Thursday, September 20, 2012

Twitter Makes the "P" in PD Powerful, Personal, and Progressive

A 2010 Rutgers University study found that 80% of tweeters use Twitter to update others on their status or share their thoughts and observations and deemed such users “meformers”.  I’ll admit that two weeks ago this was my perception of Twitter  that it was a one-way method of conversation for Narcissists and/or people with far too much time on their hands.  In contrast, a recent Drexel University study found that only 2.5% of tweets by educators contain personal information.  Rather, as I have discovered, teachers are "informers".  You share resources, pose and respond to questions, and learn about innovative programs, technologies, practices, and research. In many ways, Twitter is a natural extension of what teachers do in the classroom – modeling the behaviors and skills you want to see in your students (information literacy, communication and collaboration, safe social networking, and lifelong learning, among others).

I recently posted a comment on Michael Pershan’s (@mpershanRational Expressions blog that included my view that mathematics education is more about the process than the product.  Twitter fits into this philosophy too – it transforms professional development from being a single event with a specific focus into a continual conversation with limitless possibilities.  Twitter allows educators to maintain connections with people you meet at conferences and workshops, college and graduate school classmates, and former colleagues in a way that is different than email due to its more open nature (more about this will be coming in another post) and 140-character limit.   (SadlyI searched for over 25 such contacts and was only able to find one who has a Twitter account.)

In addition, though, Twitter also offers a way for teachers to expand your professional network.  You can choose to follow people with whom you share a specific experience, interest and/or goal (more about the mechanics of how to do this will be coming in another post) as I did with Beth Gryczewski (@Gryczewski).  The exciting part is that in doing so you often discover conversations and blogs that introduce novel topics or ideas that will make you pause to reflect and perhaps even act.  For example, Beth recommended that I join the #21stedchat Twitter chat last Sunday. (For anyone who is unfamiliar with a Twitter chat, it is simply a synchronous, public conversation held on Twitter at a designated time and threaded together with a common hashtag.  Here is a list of all of the educational chats on Twitter thanks to Jerry Blumengarten (@cybraryman1)).  The topic was "Professional Development for 21st Century Learning".  Participating exposed my tweets to the people interacting with me in addition to my followers and brought professional development opportunities to my attention that I most likely would have never found on my own (Internet searches tend to be most fruitful when you have something particular you are looking for).  I was unaware of the existence of #edcamps prior to the chat and now I am trying to convince The Math Forum (@themathforum) to host a math-specific one. 

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