Data Use, Technology, and Educational Leadership
A friend asked the FB world some questions about teachers using Twitter in their classroom recently. I, along with some other responded with comments. Here’s a fleshed out version of my thoughts, informed by my research on how school leaders use Twitter. It’s probably not the best set of FAQs — I spent the last few days with kids crying at the beach. The nights were on a fold out couch. But if any of the below interests you, I’d probably Google (or Twitter itself!) to learn more about Twitter’s best classroom uses.
Twitter vs. Facebook?
This partly depends upon the goals behind use. If all you want is a list of updates for parents, then I’d go with Facebook. Parents are on Facebook already (nothing to learn), and membership etc. is more manageable. Actually, I’d set up a blog that handled the info, then automate it to post to FB, Twitter, Google+, etc. But this use of social media is still pretty provincial.
Twitter users aim to be the opposite of provincial, which leads to the next point. I’ve posted other thoughts here on Twitter vs. FB.
Why NOT go private?
Because then you’re missing out on the best part of Twitter: the sparks that come from fortuitous connections. The kindness of strangers. The strength of weak ties. The capital that comes from having “friends” with neat friends that you don’t know. Being private or using FB only is a bit like only being open only to conversations at open house night at school — and only with parents that you’re sure are those for your kids and no one else’s.
But the neat thing about Twitter is that you’re connected to a larger audience and sets of resources. I’ve spoken to principals who participate in professional book clubs, who have connected their faculties for site visits, and who have connected their classrooms for academic book clubs all from serendipitous Twitter connections.
I’d imagine that classrooms (and their schools) would benefit from having their neat accomplishments, interests, questions, etc. shared among a larger community. That’s partly a PR thing, but with some practical benefits. A fictitious example: maybe career day guests are dropping like flies and I could use a little extra support. I could use FB and contact only my parents, but they wouldn’t be able to re-share if things are set to private. On Twitter it’s a simple retweet, perhaps along with extra hashtags or mentions of top professionals’ usernames. Your request is now getting that much more air time, even though they weren’t already on an approved list. It might not result in Patrick Stewart coming to your school, but you never know. Maybe it’ll result in a nice fruit plate from Whole Foods, or collaborating with a university on lessons careers, college admissions, and college finances. Maybe the latter turns into a mentoring program between college students and your students. Or maybe you’ll just be able to help someone else plan their own career day.
An aside: Yes, being public means being public. It’s not scary once you get acclimated to Twitter. So my advice is to play with it first yourself. Learn some lingo and some hashtags and some etiquette. After a month, reevaluate it’s potential role in your classroom. It’s just not FB, so don’t try to make it FB.
How can people (parents) follow me without using Twitter?
Tell them about using “fast follow.” Your tweets will go to their phones as text messages. For school leaders, it’s a great way to send important updates, as well as pics or announcements from school events. I’ve posted about this here.
Is Twitter really free professional development?
Yes and no. It’s definitely a chance to learn. But my research on school leaders is that they tend to learn about only a few things, not the full range of things at the heart of the work. That said, I’m pretty sure that teachers using Twitter is way different than administrators using Twitter. I intend to publish more on this academically on teachers vs. admin on Twitter, but for now I think it’s worth saying that teachers might have an easier time learning and collaborating.
So yes, go out and play.