On-Demand, DIY-from-the-Comfort-of-Your-Couch Professional Development

For the last five months, I have harbored a secret from many of my colleagues.  It’s not something about which I am ashamed, it’s just that I didn’t know how to bring it up in a way that might be palatable.  My secret: I’m a Twerp.  Or is it a Tweep?  At any rate, I’m on Twitter…and I’m loving it.

Before June, I didn’t know a lot about Twitter.  I couldn’t figure out the hashtag thing, I was skeptical about how much information could be shared in 140 characters, and I truly wasn’t interested in vapid posts about what people ate for breakfast.  Wow…was I ever wrong.

Once someone walked me through a few easy tips on using Twitter, I suddenly became aware of a huge conversation taking place about education.  It was exciting and humbling to enter this new world, and I was inspired by the opportunity for daily professional development.  24/7/365 there is an intensely thoughtful conversation happening on Twitter about education.  Sure, you can still hear about what people had for breakfast.  However, if you choose your group (or Professional Learning Network…PLN) well, you’ll hear a lot less about breakfast and a whole lot about schools, teaching, leading, creating, sharing, failing, trying, and passion.  The educators I follow on Twitter are some of the most incredibly invested educators I’ve ever met…and I’ve met very few of them in person.

If I’ve managed to capture your imagination, please know that there are some phases that you might go through as a new Twitter user…at least I did.  Initially, I was a “lurker”, hanging back and reticent to post.  Twitter was a way for me to find new articles and hear from and meet some of the thought leaders in education (@grantwiggins gave me a shout out today!).  And even as a lurker, there was HUGE value in being on Twitter.  During this “lurker” phase, I continued to expand my PLN.  I slowly started follow more and more educators, news sites, bloggers, and interesting people.

Gradually, however, I became a participant in some of the conversations I was following.  I figured out the hashtag thing (# precedes a word or phrase sans spaces so that a conversation can be tracked.  e.g. #edchat, #edreform, #tabschat, or #naischat).  I also started to RT (retweet) and share MT’s (modified tweets) based on what I was reading.  And most recently, I participated in a tweetchat (a group of people that agree to respond to a particular hashtag on Twitter at the same time. e.g. Wednesday at 8:00 PM is #tabschat, Thursday at 9:00 PM is #isedchat, Saturday at 7:30 AM is #satchat ).  There is still a lot for me to learn about Twitter (and education), but there is a supportive, energized community out there to help me.

If you’re still with me, here is my challenge to you…join Twitter and then send me a tweet to say you’re in the game (@michaelcwirtz).  I’ll add you to my PLN and you can do the same.  From here, enjoy the ride, keep an open mind, and most importantly, build out your network.  If you need some good resources on starting with Twitter, here are some helpful links:

Twitter for Educators: A Beginner’s Guide:  https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B7GZx_2PdMytOTkwV2RSRTJuZXc/edit

5 Great Ways for Teachers to Collaborate on Twitter: http://www.fractuslearning.com/2012/11/29/teachers-collaborate-twitter/

Twitter “Saturday School” for Teachers: http://www.npr.org/2012/10/23/163471798/twitter-saturday-school-for-teachers

50 Important Education Twitter Hashtags – With Meeting Times: http://www.teachthought.com/social-media/50-important-education-twitter-hashtags-with-meeting-times/

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