Free Summer PD - Blog

Until a few months ago, I
didn’t understand hashtags, thought tweeting was for Millennials, and
called participants Twits. Probably not my most professional attitude,
but sometimes you just don’t know what you don’t know. My husband,
@WriterinBuffalo, had just become the Marketing Director
@LippesMathias, and he mentioned that it might help my blogging career.
(Do you get it? I just did that Twitter “mention” where you name drop!
I so get this whole Twitter thing!)

All joking and self-promotion aside, I’ve been astounded by
the community of positive educators. Yes, I said positive. My foray in
to Twitter world (I am not being flip here—I actually don’t know what
that space in the universe is called) coincided with Rangefinding work
at State Ed in Albany, so I found myself sitting on my hotel bed,
“lurking” (reading other people’s chats, but not joining in—digital
voyeurism of a sort) at education chats. I found myself wanting to jump
in. Mind you, this is after seven hours of education work. I sensed
that I was on to something and the next night, jumped in to the

Maybe I hit the jackpot, but my experience with #ewedchat was
nothing short of exhilarating. It was in this chat that I “met” some of
the most interesting people I have in a long time, and began to
understand the potential for my own personal development. Having
professional conversations with likeminded people was an act of
cleaning the lens through which I was viewing both my profession and
myself. Conversation after conversation, I was connected to new
resources, great websites, technology, and blogs that immediately
influenced my planning for the fall.

And then, I kind of became obsessed, joining in two or three
chats a day. Or so I thought. It turns out that Twitter types—to wildly
generalize—are very connected. The pace of Twitter is so frenetic,
similar to walking in to the faculty lounge at the change of classes.
Some people wonder in, some others wonder out, conversations are short,
but meaningful. I also learned from #CCSStime, #whatisschool, #nbtchat,
#isedchat, and many others. I found myself jotting down notes,
bookmarking websites, and sending messages to educators who I wanted to
follow up with. Two awesome things happened: my hero Rick Wormeli
replied, retweeted, and favorited one of my Tweets (granted, it was
related to how awesome his “ban averaging” concept is, but still, he
noticed!). And, I asked another educator to “talk” with me for this
blog, and she was enthusiastic.

Melissa Sethna is a high school literacy coach from Chicago.
She had tweeted that she was presenting for her high school the
benefits of Twitter for PD. We exchanged emails—because, no matter how
much you love it, 140 characters is writing haiku when what you are
talking about is actually epic poetry. I asked her about her own
experiences, and what she’d like people to know. She responded, “I
think the best part of Twitter for me was that I realized that there
are other teachers out there with similar philosophies as me. Sometimes
in my school I felt like I was on my own with my beliefs about literacy
in the content classrooms. I found teachers all over the country who
are actually doing what I believe in and were willing to share their
ideas with me.” This sentiment mirrored my own experience—I AM NOT
ALONE might as well be the Twitter mantra as far as I am concerned.

ShareMyLesson contributing teachers were way ahead of me on
this front. Some of the lessons that utilize Twitter do so in really
unique ways. My favorite is a "Masque
of the Red Death Twitter Activity"
created by aharrison87,
from the party scene, requiring students to Tweet throughout the night
and reply to other Tweets. It makes the experience real for students,
is interactive, and is a great measure of what students comprehend,
therefore a great formative assessment. Another resource, Twitter
Tweet Chapter Summary
, created by our ELA team, is similar,
but it is also appropriate for a young audience. It asks students to
use a Twitter template to summarize a chapter. It sounds simple, but I
used it in my own classroom of 7th graders, and it was quickly evident
that being concise is a challenge. I’ve also tweaked this template,
asking students to Tweet about a particular situation.

Adam Feinberg, another SML contributer, posted “Medieval
Europe Twitter Project”
, which is a cross-curricular activity
that asks students to create a Twitter handle and tweet as either a
peasant or a monk. His activity has links to excellent videos, making
this project “ready to go” without extensive adjustments. It is
exciting to know that teachers are harnessing Twitter. I know, I’m
behind and Twitter is old hat for many people, but using it as both a
professional (and personal) development tool is exciting, and
importantly free. It may be summer, but most educators are starting to
get the itch to “talk shop.” Take an hour of your life, find an
education chat, and jump right in—you’ll find you are among friends.