I was recently part of a social media team at a college, and I’ve been genuinely impressed by how educators are using Twitter to share ideas and resources.
Before I joined that team, I was quite familiar with Twitter because of my other career as a professional writer. We novelists and short story authors are all over social media, tweeting recent publications, writing advice, tidbits we hope will entertain our readers … and sometimes just plain procrastinating! But the upshot was, because of my interactions on the writing side of Twitter, I thought I had a pretty good grip on how and why people use Twitter to communicate. My mental image of Twitter was that of a cocktail party where people move from conversation to conversation dropping witty remarks and sharing laughs and gossip. (And occasionally getting into unseemly arguments!)
Twitter, it seemed, wasn’t really a vehicle for serious conversations most of the time.
But once I started digging into the education side of Twitter, I found that teachers and other educators are engaged on Twitter in a way that puts most writers to shame! Every day, schools and individual educators are hosting education chats to enable people to share their expertise and gain new knowledge. These chats are often fascinating and well worth the time.
How do you find them? Look for hashtags such as #edtechchat (if you’re interested in educational technology) and (on Saturday mornings) #satchat. Most groups that host regular chats will publicize their hashtags, and most educational conferences will also have a unique hashtag to enable others to follow along with conference events, such as #GAFESummit for the various Google for Education conferences held around the U.S.
There are far too many hashtags to list here. To find others of interest, you’ll need to follow educators who share your interests and check out the hashtags they tweet. (And bear in mind that it’s possible that some Twitter trolls and bots might use educational hashtags to promote inappropriate or inflammatory materials, but in my experience this happens fairly rarely.)
Back in 2014, the Journal of Research on Technology in Education published a paper titled "How and Why Educators Use Twitter: A Survey of the Field"; here’s the abstract:
While the microblogging service Twitter is increasingly popular among educators and offers numerous affordances for learning, its relationship with formal education systems remains complicated by generally ambivalent educator attitudes and institutional policies. To better understand the role Twitter plays in education, we conducted a survey of 755 K–16 educators that yielded quantitative and qualitative data concerning how and why the medium is used.
Respondents reported intense and multifaceted utilization of the service, with professional development (PD) uses more common than interactions with students or families. Educators valued Twitter’s personalized, immediate nature, and the positive and collaborative community it facilitated. Many cited Twitter's role in combating various types of isolation and described it as superior to traditional professional development. We finish by discussing implications for educators, researchers, and educational institutions.
It seems that while some institutions and educators remain ambivalent, plenty of others are embracing Twitter as a valuable resource. I encourage anyone who is involved in K12 or higher ed to investigate the many educational Twitter chats for themselves.