Using Twitter Chats for Teacher Professional Development
For the broader culture, Twitter is usually perceived as a vast wasteland of gossip, rumor, and incivility. But teachers have transformed their corner of Twitter into something else entirely. Increasing numbers of teachers have been using Twitter chats for professional development. Most chats are specific to a certain subject, but some are regional, and others focus on specific student populations.
While this might seem like a surprising turn of events, there are several advantages to using Twitter. First, it makes it possible for teachers to find like-minded and similarly-situated practitioners. It is a convenient gathering place for teachers from a wide variety of disciplines, and the platform makes it simple for them to join together. It has established the critical mass necessary to accomplish the goal of having a broad enough community to generate useful content.
Further, the length-limited nature of Twitter means that no long-winded colleague can derail the conversation or waste everyone’s time. This means that Twitter chats are useful for busy teachers. Another incredible benefit is that, unlike most professional development opportunities, Twitter chats are free.
Chats are usually held weekly, at the same time each week. A chat will be hosted by one person or group, and they will select a topic for that week. (Don’t forget to check out previous chats for topics that interest you.) Of course, one of the advantages of Twitter is the ability to link to other content, which means that you are likely to find a wide variety of curated materials that will further your knowledge on the topic under discussion. You might want to consider simply observing for the first chat or two so that you can get a feel for the rules, norms, and expectations of the group before you jump in. Also, consider asking questions about areas of concern to you.
If you aren’t already connected to your colleagues on Twitter, it may take a bit of detective work to find your tribe. But several websites host lists of Twitter chats that can help you get started. One edtech journal focuses on Twitter chats that are useful for all teachers, while other lists will help you find a chat devoted to the subject and level of your interest.
You can think of Twitter chats as a virtual gathering place. They are especially useful if you are the only person on your campus in a certain role. Now, you can find colleagues from all over the world who can help you improve your practice.