It’s OK for Teachers to NOT be on Twitter

I get it. Twitter is an amazing place for educators to connect with each other, collaborate, and share new ideas. It’s also a place where educators can make new friendships and spur real innovation in our field. But guess what…it’s not for everyone.

My main professional goal this year is getting teachers in my district connected online. Twitter is the first place I started. Last spring I set up the “Summer of Twitter Challenge for Teachers”. It was a great success with schools from all over the world taking part in connecting on Twitter this summer.

I had “ok” support from my staff, but not nearly as many people as I thought joined up and got active. I heard from many folks in my PLN who said, “keep fighting the good fight”, and “you can only lead a horse to water”. I agreed for the most part. It is the educators decision to connect or not, especially in today’s age. As my friend George Couros has said: “Isolation is now a choice educators make.

Still, something wasn’t quite right. I knew that there were teachers in my district who wanted to connect and share with other educators, but they weren’t really in to the whole “twitter thing”. My initial reaction was to brush that off and say, “Yeah, I felt the same way when I got started. I was a late starter on Twitter myself.” But that is the easy way out on my side of things. It’s easy to say, “You don’t get it now, but eventually you will. You’ll love the connections, and chats, and sharing on Twitter. First, you just need to get started.”

Then I was in a Tech Integrator meeting a few weeks ago. Philip Vinogradov was talking about how he stays connected online. If you don’t know Phil, he is an awesome tech coach and Google Certified teacher. He presented this summer on “Gamification” at ISTE, and is one of the most passionate people I know about education and technology. I thought about my interactions with Phil, and none of them came on Twitter. Then Phil said, “I use Google+ and left most everything else, including Twitter. For me, it’s what works, and I love it.”

Insert picture of light bulb shining over my head.

Phil is connected. He shares. He collaborates. He works with educators from around the country and world. Yet, Phil doesn’t use Twitter. I’d love for the teachers in my district to experience a quarter of what Phil does, but they wouldn’t even be able to connect with him if they were only on Twitter.

I spent so much time focusing on one platform for connecting that I forget to realize the most important aspect of being a connected educator: personal choice.

There are many different ways to connect online (check out this great post for more). Social media like Twitter, Google+, Facebook, LinkedIn is just one way. Teachers can share on blogs and blogging networks (check out Edublogs). Join community discussions on Edmodo, Schoology, or other learning management platforms. Take part in online communities like Thinkfinity, Classroom 2.0, Future of Education, or the Educator’s PLN. Heck, I just started using Triberr and I love it! Phil even said, “I agree about choice. That’s why if I have a question I ask multiple platforms, including Twitter.”

The point is this: If we want to really get more educators connected, we have to treat them more like individuals. I know Twitter has a lot to offer for a wide-variety of educators. It is my first choice when I try to get teachers I know connected. But it’s not the only choice. Find out what that person is already using. Find out what kind of community and conversation they are looking for. Find out if they want a lot of information thrown at them, or a smaller quality of information thrown at them. Find out what they are most likely to enjoy and then start with that.

Let’s get as many educators connected on as many platforms as possible. But first, we have to give them the choice.

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Join the discussion 18 Comments

  • Dean Shareski (@shareski) says:

    I agree. Twitter isn’t for everyone. As educators I would argue sharing and community is for everyone. Twitter happens to be a place where both those things can easily happen but I’d never suggest everyone should use twitter.

    • AJ Juliani says:

      Thanks Dean. It’s important for leaders like you to share that sentiment. I know how great a tool Twitter is, but I feel like I shut off some folks by “only” talking about Twitter, when there are so many other great ways for them to connect. And as I use other tools and get into conversations on various platforms, my connections grow to people I never would have met on Twitter.

  • Mike Elliott says:

    Great post and totally agree.

    My only worry is the more variety of platforms the less easy it becomes to make and sustain connections. If we were all in one place we could connect with more people, more easily.

  • Sue Waters says:

    Twitter isn’t for everyone but my concern is that they aren’t choosing any social network and aren’t appreciating the importance (or value) of sharing, community or being a connected educator.

    I really feel like part of the challenge is you can’t explain how being connected helps your teaching practices — they really need to experience it for themselves. We need to look at strategies that guide them to becoming connected and encourage them to continue participating in a range of networks rather than seeing a social network is something you might join while at attending a professional development session or workshop that you never use again.

    • AJ Juliani says:

      Hi Sue, thanks for your comment. I agree with you on how hard it is to “explain the importance” of being connected. I think we are coming into an age of two very distinct groups of educators. Those that connect are pushing best/next practices forward and innovating. Those who aren’t connecting are feeling left behind, bitter, or often just disengaged.

      I’d actually love to work with a bitter/angry teacher over a disengaged teacher. But this is also something that comes from personal inquiry, not a mandated requirement by school/district or employer. But you are right, there has to be more strategies to guide other than leading by example.

      • Sue Waters says:

        We have an increasing digital divide 1) connected educators 2) educators who are choosing not to become connected as they can’t or don’t appreciate the value and 3) educators who aren’t even aware they could be connected (haven’t been introduced to the concept). strategies need to both lead by example and include approaches that encourage them to become connected.

  • Karen Justl says:

    I enjoyed your post. I agree with Sue that there are 3 types of educators out there. Some, we can help, and some don’t want to be. If we want to offer choice and with so many choices out there, how do you help move group #3? We offer trainings on several platforms but sometimes I wonder if we could do a better job. I worry about overwhelming teachers. How do you support choice?

  • Kelli McGraw says:

    A perspective from another Couros – Alec Couros – that I found enlightening was the framing of digital media as having potential to be used for:
    – Reflecting
    – Connecting
    – Curating
    – Creating
    (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAD23oJRR1M)
    I agree with you that it’s OK for teacher not to be on Twitter…but I don’t think it’s OK for teachers to have no strategy for connecting at all. The way I see it, there are only really three viable platforms out there for connecting with communities: Twitter, Google+ and Facebook. For me the alarm bells ring when a teacher isn’t on any of the three networks.
    PS. Google+ is totally underrated, in my circles at least. It makes sense to me that Philip found it to be robust enough for all his connecting work!

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  • Noel Feria (@npf007) says:

    Although Twitter can possibly be not for everyone (or not for all educators), a good reason to recommend a particular platform is to show the amount of usage or involvement in the community. I recommend Twitter to my students (future teachers) because most of the sectors in my area use it for announcements, news, etc. Therefore, it would be easier for them to use it for professional development because they are very much aware of its effectiveness.

  • Shivonne says:

    Wow great insight. I’ve been blinded by “twitter love” I think. But you’re right the point isn’t what you are using to be connected it’s just that you dip in your toes and be connected with something. Thanks for writing this!

  • Kim Caise says:

    I wholeheartedly disagree Steve. I have learned more the past three years from many of the people posting here than I did all 20 some years that I was teaching and a technology specialist. Sure, going to conferences and networking face to face was valuable and professional development sessions were helpful but nothing has helped me grow more than reaching out to my PLN. I can learn more quickly, in-depth, detailed information than I ever could when I was working on a campus. I have trained teachers, written a ‘Twitter for Teachers’ Moodle course, webinar outline and teacher’s guide because I believe so strongly in the power of Twitter and Plurk. Facebook has its place too but reaching out and communicating in a two way direction of sharing and learning has become essential to my growth and mentoring other educators to explore their academic niches. I would bet huge amounts of money that the teachers that tried Twitter and didn’t stick with it didn’t understand how to harness the power of connecting via Twitter and following great educators that they can significantly learn from on a daily basis.

    Kim Caise, NBCT, M. Ed.
    http://kimcaise.com

  • John Hannah says:

    I agree with Sue Waters on her point about realizing the value of Twitter. It wasn’t until I followed #21stedchat a few times that I contributed. Well, now I’m HOOKED! It doesn’t get any better. I feed blog links to my colleagues on FirstClass via email all the time.

  • Cindy @valdezcin says:

    “Twitter” was not for me when it was introduced at an ICT conference, funnily enough. I think it was because I lacked the knoedge and ‘know how’ of its effectiveness. Also, I felt rather overwhelmed when I first saw all those posts made by so many random people! My light bulb moment came when I wanted to find out who out there is interested in the things/topics I care about on – TESOL, ESL, the arts, and education in general. So I gave it a go, and found that it is for me. The real buzz comes when other people “retweets”, “responds” and “follow” you on twitter

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  • Tom Maxwell says:

    I agree. Personally, I do the twitter thing but it lacks the detail and deep discussion that I think is needed. I equate it to saying a PowerPoint presentation is a lesson. Just not enough! I do follow twitter and some of the PLNs but I have to tell you, it has largely turned into a “mutual admiration society.” “Shout out for so and so, ” “See my great presentation at ….conference,” “Totally blown away with this new T-shirt from so and so.” You get the idea. It appears to me that the twitter PLNs have become a great deal about self promotion and profit. Follow the money I guess.

  • Judy (@judyarzt on Twitter) says:

    One reason some educators are not on Twitter is that they try it but they don’t get how it works. They don’t understand the features because they don’t look like what they see on other social media platforms. The idea of how to follow others by finding followers to start with and then looking to see who they follow is overwhelming. Some just don’t know where to click to find this information. Some don’t know how to tweet out an article, blog post, or something else they find online to share with others. They don’t get what Lists are and how to find them on “Profile” pages. A one or two hour PD on Twitter for many just doesn’t cut it. Beginning and pre-service teachers report that they don’t have enough experience or confidence to share with others and build up a PLN on others. Some will lurk, but they are too intimidated to share. Before you know it, they remain lurkers or don’t use Twitter at all. To get good with Twitter and to maintain a presence on it involves a commitment and willingness to learn about its options: where to click, how to use the search box, how to use hashtags, how to participate in a chat–yes, that comes to us who use Twitter enough, but it might make little sense to others. In essence, I am saying the very tools those who are on Twitter use seamlessly are an enigma to many who are initially introduced to Twitter. They might start following a few people, get a few colleagues to follow them, but then look back at their tweet stream in a few months, and there might not be any tweets there. Sure, they might still be lurking, but are they connecting?

  • […] In the past few months all of our Building Principals have joined Twitter. I’m the first person to say I love using Twitter as an educator, but I’m also not too pushy in getting people on board, because (as I’ve written before) “It’s OK to Not Be on Twitter.” […]

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