Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Does Twitter Matter?


Many people question the value of twitter and if it can really make an impact for an educator. After nearly two years as a user, I can say with little hesitation that twitter has impacted my life in ways both subtle and profound.

Impacted my students
Clearly anything that a teacher spends a significant amount of time engaging in and claiming it is “PD” should benefit the students, right? Well that is certainly true in my case. Due to connections I have made on twitter, my students have be able to make connections as well. They have engaged in the Collaboreyes Project as well as Skyped with classes in different parts of the country. That is not to say I could not do this without twitter, but twitter certainly made those connections easier to create and foster.

In addition, there have been countless times I have reached out to my PLN to help my students. I was able to have my students connect to experts while doing research as well as gain primary sources. Another huge benefit has been the innumerable resources I have been able to give my students through the sharing I have done on twitter.

Impacted my teaching
There has been numerous ways in which twitter has helped my teaching. Probably the simplest way is through the conversations I have been able to participate in. Some of the easiest to get involved in are the various chats that take place weekly and use a hashtag to follow. It was through these chats that I learned about the Hole in the Wall Theory that framed a research project and guided much of my teaching. I gained numerous resources for teaching Social Science with the help of the great folks at #SSCHAT. I have also been challenged about my beliefs on homework, grades and overall teaching beliefs on a regular basis that has helped shape what I think of as my own teacher identity.

Another specific thing I pulled from twitter was connecting with Daniel Pink and chatting with him about his work and book, Drive. His work and conversations sparked Innovation Day at our school that has gotten national attention. In addition, I was actually able to sit in Pink’s house and talk with him about education, business and how the two can intersect.

Impacted my life
The impact on my life goes far beyond just making me a better teacher and yet related. I firmly believe that the work I did this past year as a teacher was driven in large part to the learning I was doing on twitter. It is because of this renewed approach to teaching and the connections I made that lead to some of the recognition I received for my teaching this past year. As a result of these recognitions I have been able to meet the President, fulfill a lifelong dream and do things and meet people I never thought were possible. Some people might think twitter is trivial, but I can honestly say it has changed my life.

Impacted my family
The impact on my family is both negative and positive as one can imagine. I have had to work to provide balance in my twitter use so as not to neglect my roles as a parent and husband. This might seem silly, but it is something that must be put into perspective. However, the impact of my twitter “folks” was illustrated perfectly last month when I attended ISTE in San Diego. Prior to attending the conference my wife had hip surgery to repair damaged cartilage and some bone irregularities. Now the surgery was not that invasive but she was laid up and out of commission. Right before I was preparing to leave for ISTE the doctors found a blood clot in my wife’s leg during a follow up which was incredibly scary for both of us. I tweeted out something about it and within minutes I was flooded with well wishes and prayer notes. Now, this is to be expected as most people are human and this is something we do. Yet, what I didn’t expect was the number of people that sought me out in person in San Diego to see how my wife was doing out of genuine concern. Even today, several weeks later, I am still having folks tweet me to ask how my wife is doing. This is not the part of twitter that most people are seeking when they “join up” but it is a real aspect as personal connections are powerful and meaningful.

If you know someone that is not on twitter…harass them a little bit more to jump in the water. I am not going to say twitter is for everyone, but it is certainly for me as I get way more out of it that I originally bargained for.