3 Reasons Educators Aren’t On Twitter


Why can’t I do a better job convincing my fellow educators of the power of Twitter?

I have been a pseudo Twitter evangelist since I first signed up for the service in August 2008, nearly four years ago. I have conducted workshops across the region, had many face to face conversations, and integrated Twitter into my college courses. In fact, many of you have been gracious to reply to my tweets during demonstrations. Yet, I have at best planted a seed in educator’s minds but not many have made the leap. I believe these are the reasons:

1. Some see the image of Twitter as simply a celebrity hang out.

The truth is that popular media has been pushing Twitter more than ever as a way to keep in touch with live events. In watching Wimbledon this week, the network was displaying live tweets as if the average Joe had more expertise about tennis than John McEnroe. Britney Spears has over 18 million followers, Shaq has nearly 6 million, Lady Gaga has 26 million, and Justin Bieber comes in at 24 million followers. Even the largest education “rock stars” on Twitter top out at 25,000 Twitter followers. There’s something wrong with that formula.

2. Many see Twitter as simply a marketing tool

I am certainly gaining on my Twitter followers daily, but honestly, many of my followers are textbook companies and other vendors who are hoping I’ll follow them, click on their links, or at least remember their name or product.

But probably the greatest reason why Twitter is not exploding is…

3. Technology is still not intuitive for scores of educators.

It’s been a decade since the term “digital native” was popularized to describe those young people who grew up with a mouse in their hands. Take my 22 year old daughter Abby, for example:

* The first commercial dial up Internet provider was launched the year she was born.

* She was a year old when the first web site was created,

* Four when the first popular web browser Netscape Navigator was released,

* Eight when Google launched,

* 11 years old when Wikipedia was born,

* 14 when Facebook debuted,

* 16 when the first Tweet was delivered in 2006, and

* 17 when the iPhone was the biggest innovation of 2007.

It’s not that the current generation of teachers and administrators aren’t smart enough, savvy enough, or not wanting to learn or connect. It’s simply that they haven’t seen that the juice is worth the squeeze. My daughter doesn’t even question the power of social media; it’s like you or me questioning the use of a pen or pencil.

Check out the graphic at the top of the post. These five tweets are a response to my tweet asking my Personal Learning Network (PLN) why they believe Twitter is powerful. I was demonstrating this during a Summer Institute Class at New England College and frankly, the response from my students was polite but not ecstatic.

Trust me. Twitter is one of the most powerful professional development tools educators have available to us. If you’re not on Twitter, contact me, follow me, or check out my Twitter links. It will be worth the effort.

Your thoughts? I welcome your comments.

20 comments Add yours
  1. The “juice isn’t worth the squeeze” may be one of the most profound things I’ve read on a blog in a long time. That is exactly the best way to describe it. We all make time for our priorities. And our priorities probably involve some sort of work. Just like getting juice out of an orange takes effort, so does learning something new. And there are many who still think it isn’t worth that effort. They are smart enough and savvy enough. It just isn’t a priority. Recognizing that is the first step.

  2. Great perspective here Bill. Love the info about technology in relation to your daughter’s 22 years, that really puts things into perspective.
    Twitter has expanded my professional world better than any conference, workshop, or book.
    Thanks for sharing.

  3. “rock star” @dianeravitch has over 32k followers AND she converses with us on a constant and consistent basis.

    also, you can report all those textbook companies and other spammers. a clean followers list including people who are interested in your tweets is such a positive thing.

    agree about the crux of your piece.

    one of my difficulties in convincing other teachers to join twitter is that I want to remain anonymous. it’s dangerous for me to be so vocal.

    1. Yes, Diane is a real tribute to our profession…I wasn’t much of a fan when she was working for George Bush (41) but she has become a very sane voice via Twitter and her regular blogging.

  4. I’m not surprised that educators are slow to adopt Twitter. In our niche (music education) the old traditional ways of teaching and learning haven’t changed in 300 years. And the higher one goes (through HS and into college) the worse it gets. What is changing however, is the way students expect their information to be delivered, and that’s digitally. The smart teacher is a learner and Twitter allows us to connect and engage others with great ideas. It’s silly NOT to get on board.

    1. Hi Eugene:

      I agree that is it “silly to not get on board”. With the use of hashtags and lists, a music educator can gain an enormous amount of knowledge and stay on the “cutting edge” of the music field. I’m a musician myself and the iPad, for example, has completely changed the way I archive music and play music live and in the studio. I gained much of my knowledge of music apps on the iPad through Twitter.

      1. HI Bill – spot on – tablet and mobile devices are changing information delivery at lightning speed. There is no doubt that current (and especially future) learners will expect information to be packaged and delivered accordingly. Old method book publishers take note!

        I would love for you to take a look at http://www.dlpmusicprogram.com and let me know what you think. (It looks great on an iPad and it’s FREE!) .

          1. Thanks! After much deliberation we figured “why try to reinvent the wheel?” Our hedgehog is the learning process (Discover, Learn, Play) and there was already so much great stuff out there that we could tap into – so we use evernote to sift out the crap (lol) and give our users what we think are the best quality references/vids/articles. Some are ours, but most are just great things we’ve found already existed. So glad you checked it out!

  5. Bill, I continue to be frustrated by the relative lack of twitter users and use here in the Northeast (and specifically New Hampshire). It has been such a powerful tool for me (and many others) to be able to connect and learn from other educators I am, at times, overwhelmed with the relative lack of interest in Twitter. You and I need to keep pushing here in New Hampshire!

  6. Interesting review.

    As well as conformity. Fear to change! like you said, Twitter is one of the most powerful professional development tools educators have available to us. I think that we must be multipliers of this great resource for Education.

    Frankin Hernández

  7. Teaching as a profession is different than it was when we were students, or even when we were at university. I think that the intuitiveness factor is the biggest reason why more educators are not using twitter and enjoying the benefits it brings to their teaching.

  8. Hi Bill
    Great post. Ive been an advocate for Twitter for a few years now. The strategy (for use for a better word) Ive employed is influencing one educator at a time. Once I get one excited about the possibilities of sharing and learning on Twitter I then encourage them to get one more non Twitter staff on board. This way its not just me preaching the benefits. Then that person finds another staff member. You get the picture. Turning educators on to #chats has been a huge motivator I think. The new user perhaps feels a bit ‘safer’ in the their niche of kindergarten teachers (#kinderchat) or IBO educators (#pypchat) etc..

    This approach has worked for us. We have quite a few converts now and growing.

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