Using Twitter for School District PD

“Twitter is an amazing tool for educators!” – Anonymous  (at least I think someone might have said that.)

 Regardless of the source of that quote, I have come to believe this to be true.  When I first signed on to Twitter, I was not so sure, however.  I saw this cool new tool as another way to chat with people and share innocuous tidbits about their lives.

I now see Twitter as an invaluable source of information for educators.  The number of teachers and administrators using Twitter is growing exponentially, and these folks are writing about all of the important topics of the day. You can get opinions on all of these topics, and you can find amazing resources for teaching and learning.  Over the years, I have been to many, many professional workshops and conferences, and I have gained knowledge at these events.  However, I would argue that I have learned as much in the last few years on Twitter as I have in the last 29 years as an educator attending on-site professional development sessions.

Today was a watershed day in my life as a Tweeter.  Until today, I used Twitter on my own to connect with others around the globe, and I have participated in Twitter chats that I have found quite valuable. But, until today, I have done my Tweeting outside of the school day, on my own time.

Today was different.  We held an all-district inservice day for our teachers.  No students; only teachers. One of the scheduled activities for all staff members was to participate in a 30 minute Twitter chat that was led by administrators and instructional coaches.  Eight relevant topics were presented to staff to discuss.  Each chat was offered at two different times during the day.  Here are the topics:

Standards Based Grading #SBG109  

Project Based Learning #PBL109    

Classroom Management #MGT109

Connected Educators  #ConEd109  

Disciplinary Literacy   #LDC109  

Special Needs Topics #Sped109

ePortfolios   #ePort109   

Doing Things Differently #DTD109   

What a great idea for professional development within a school district!  (I can say that because it was not my idea!)  Because we all have so much to offer, discussing these topics in group chats had the potential to be valuable for all participants.  I can say that the chats in which I participated were terrific. I now can go back to each of these hashtags and read the string of comments to learn even more.  None of us would have been able to do that if we held in-person discussions in classrooms.  Furthermore, the discussions can continue forever if people choose to keep the chats going.  Finally, because these hashtags are public, we had other Tweeters from outside the school district joining our chats.  There is no way we could have gained insight from others if we held traditional face-to-face inservice meetings.

All-in-all, today’s experiment in Tweeting was a huge success from my point of view, and I would recommend that other school districts try this approach.  Feel free to check out our hashtags.  There were a lot of great thoughts shared regarding eight important educational topics.

For information on hundreds of ongoing educational chats on Twitter, check here.  Thanks to @Jeff_Zoul, @mfaust, @Arubin98, and @mikelubelfeld for bringing this idea to our school district!  Well done!

Have a Tweetful day!

Dave  @dbsherman

From the “I still don’t get it” File…

I still don’t get Twitter.  I really want to.  I am trying hard to see how it can help me in my everyday work as a principal.  I wrote a post about this same topic on my old blog a long time ago.

I do see the importance of blogging, wikis, and social network sites such as Ning.  But the Twitter concept, with its 140 word maximum, escapes me.

I experienced a glimmer of understanding last weekend when I was Twittering from the NAESP conference, and a few others were joining me.  But, mostly, I see a lot of nothing being twittered.  The whole concept of “What are you doing” breeds worthless chatter among the Twitter-ites.  Do I really care that Budtheteacher is eating burgers, or that EvanCourtney is getting his basement ready for ping pong?  These are real Twitter posts that were written today.

I recently received an email letting me know that a 5th grade student from my school is now following me on Twitter.  I also have some of my students’ parents following me as well.  It’s a little weird.  I mean, I joined Twitter to broaden my professional relationships, not to chat with 10 year olds or write Tweets that might come across offensive to the taxpayers who are paying my salary.

That leaves me with the following three options:  1.  Ignore the followers and still write whatever I want on Twitter;  2.  Write only very PC stuff on Twitter regardless of how I am really feeling at the moment;  3.  Block all those who I do not want following me at the risk of offending them greatly (I think they get an email stating that I have blocked them.  Is that true?).

So I am not sure what to do about this minor dilemma.  Interestingly, the other day I read a post written on Mark’s Learning Log where Mark Walker asked the same question about Twitter.  He also posted this very funny video.

On the other hand, I have been playing around with Facebook, and I am liking it.  There is a Twitter-like section on Facebook where you can answer the question “What’s on your mind?”  The posts are added to all of my friends’ Facebook pages.  It appears as if the difference between this and Twitter is that I have more control over who I allow to be my “friend” on Facebook.  That makes me more comfortable with the concept of posting innane comments like “I had broiled salmon and a baked potato for dinner tonight.”  It is the same Twitteresque nonsense, but at least I am among friends.

I will be playing around with Facebook for the next few weeks to see if it fits with my lifestyle.  Unfortunately, Facebook is blocked by my school district, so I can’t use it at work to connect with principal colleagues.  Interestingly, Twitter is not blocked.

Does that mean I will be Facebooking at home and Twittering at school?

I really need to get a life…