Social media doesn’t have a great reputation. There are people pushing all kinds of agendas and perspectives, as well as wannabe influencers and celebrities hustling to monetize their followers. And let’s not forget all the trolls who seem to delight in making everyone else miserable.
But, there is one social media platform that, although it suffers from many of the issues outlined above, has had a significant impact on my learning and on my career – Twitter.
Control Your Content: Be Choosy About Who You Follow
And while Twitter is no stranger to any of the above social media characters, what I like about Twitter is that I can really filter who I follow in order to minimize the distractions and maximize my learning. As an international overseas teacher, I like to follow international schools and other international teachers. I also follow teachers in general, along with administrators, consultants, and education researchers and bloggers.
I do not follow friends, family members, celebrities, politicians, or other distractions. I try to keep the focus on anyone in education who is engaging, interesting, and/or positive.
Don’t Get Yourself Stuck in an Echo-Chamber
I don’t go too aggressive with the filtering though. While some tweets and tweeters can drive me crazy now and again, I don’t want to cut them out of my feed entirely. I don’t want to end up in an artificial bubble of only those who happen to share my precise perspective.
While I tend to gravitate towards instruction and assessment best practices, my Twitter gang can sweep me along to other important topics equally as critical in the classroom, such as Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ representation, Asian descrimination, stress management, and mindfulness. I am grateful for these regular reminders that my students, their families, and my colleagues don’t necessarily share my life experiences.
I’ve been using Twitter since 2010 and, over that time, I’ve managed to develop a professional learning network (PLN) of about 1,000+ education professionals and organizations. And while once in a while I might see posts that make me cringe, or shake my head in disbelief, I do my best to keep the group intact.
Twitter = Instant Connections
One of my favorite things about Twitter is the ongoing possibility of connecting to some really cool people. For instance, this year I read the findings of a study conducted by two Cornell professors about why students don’t turn their cameras on during Zoom classes. I wrote a blog post about the research results and posted it on my Twitter feed. The next day, I received a reply from Dr. Frank Castelli, one of the Cornell professors from the original study. On another occasion, I was tweeting about my middle school’s March Book Madness tournament and I added the Twitter handle of Shannon Messenger, one of the authors whose books were represented in the tournament. Later, she actually liked my post. I totally geeked out about that!
Access to the Great Minds in Education
Beyond random connections, I sometimes use Twitter to reach out to experts for their advice. One time I sent a note to consultant and service-learning guru Cathryn Berger Kaye. Cathryn actually responded and provided me with a one-on-one refresher session about a topic I was curious about. There are lots and lots of education experts on Twitter. I don’t always reach out to them personally, but I get daily tips and links from the likes of Thomas Guskey, Douglas Fisher, George Couros, and Jennifer Gonzalez. So. Freakin’. Awesome.
I’ve learned so much from my Twitter PLN. I check up on my feed several times a day and I always walk away with something cool – either an inspiring quote, a helpful classroom tool, or an intriguing article to read. At the very least, Twitter provides me with a way to stay connected with more than a thousand amazing educators and education organizations.
But, there is a great mind still missing from my PLN – you!
My Twitter handle is @Mrdeehanclass
Join Twitter and become part of my awesome PLN today!