Over the past few years the acronym “PLN” has found its way into the world of education. PLNs, referring to either Personal or Professional Learning Networks, are helping teachers refine their practice. A powerful PLN can help teachers engage in meaningful Professional Development (PD) that is tailored to their needs and goals. As I conclude my 5th year of teaching I am quite proud of he PLN I have curated over the years. Although I have acquired/ met several of the resources or educators within my PLN in person, at conferences, and through attending PD sessions, a large majority of my PLN has developed through using Twitter.
According to Visser, Evering, and Barrett, Twitter now has over 200 million users. Between all of the “skeevy marketers, D-list celebrity half-wits and pathetic attention seekers” there is a wealth of knowledge for PD hungry educators like myself. For educators with little time on their hands, in other words every teacher in the world, you can streamline your search with hashtags or specific users. A great tool for this is TweetDeck. See below for a short tutorial on how to set up your TweetDeck.
As I mentioned in the video above, one of the fastest and easiest ways to grow your PLN with Twitter is by participating in a Twitter chat. A Twitter chat is essentially a conversation happening in real time with Twitter users from anywhere in the world. The conversation is organized by a hashtag and is generally led by an expert on that topic. The leader of a Twitter chat is often referred to as a moderator. Many times Twitter chats are moderated by two or three users who are passionate about the topic being discussed.
One of my favorite Twitter chats to engage in is called #ADEChat. This chat is always led by an Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) but you do not have to be an ADE to participate. I recently have had the opportunity to co-moderate #ADEChat a few times. My most recent experience occurred in the fall with my principal, Catherine Poling. Together we led an exciting conversation about infusing technology with the arts.
So what makes a great Twitter chat? In order to explore this question I must first revisit a topic I have previously blogged about: What makes Professional Development “worth it?” Yes, good PD is engaging, fun, and includes fast Wi-Fi and a table full of snacks. But most importantly the best kind of PD is the kind that teachers can and want to implement into their very next lesson. In addition, PD that is “worth it” sends teachers away with fresh ideas and resources for their own classroom. Now back to our original question…
A great Twitter chat:
- Focuses on a topic that is relevant and cutting edge. I don't think you'd find many teachers engaging in a Twitter chat centered around Houghton Mifflin anthology texts. It is for this reason that #HMChat does not exist.
- Uses open ended questions that can be answered with short responses. One of the challenges of Twitter is it's 140 character limitation. Moderators should not let this factor dictate the types of questions they will ask. Good questions drive good conversation and may often even drive more good questions.
- Takes place during a convenient time for the targeted audience.
- Promote the sharing of resources. Teachers are often considered the best thieves. We love to steal each other's lessons, videos, rubrics, assessments, etc. A good Twitter chat will condone this.
Overall, just like quality PD, a good Twitter chat will help educators fill their PLN with great resources and people. I can attest to this fact in that I have several teacher friends in this world whom I made and kept in touch with thanks to Twitter. These are educators like John Ross or Karen Miller whom I have never even met in person but still consider them to be an essential part of my PLN.
Visser, R. D., Evering, L. C., & Barrett, D. E. (2014). #TwitterforTeachers: Implications of Twitter as a self-directed professional development tool for K-12 teacher. Journal for Technology in Education, 46(4), 396-413.