I know the exact moment I took ownership of my professional development: August, 2012. I was just beginning to explore Twitter and I stumbled upon The Connected Educators Book Club led by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach. My practice suffered from the same hurdles that many teachers face: siloed practice that doesn’t readily allow for collaboration or peer coaching. As a school librarian, I was further challenged by being the only person that does my job on my campus. For me, the social media platform was the perfect solution.
Profile pages are a portfolio of a user’s work and ideas. A hashtag search can yield seemingly endless numbers of tweets, links, and media content. (An exhaustive list of education hashtags can be found here or here, and new hashtags are being created all the time.) Through Twitter chats users can ask and answer questions about any variety of education topics and ideas in real time. Have an underdeveloped idea? Send out a question and a request for a retweet can yield input from all over the world.
I have used Twitter to increase my subject area content toolkit, strengthen my pedagogy, and expand my knowledge and integration of a variety of technology devices and platforms. I have connected with community organizations to learn about and promote their reform efforts. I’ve also lobbied elected officials on a local, state, and national level. It was also through Twitter that I first became aware of Teacher-Powered schools; something which I hope will be my next professional step in education.
Tweets are like a digital handshake to a online social club. Twitter facilitates my interactions with a network of enthusiastic educators that have become “My Tribe”. I follow people whose work inspires me to try new things and lifts my spirits (#peopleareworthit or #kidsdeserveit). I follow people that make me think, laugh, question, grow. One of my greatest joys is having that fangirl moment when I get to meet someone at a conference that I follow on Twitter. We’ve already established a kind of trust relationship and can quickly get to exchanging ideas.
The conversations I have had are just a drop in a very large ocean of people leveraging Twitter to influence thinking and learning, but to me they have made a profound impact on both my personal and professional growth. Being a connected educator fulfilled my desire to learn and grow as a teacher and a colleague. And while I carefully manage my online time, I cannot imagine my life without it.