By KATIE VINROOT
When I stepped into the role of a Literacy Coach, I knew I needed to strengthen my personal learning network. My new job entailed keeping up with research and current trends in education, as I was now responsible of relaying this information to a team of teachers. I had several books by authors I trusted and respected, but what next? What else? What would keep me current, relevant, and be information I could access quickly?
One word. One simple word. Twitter.
I thought it sounded crazy at first, but now that I know how to use Twitter as a professional development tool, I. GET. IT.
Around 7 years ago, I signed up for Twitter. Sent a few tweets, followed a few friends, and that was it. I quickly became bored with it as a social networking site and never thought much else about it. However, when I was tasked with creating a new, professional account, I was skeptical of how this site that doesn’t let you say all that much (I mean, 280 characters isn’t a whole lot of space) could really help me in a professional way. However, just in a few short months, I have realized how much more of a connected educator I am because of my professional Twitter account. And I’m not the only one. According to a 2016 study, Twitter is the number one tool K-12 teachers use to connect with others.
I use Twitter to follow education gurus that I love and trust – Kylene Beers, Kelly Gallagher, Eric Sheninger – just to name a few. These educators taught me tons when I read their published books, and now I can continue learning from them as they post new ideas and links to articles they value. And I learn from more than just the professionals. EdChats occur all the time, and this is when I get a huge growth in my professional mindset. Currently, I do a bit more lurking than participating in these group chats that focus on different topics in education, but as I read what other educators across the globe are discussing and sharing, the ideas begin to spin in my head: How can I incorporate something like that? Wow, I never thought of it like that! Interesting, I’m not sure about that, I’ll need to investigate that idea more. – The advice I’ve received from complete strangers, the work that has been shared, the great links I now have easy access to, these things have been matchless. I’ve gone down the rabbit hole of following a hashtag for hours, time and time again because the resources available are just so good. I have been able to impact the teachers at my school by providing great articles and ideas to them that I found through connecting with others via Twitter. In my role as a coach, I now have a wealth of resources that are quite easy to access.
I know that in the future I need to become more of an active participant rather than just someone who watches what others do. I’m working on building up the courage to put myself out there. Though I will say, the one time I was engaging in an EdChat, I not only felt challenged through others’ comments, but also validated when complete strangers choose to like or share my tweets. How cool is that? Some people thought enough of my ideas to share them on Twitter. If that doesn’t give an educator a needed confidence boost and feeling of support, I don’t know what will. I want to continue to involve myself more in EdChats for this reason, as well as the fact that I can follow and am followed by people across the country that I have never met but can grow from and share ideas with. Way to go, technology!
I’m certainly glad I learned how Twitter is more than just funny memes and casual conversations. If you haven’t explored Twitter with a professional mindset, I suggest you try it. I am confident it will help you become a more connected educator.
Katie Vinroot is an Instructional Literacy Coach in Dorchester County, Maryland. You can follow her on Twitter @vinrootwords.