Two years into Twitter: transformed by the community of educators

Two years ago, we published Twitter education chats: An astonishing source of professional development by Steve Wyborney, (author of  25 Common Core Math Lessons for the Interactive Whiteboard and Week-by-Week Math Review for the Digital Classroomwhich ended up being one of the most-read posts on edu@scholastic, ever!

In 2014, Steve was new to Twitter, and just learning how to use the platform for professional development. A lot has changed in two years, and we asked him for an update on his use of Twitter for PD in 2016. 

In September 2014, I described how my journey into Twitter education chats supercharged my professional development!

Now, two years later, Twitter education chats continue to supercharge my professional growth, and I have discovered much more. They have also supercharged my context. The network of educators I’ve found on Twitter has empowered me in ways I had simply never imagined two years ago when I wrote from the perspective of someone who was new to Twitter.

My experiences using Twitter as an educator during the past two years  have led me to publish a book, moderate chats, create chats, join educational Voxer communities, utilize Google Hangouts to teach lessons in other states, deliver keynote addresses on the power of Twitter, personally meet several contacts from online ed chats at conferences, and communicate with authors, experts, and educators all around the world!  

Because of the power of this community, I frequently feel like I know information well in advance of many who are not yet involved in Twitter ed chats.

My fledgling blog, which contained a single post in August, 2014, has grown into a platform that I use to share reflections, strategies, and resources with fellow educators. Frequently, the resources that I share return to me in the form of photos of how those resources have been used in the classroom.

My experiences with Twitter have also caused me to reflect deeply, and that reflection has led me to a new question: In addition to my Professional Development, what else has been supercharged due to Twitter?

There are three areas of clarity that stand out to me:

The network of connections I’ve established has empowered my willingness to take risks

Authors, experts, and many fellow educators always used to seem too far away, completely out of reach. There were two reasons for this: The first was that I didn’t have a means to easily contact them. With Twitter, I now have that means.

The second reason, though, was actually the greater barrier. I didn’t have the courage to contact them. I thought authors were out of reach, far away, and wouldn’t have time to answer my questions. Yet Twitter has elevated my willingness to take risks. In a sense, every tweet represents a small risk—after all, each one is public statement. Now that I’ve taken several of those risks, I’ve realized a new truth: Authors are eager to hear from their readers, ready to interact, and welcome being contacted.

I no longer hesitate to reach out. 

My risk-taking grew to a point where I reached out to an author and asked if I, too, could write a book. A year later, Dave and Shelley Burgess published my latest book, The Writing on the Classroom Wall, which itself is a risk—it lays my beliefs about teaching and learning out for the world to see.  

Twitter will never be perfect – and that is powerful

Because we are the ones who utilize Twitter—and because none of us is perfect —Twitter ed chats hold both a collective and personal power. The ed chats are inhabited by educators who mutually understand that we are all seeking to improve, that we all desire to contribute and learn, and that we all have questions and want to grow. 

It’s true that some educators have been on Twitter for a long time while others have recently stepped into it. Yet all of us are on a learning journey that will never be complete. The very fact that we are all learning – together – is a large part of what makes the ed chats work so very well. The chats are filled with the ideas of educators who willingly admit that we are hungry to learn, that there is much we do not know, and that when we share our questions together, we learn the most.

It is the mutual eagerness, coupled with the understanding that we are all learners, that often makes the chats so enriching and exciting.  

Education conferences will never be the same

Due to Twitter, I now step into every conference with a clear understanding that there are many, many educators who are unable to attend – but would dearly like to draw value from the conference. Participating from afar is now much more possible through Twitter, by following conference hashtags.

So, I now attend conferences with the dual intention of learning as much as I can and sharing as much of the experience as possible with other educators who cannot be there. If I learn about a tool, a website, or any other resource that might be useful, I tweet it out. Photos, quotes, statistics, lesson ideas and book recommendations often are very useful to those not at the conference, so I share them out. In some cases, I’ll tag a particular person, but I’ll always use the conference hashtag so that the learning can be scaled out to those who cannot be there.

Additionally, I now make a list of my top 10 – 20 reflections or discoveries during the experience and tweet those out at the end of the conference. And I challenge other educators to also share their top ten reflections. During the conference, this practice reminds me of my responsibility to share my learning, and it also causes me to finalize my reflections before rushing from one session to the next.

One such conference reflection was a simple statement that occurred to me: “Reflection is the end game.” Not only do we want our students to reflect deeply, we want that for ourselves as well. Our learning is propelled by acting on opportunities to reflect.  Reflection is what helps us settle our learning into meaningful lasting connections.  

Over time, I’ve learned that the growing network of educators who are eager to contribute to each other’s practice, the availability to take risks and reach out, and the opportunity to personally connect with other educators in such a way to deepen my own risks and my own journey have transformed both my perspective and my practice.

And that is what Twitter brings to me. Transformation. Reflection. Heightened Risk-Taking. Community.  

After two years of learning on Twitter, I’ve discovered that I have been transformed by the educational community on Twitter. It is a transformation in progress, and I am eager to learn more.

Follow Steve on Twitter: @SteveWyborney