Sunday, February 12, 2012
Twitter is a free social networking site that allows its members to write short messages known as Tweets that others can read. I first signed up for twitter about six months ago, but had no real idea how to use it. I had heard mentions of it being used in education, as a means for teachers to connect with their students and keep them informed or share interesting sites. As an early years teacher most of my students don't have their own cellphones or Twitter accounts, so I wasn't sure if it could be useful to me. That is, until I explored it in more depth recently and realized it could be a useful professional tool.
There are hundreds of teachers, consultants and educational organizations to be found on Twitter. I started by adding a few teachers I knew locally, then added a few more that they seemed to be following, added a few organizations and in no time I realized I had created my own personal learning network (PLN). Through Twitter, I have found links to activities I can use in the classroom, read Tweets that make me think about my own teaching practices, connected with classrooms interested in sharing their learning with my class and discovered an online conference, that I then viewed live. I have shared links with teachers seeking help with a topic and asked for assistance with my own planning. Through Twitter I have broadened my teaching support network and can now ask many sources about a topic, rather than only those I have met face to face.
The only drawback to Twitter that I have found so far, is that with access to that many people, it can becoming overwhelming to sift through all the tweets that can come through in a day. In the beginning I added almost every teacher I came across that tweeted something interesting, but soon was overwhelmed with a lot of irrelevant information. I am learning to follow only those I think will forward my learning and challenge my thinking. Rather than follow every educational organization out there, I follow a few and check on the others semi-regularly. By being judicious with who I follow I find I can catch more interesting tweets when I am skimming through the days catch.
There is another part to Twitter that I have yet to explore fully; the education chat nights. Groups such as #D5chat, which consists of teachers who are looking to gain and share information about The Daily 5, meet once a week on Twitter, on a certain day, at a certain time, to discuss a predetermined topic in more detail. It allows those interested in the topic to have a more concentrated conversation, usually in the span on an hour, and share their thinking. This is one part of Twitter I look forward to exploring in the coming weeks.