By Andrew Hawk
As social media continues to become more and more integrated into American society, educators everywhere continue to find ways to apply it to their trade. The networking potential for Twitter and chatting is only beginning to be realized. The problem with social media is that it can be hard to know how to make the best use of your time. Here are some tips I hope will help you navigate Twitter and chatting.
Who to Follow on Twitter
For anyone unfamiliar with Twitter, or the act of tweeting, this form of social media allows users to post short tweets (no more than 140 characters) that are sent to people who follow their accounts. Followers can post replies to tweets if they wish. Users enjoy Twitter for the speed at which information is exchanged. The answer of who you should follow may be different for each teacher, but here are some tips that can help you get started.
Follow professional organizations. In some states, you can follow the Department of Education on Twitter. Following professional organizations can keep you informed of breaking news, changing policies, and events relating to education that are on the horizon.
Follow content experts. The experts you choose to follow will be specific to your grade level or subject. Even if you do not glean specific teaching strategies from them, experts may be able to give you ideas related to the shifting climate of instructional design. Exposure to new perspectives on teaching can help educators avoid getting stuck in a rut.
Look for inspirational sources. Honestly, this might be the most valuable tip on this list. Whether you are inspired by spiritual, philosophical, or comedic sources, reading a quick tweet from a source that you find uplifting can make a big difference, especially when you are having a bad day. Go browsing to find a source that works for you.
Connect with colleagues. Most of us can name a colleague with whom we have felt a strong connection. In the hustle and bustle of a busy school day, there isn’t always time for social interactions. Following your current or past colleagues on Twitter can help you keep up with each other’s lives since, as teachers, we often lose ourselves in class preparation.
Follow former students. Why not? The effect teachers have on students can last a lifetime. Follow a former student to see how things are going for him or her. It is very rewarding to watch former students grow into productive adults.
Which Chats to Participate In
Chatting is almost as old as the Internet itself. The act of chatting predates all other forms of social media. Most current forms of social media include some form of chatting. Chatting can take place in real time via chat rooms or through a series of comments on a chat board. Here are some guidelines for finding the right chats for you and getting the most out of them.
Beware of negative chatting. You do not have to look far on the Internet to find people taking part in negative chats aimed at American education. I heavily caution you not to take part in these chats. It is easy to become emotional when you read comments that denigrate the work you hold so dear, but it’s important to beware of trolls. Trolls are people who go trolling on the Internet with the goal of stirring up trouble through negative comments. They may not even necessarily believe the things they are posting. They are only trying to cause an argument for their own amusement. The danger a teacher faces if he or she lashes out at a troll in a chat room is that the troll may take a screen shot of the comments and post them elsewhere. Please be careful before you post any negative comments.
Find websites that fit your needs. My favorite website for professional chatting is teachers.net. This website offers a variety of teaching resources, a wide range of chat boards, and live chat rooms for teachers. Chat rooms can be great if you need immediate advice or teaching-related ideas. This is because you and the other people are communicating in real time. Chat boards are places where people leave comments on a certain topic or question. It is common on teachers.net for parents to post questions on chat boards if there is something troubling them or if they need advice about parenting. I like this website because it covers a broad range of educational categories. Literally, there is something for every type of teacher. However, everyone should find the website or websites that best fit their professional needs.
Chatting through professional articles. I have the preferences on my homepage set up to funnel professional education articles to me. I try to read at least one article a day. The chat boards that are attached to these articles (the comments sections) are often as interesting as the articles themselves. This is a great way to stay up-to-date on the current practices and views of teachers from different parts of the country. Join the conversation and represent your part of the country, too.
Form your own professional chat group. It really does not take a lot of effort to organize your own chat group. This can even be accomplished using instant messaging on social media websites such as Facebook. Now that it is possible to use a cell phone to chat on websites, chatting can literally take place at any time. I recommend giving your chats a purpose. Have your group choose a professional book to read and then chat about thoughts and reactions. Even a few minutes of collaboration per day will have a positive impact on your classroom.
Andrew Hawk has worked in public education for fourteen years, starting as a teaching assistant in a special education classroom. He has taught first, second, and fifth grade as a classroom teacher, and for the past three years, has worked as a resource room teacher, providing services for fourth and fifth graders. Working as a special education teacher has given him the opportunity to work with a variety of age groups and exceptionalities. In 2011, he earned his master’s degree in special education from Western Governor’s University. When Andrew is not preparing for school, he enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter.
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