Sunday, November 13, 2011

Tweeting is not a lollipop tree

Teachers have a responsibility to keep up on their subject area and professional practice--that much is a time-honored truth.  If a tool existed to make that responsibility more time and cost efficient, I'd like to think  that many educators would jump on the opportunity.  Yet, I'm finding Twitter far far underutilized by established educators.  My gut feeling is that some educators look at Twitter as just a social networking toy--candy for the brain--a way to pass the time under a lollipop tree--and would just be silly, wouldn't it?

Yesterday, I used Twitter to follow Michigan State's  Educational Technology Conference.  I did this from the parking lot of West Chester University about three hours before coaching in our football game.

At the same time I shared a text exchange with a friend and colleague about what I was learning from #coeetc11 and then he went on to follow it on Twitter as well--while waiting for his car at a Toyota dealership.

We were, in a very new and very real sense, collaborating and learning in a new professional conference experience.

We experimented with one of the links together as we have been searching and experimenting with ways to create a backchannel in our school given the resources available to us.  Our professional development this year is a shared goal--digital writing.  Low and behold...we found one yesterday on Twitter.

Participants at the MSU conference tweeted statements, advice ("Use advance search through google to find images that are licensed under creative commons")...and links to the various things they were learning:

Free Group Text Messaging Service for Schools

Dance Mat Typing

Digital Writing examples posted by Troy Hicks


"An awesome list of tech tools to use" for any elementary or middle school teacher

American memory at the Library of Congress

Online pinboard

CSI The Experience (interactive exhibit)

Online educational comic generator

Short video about the cloud

Short video about copyright

Copyright, Fair Use, and Creative Commons Resources

Live Binders

Keynote speaker Dr. Troy Hicks who writes and presents a lot on the teaching of digital writing offered yesterday that "Kids are very tech comfy, not always tech savvy."  I am finding this the more I present different aspects of technology to my 8th grade students.  Actually, my colleague must have been just a little disheartened (but my oh my what we learned) a few weeks ago when he told me my students would, should, will be able to remember how to create and upload and share podcasts.  They learned about it and did it during their Digital Literacy course just last year.  Guess what...quite a few didn't remember.  Quite a few acted and reacted in quite the same way as when we ask if they remember learning about adjectives last year...or last month: "no."

It is up to us to keep up to date on our subject area and our practice--Twitter is a enormously powerful for teachers to become better teachers.  And is far too underutilized.  We need to make ourselves tech saavy and fall to being quick to judge.  Read Twitter's front page banner headline:

"Follow your interests: instant updates from your friends, industry experts, favorite celebrities, and what's happening around the world."

On the surface, from that statement alone, it is easy to just see Twitter as a way to follow the social implosion of Charlie Sheen.  If you are a teacher and do not use Twitter, take a step back and read between the lines.  Follow what is happening around the world in history...with writing...with special education... or in whatever you want it to be.  Like a lot of things in life, Twitter can be what you want it to be.

After all, the first three words are Follow your interests.

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