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.