A little over a year ago my brother and I argued, for what seemed ages, about the role of Twitter. My perspective at the time was rather close-minded; he was adamant about Twitter’s functionality.

My arguments may be the very ones preventing you from using Twitter as an educator. They went something like this:

  • It is a navel-gazing exercise: people Tweet for themselves.
  • It’s meaningless: who wants to hear that “I had coffee with breakfast!”?
  • It’s corporate-focused: when a celebrity Tweets they ate Corn Flakes, that’s an ad for Corn Flakes.
  • It encourages mob-mentality: people take to Twitter when they are uneducated about an issue to simply share their emotional reactions to something.

In my defence, I had only seen Twitter from the perspective of students and people like my brother in the corporate world (he’s a salesman). By all indications, my concerns were accurate portrayals of how Twitter is used.

But then I saw how educators can use it and realized I can use it too. After a year of Twitter I can now revise my list.

  • It is a sharing exercise: educators Tweet to share resources, strategies, and updates on professional development.
  • It’s meaningful: a strategy I read about today can have direct implications in my classroom tomorrow.
  • It’s education-focused: educators share successes and failures that inspire or inform others.
  • It encourages reflection: one has only to join a slow chat on #AfricaEd to see the thought and the power of discourse.

This doesn’t discount my initial concerns. Many people use Twitter for navel-gazing, meaningless updates, advertisements, and emotional responses. But Twitter is a powerful tool that can serve many purposes: for educators, that purpose is to improve the learning of our students. It is a gateway into a very populated, diverse staff room. Rather than walk into a physical room where I might have access to 20-30 educators, Twitter gives me access to thousands of minds. And if you hit the right niche, the results can be astounding.

Recently I saw a Tweet from an educator in the USA whose class was looking for people from different countries to greet them in the local language. Her goal was to get 10 different locations and languages. But after it was retweeted out to the international educator’s community, she received over 50 videos. My school alone provided 8 (we have 11 official languages here in South Africa).

twitter message

Try getting that from the staff room.

The Students

But it goes beyond that. Twitter can be a powerful tool to demonstrate student learning, as Rob Langlands does in his class through Twitter journals.

It can help students reach out to a larger community by asking questions and getting answers.

It helps them stay connected to a wider world.

And that’s really the power of Twitter, for both adult and student learners: connecting.