Years ago I chastised my students for their obsessive use of Twitter. I didn’t understand the concept of “following” and “re-tweeting,” and I couldn’t possibly imagine why anybody would care about what my students had for breakfast, or the other inane things my students seemed to tweet. I stood on my soapbox and declared Twitter to be useless and a complete waste of both their time and intelligence. “Read a book!” I exclaimed. “Have a real conversation!” I implored. Although I had been ensconced in the social media bubble since college (the wondrous years when Facebook was limited to registered college students and my thirteen year-old cousin didn’t have one), I could not see the light at the end of the Twitter tunnel and could never imagine using it for myself.
Two years later, I have become a fully engaged member of the Twitter community. While I am still entirely sure that nobody cares what I had for breakfast (overnight oats with almond milk and berries, btw), I have grown to see that Twitter exists for three kinds of users, and I have finally figured out where I fit in the Twittersphere.
- User 1: The producer of content: Primarily entertainers and other media sources, the producers of content are in constant competition with one another to post with increasing frequency and relevance. Entertainers promote their latest work, online news sources spit out content, and other celebrities or politicians post their beliefs or platforms for the world to consume.
- User 2: The consumer of content: These Twitter users rarely tweet their own content, but often engage with Twitter as a source of information and ideas. They are likely to re-tweet others’ content even if not producing their own.
- User 3: People who want you to know what they had for breakfast: Self-explanatory–these are the users who tweet anything and everything to build a following and be constantly engaged in social media.
Once I could organize Twitter into these three users, and identify myself as user 2 (consumer of content), I became more comfortable in my Twitter skin. I followed countless educators, blogs, colleagues, and resource sites in hopes of expanding my pedagogical toolbox and reinvigorating my teaching. Unsurprisingly, it worked! Through Twitter I have found or been inspired to create some of my best content and assessments, including the adoption of the Genius Hour project into my AP English Language and Composition class. After reading about the project on Twitter, I quoted the tweet with the comment that I “[couldn’t] wait to try this in my class!” My assistant principal tweeted back at me (a first for me) that she would support me in whatever I needed to get started, and the rest is history. Would I have had the courage to bring this new, slightly radical idea forward without the supposed anonymity of the internet? Maybe not. In this case, my personal learning network, once limited to colleagues in the lunch room and friends that I attended School of Education with, had been immediately expanded.
This was two years ago, and my engagement on Twitter has only grown from there. I am not yet a producer of content, although my MAET program is certainly getting me closer, but I do feel that my connections in the Twitter community have truly enhanced my teaching and instructional design abilities. Twitter has become a source of constant professional development, and I cannot imagine where I would be as an educator had I not abandoned my stubborn belief that Twitter was the end of intelligence.
Snapchat on the other hand… That’s a rant for another day.
PS–follow me on Twitter: @RachelLMatz and check out my “following” list for incredible educators doing incredible things!