One of my students in my online course (IDT 7064: School Change & the Internet) inspired me today. She made me want to tell my Twitter story. I’m pretty sure it’s not original. I’m pretty sure it’s as pedestrian as … well pedestrians. But it’s mine, and it is why I believe teachers and higher education faculty should try Twitter.
About 18 months ago, I was not a Twitter user at all — not even a casual user. I even sort of scoffed at others for using Twitter, adding that it was a time drain. About a year and half ago, though, I went on sabbatical from the university. I studied mobile teaching and learning during my time away. One of the tools I learned to use was Twitter. Sounds a little silly, doesn’t it?
I found out I was wrong about Twitter. I decided early that Twitter would only be a professional outlet for me. I wouldn’t be sharing photos of my kids, birthday wishes, etc. on Twitter. Actually, I started out not sharing anything. I started out just reading stuff. It wasn’t a reciprocal relationship with others on Twitter yet.
I found great folks with great minds and great spirits for teaching like Scott Newcomb, Phillip Cummings, Steve Anderson, Kyle Pace, Jason Rhode, and Vicki Davis. I made stronger connections with colleagues I knew but began to interact with a lot more like George Veletsianos, Michael Barbour, Monte Tatum, and Dan Surry. I also began to follow colleagues that I used in my teaching and scholarship, such as Tom Barrett, Peter Pappas, Inge de Waard, Mark van ‘t Hooft, John Traxler, Mike Wesch, and Cammy Bean. Plus, there are folks that I always get some great resource, tool, or news nugget from like Mark Scott, Allison Rossett, Jason Haag, Tom Whitby, Steve Dembo, Jason Bedell, Tony Vincent, Joanna Bobiash, Alec Couros, Richard Byrne, Johnny Kissko, Smashing Magazine, and David Wicks. I’m a better teacher, researcher, writer, and professional development consultant because of these folks.
As I began to follow more folks, I found that things I had read might be useful to others. So, I just posted them. Reading other people’s posts these resources I had found seemed to be in the same vein. Surprisingly (and it still is often), some of these ideas and posts were reposted, and those individuals’ followers then read them. Some were even reTweeted again.
Over time, my Twitter relationships began to become reciprocal. It didn’t have to be. No one is going to say you need to be contributing or I won’t share with you. Instead, it seems to be a natural progression. In the beginning, we have a belief that we don’t have much of a voice or something to share—only reading others posts. But we begin to find that voice, and we do begin to share. As we do that, folks want to follow us and hear our voices. They want to read what we’re sharing. (It’s still a little flattering for me to get a notice that someone new is following me. Sometimes, when I get three or four followers in the same couple of day, I wonder, “What did I say or do to make this happen?” I haven’t changed.)
In Twitter, it says I have 522 followers. I can’t imagine that actually. The impact of me to 522+ people every day is humbling.
What I’ve come to believe is that I think all teachers (and higher education faculty members) should be on Twitter for the professional development community. Teaching can be a lonely and isolating profession. I believe it’s often hard for teachers to admit they do not know something. Maybe it’s just being human. Being a teacher just amplifies the expectation. Much of what we do as teachers is taking others’ ideas and reshaping them to fit our students and curriculum. Twitter is one of the BEST places to receive ideas from. It also offers informal professional development. When you begin to follow folks who are experts in your content area, then they begin to impact your thinking and your learning and your teaching. You find avenues and resources you didn’t know you were missing.
I also believe that social media tools, such as Twitter, are tools we can use with our students as well. Dr. Monica Rankin’s video of The Twitter Experiment impacted me. I saw Kevin Oliver use a TwitterChat in one of his courses. Some of the tools we use, such as our course management system (I.e., eCourseware & Desire2Learn) require logins and are not easy to integrate seamlessly into our everyday lives. Twitter can be used with mobile phones, too, so it can continue conversations inside of class and outside of class. In everyday experiences, we can share and demonstrate our learning. I’ve even used Twitter inside some of my courses—both online and face to face ones. Some students took to it. Others didn’t. I do believe that if Twitter isn’t interesting to you then you’re either not following enough people or you’re following the wrong people. In either case, you need to add folks to follow and probably prune others off your list.
I still only use Twitter for professional relationships. Facebook is my choice for personal relationships. I’ve learned a lot about Twitter in my 18 months. I’ve learned a lot about a lot of things in my 18 months of Twitter. I’ve made new colleagues that I’ve never met, but I really want to. And now this story is out on Twitter.
That’s it. That’s my Twitter story. Do you have one? I’d like to read it, so please share it!