I’m becoming slightly obsessed with Twitter. Friends on the Collab have long touted its benefits, and I signed up for Twitter account several years ago. But not until recently did I actually experience its power and value as a professional resource. Here are my top 3 reasons why:

1. Access.  Suddenly I have access to quick thoughts, resources and reading recommendations from so many educators and thinkers!  I find this endlessly entertaining and I learn so much.  I also find that beyond any one link, I get a sort of “lay of the land” sense of what is going on and being talked about in education–by teachers, policymakers, journalists, YA writers, principals, professors, superintendants, ed techies, and more.

At first, I couldn’t fully appreciate this, because I felt overwhelmed by the sheer amount of tweets all the time.  Now I understand that I cannot possibly keep up with it. It is like the ocean and never stops.  I can take a dip and ride some waves whenever I have a moment, and I can also be done whenever I want. The benefits of popping in are great.  I do this almost exclusively on my phone, by the way, which supports the pop in nature of it, more than navigating to a website on my computer does.

2. Hashtags. It took me a really, really long time, but I finally understand hashtags!  Hashtags allow you to view and contribute to a conversation on a particular topic with others, whether or not you follow them or they follow you.  For example, one CTQ hashtag is #ctqcollab.  If you search it on Twitter,  you can see what’s happening in that conversation whether or not you follow the people in it.  This introduces you to a ton of like-minded people you didn’t know before–who you can then converse with and/or start following!

I’ve experienced something really powerful when I started following #engchat (started by Meenoo Rami).  This is a hashtag that brings together English teachers. It is a running conversation, but once a month, there is a “chat,” for one hour, where someone hosts the conversation and people join in for a more focused discussion during that time.  I got to host an #engchat on whole novels in September.  I didn’t really know how to do that, and though I have much to learn, somehow I did it and it was really cool. Through the chat, I met many awesome English teachers–including some in my own city I didn’t know before, but whom I’ve now met face to face with to discuss implementation of the whole novel method at their school! All because of twitter. I also met the moderators of #ELAChat, also a meeting place for English teachers.  I’ll be hosting the #ELAChat next week on 12/3. In the meanwhile, some members of the #ELAChat community have been reading and tweeting about my book, Whole Novels for the Whole Class, under the hashtag #WholeNovels! They even “storified” their tweets (another amazing function)! (Ch. 1, Ch. 2, Ch. 3…) Through this hashtag, I have connected with so many thoughtful, innovative English teachers across huge geographical divides. I’m quite amazed and energized by this–and a little addicted.

Other hashtags worth checking out include: #teacherpreneurs #geniushour #edchat #t2030

3. Brevity. The ability to simply retweet or favorite something I find valuable, or respond to someone in 140 characters or less is a relief.  I can do this on the go, during brief moments in already busy days, without having to devote a specific block of time to it.  It doesn’t replace the deeper conversations that happen here in the Collaboratory and in the comments sections of articles and blogs (or face to face!), but it’s a powerful way to expand my universe without–it seems–giving up much else.

And here are JUST a few CTQ Collaborators to follow on Twitter, and there are many more. (I’m @arielsacks.) The good thing is that once you’re in the orbit, you will easily find many more familiar folks and strangers, too, worth following.

CTQ – @teachingquality

Bill Ferriter – @plugusin

Shannon C’de Baca – @auntshan

Jose Vilson – @theJLV

Renee Moore – @TeachMoore

Megan Allen – @redhdteacher

Cindi Rigsbee – @CindiRigsbee

Are you using Twitter? How? If not, is anything getting in the way?

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