiz and opted for an inspirational video as the DO NOW. Once they were in a better mood they were able to focus on the notes that came after. Besides the professional growth, having this personal connection with my students definitely has made me a better teacher.

  7. Twitter is one application that I have pretty much avoided until now because, to me, it has carried shades of annoying calls from phone tele-marketers - too much information that I don't want or need.
    In a workshop recently I learned to think of Twitter more like a "micro-blog" and how to select people to follow more discriminately, but even so there are those among the lists I might select who still will tweet info that is totally irrelevant to me & to what I teach. My time is already heavily mortgaged and the idea of filtering through even short bursts of information was not inviting. Now in today's post, however, you have introduced the fact that there is filtering software available to do that task for me. NOW, at last, twitter is beginning to look more like a tool that I could really use productively. Thanks!

  8. I have yet to follow very many people on Twitter (aside from some friends and specific Latin language posters), but I do love using the hashtag search function to find ideas for a specific topic. For example, if you search for something like "The Odyssey" you can find a lot of information - including tweets from Odysseus, Penelope, the Cyclops, etc! I think it's really fun when people make Twitter accounts for historical or literary figures. That's a great way to bring it into the classroom and not just use it for Professional Development.

    and Roberta - I like your analysis that it can be like a microblog, especially if you use filtering tools.

    I don't think I would want to follow my students on there though...I don't want to know what they're saying online!

  9. This may be a silly question...how do I enter my name on the twitter sheet?
    I just set up my twitter account! I think I am @JanetKellyTMS.

  10. Valli SilversteinMarch 1, 2012 at 8:25 PM

    I have the same question as JanetKelly....how do you enter your twitter account onto the Middletown Google Spreadsheet?

  11. Here is the link for the spreadsheet. http://tinyurl.com/87chgy5