Why Teachers Should Tweet
by Terry Heick
What if every teacher tweeted?
Is there some kind of sequence of events we might expect? A teacher signs up for twitter after agonizing over the details (username, avatar, bio, etc.), follows a few dozen people, then sits slack-jawed and confused as that non-stop digital stream begins.
We have to assume that somehow this trickles down to the learning experiences of the students–their writing, their skills, and the wandering of their thoughts–yes? No reason to tweet just to be all avant-garde about it all. It depends on how it’s used–twitter, that is.
Like any tool, twitter is designed for a task. The results of that task depends on the knowledge and skill of its user. There is nothing other-wordly about twitter, if we’re being honest. It has its talents (a few of which we looked at in why twitter works in education), but it is, in short, some thing some one made.
And as teachers, we can use it, or leave it alone.
Twitter’s Magic Mix
In spite of its popularity (500 million tweets per day from 271 million active users–almost 80% outside of the United States), most teachers don’t tweet. I mean, I don’t have data in front of me that says that, but judging from the schools that I visit, I’d put the number of teachers that actively use twitter–well, a very small number.
In lieu of the pleadings from colleagues to “connect,” most teachers don’t use twitter, but are quite satisfied with facebook, thank you very much. And certainly facebook connects. As does instagram, tumblr, wikis, blogging, Google+, linkedin, pinterest, YouTube, et. al. It’s an exhausting list, but there is something about twitter that is both disarming and imminently useful at the same time.
A small handful of buttons, a simple interface that rarely changes, and a general humility about itself. It’s not seeking to replace the internet (as is Zuckerberg’s project). It’s just twitter–a just right mix of engagement, accessibility, and utility. There’s something addicting about that stream of tweets that fall down your timeline as the ideas and messages and energy materialize, and then fall away. You can lurk, you can troll, you can be snarky, or you can be informative.
So what if every teacher tweeted? What might happen? What could we assume? If every teacher tweeted, we could assume that…
…They found a voice
Ideally, we’d see that every teacher had found their voice. Just like every teacher must somehow translate their knowledge and personality into some kind of “voice” and personality in the classroom as a learning leader, it’s not much different on twitter. What can I say, as a teacher, on twitter that other people will find compelling? Useful?
This is something I actually struggle with. I’m far more comfortable writing books, essays, and blog posts that I am tweets–which is why I don’t tweet often. When I do find the “courage to tweet,” it happens by realizing that I’m not “great” on twitter, and tweeting anyway.
If every teacher tweets, we can someone that they connected to someone for some reason without getting stuck in a loop of “lurking and liking.”
Unless they are sending messages to absolutely no one with zero audience awareness, social skills, or will to understand this digital contraption, a teacher that tweets naturally connects–some more, some less, but connecting is a natural consequence of communication. It’ll happen, and who knows where those connections can lead?
They started a global PLN
Add that one to the resume. You want to teach and think differently? Connect with teachers from all over the world as they seek to understand their craft, and socialize that process through twitter.
Felt peer pressure
If every teacher tweeted, somewhere along the line they’d feel peer pressure. To belong. To be accepted. To be popular. To fit in. To be retweeted, favorited, and followed. High school all over again. Even the ones that act above it care, or they wouldn’t be on twitter to begin with.
If they tweeted, they’d be heard. Maybe by only a handful of people–especially at first. But if you’re among the schools on this “leader in me” kick, there are few better ways to jump-start leadership than by finding a niche, connecting with others, and doing good work.
And being heard can help quiet the nerves–and the urge to be overly-defensive and argue and cross your arms over your chest with your chin in the air. If every teacher connected, felt heard, and had a place they felt they “fit in,” maybe so many wouldn’t quit.
Stay calm and tweet.
Considered other ideas
Unless they only follow people that think exactly like they do, and then know every single thing that similarly-thinking person knows, at one time or another, every teacher that tweets will be forced to consider ideas other than their own–and likely in privacy, where they may not feel compelled to be argumentative and close-minded about it all. And that can be powerful unless they’re so thick-headed that not even tweets can get in.
There were a lot of bad tweets
And if every teacher tweeted, we can assume there were a lot of bad tweets. Just being honest. Think about it. *shudder*
They found a niche
Every teacher that tweets will hopefully do some for a reasons above and beyond “getting followers.” While it’s true that followers mean reach, they don’t mean impact. There are an awful lot of twitter users with an awful lot of followers that say the same thing everyone else says, which gets them an awful lot more followers, but in pursuit of what? The same making more same. Blahblahblahblahblahblah.
Ask yourself instead, “What matters to me, and how can I use twitter to impact it?”
The formula for success for teachers on twitter might be simple, then. Find a niche, find a voice, and care a lot about it. That might be a good idea for a post of its own.
adpated image attribution flickr nwabr; Why Teachers Should Tweet