This week I was asked to be the guest Principal on a grant driven program sponsored in part by the New Hampshire Department of Education and Technology Director Cathy Higgins. She and I decided to utilize Twitter as our avenue for members of this cohort so that they would have a chance to pick my Principal brain a bit. It also offered me an opportunity to see the frustrations of newbies to Twitter and the time it takes to respect the tool as a way to build one’s personal learning network (PLN). (My Wiki has links for Twitter beginners.) Ultimately, the conversation moved to the group’s Moodle site to allow for more blog like responses from both cohort members and me. So…Twitter’s potential has been on my mind.
At ASCD in Orlando last month I walked into the ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) booth in the exhibit hall and asked if the organization is on Twitter (@ISTEglobal). The person behind the counter halted a bit and stated a weak “yes” which led me to ask how she felt about Twitter. A long pause followed and I suggested to her that, perhaps she thought Twitter isn’t a very useful tool. She reluctantly agreed and I retorted that Twitter and its ability to form a PLN has been one of the most useful professional development instruments in my 25 years in the biz. She politely nodded her head, but as I perused some ISTE materials, I heard her recount our conversation with another ISTE official who had come back to the booth and this younger woman (coincidence?) admonished her elder and went on to praise Twitter for its potential.
Perhaps potential and persistence are the keys for educators. Twitter can be a time waster without careful thought before one hits “return”. With careful posts, thoughtful following, and a bit of vision, Twitter can be a paradigm shift for teaching and learning. For example, I recently joined a book club on Wormeli’s discourse on differentiated instruction, Fair Isn’t Always Equal. The idea was first hatched by a fellow administrator on Twitter and members were gathered and then signed up for a Google Doc where our feedback on the book is being archived.
If you caught Angela Maiers blog recently, you discovered that many of us utilized Twitter, blogs, and podcasting at the ASCD Conference in Orlando. The Web 2.0 nature of the conference, truly for the first time, made the entire experience so much richer for the participants.
Persistence is important on Twitter as well. Since this tool is an emerging technology and growing so rapidly, one has to give it a 2-3 week chance before abandoning the idea. Twitter is also but one cog in what can be a rich integration of Web 2.0 tools. A major influence for me has been Tom Barrett who writes a very smart blog from England and his Twitter advice is second to none.
Will Twitter look the same two years from now? Will Google or Microsoft be involved in a bidding war for the service? Almost certainly Twitter will not be the same tool. Regardless, the use of technology and the Internet to develop relationships with like-minded professionals who truly care about their craft and the children they teach, will endure. And that is good news indeed.