Teachers are increasingly bringing the real-time communication power of Twitter into the classroom to help students learn. But I've come to the conclusion that it's great for helping teachers learn as well. Twitter has simply become one of the best places for teachers to collaborate, share solutions to common classroom problems, and discuss education policy. In fact, it might just be the best forum teachers have ever had.
As a classroom teacher I remember going across the hall to ask Mr. Sally for tips on getting kids to learn their times tables. His ideas were fine, but what if I'd been able to crowdsource my question to the global community of educators on Twitter? A teacher who engages with other educators on Twitter essentially has a 24/7 open door policy. Type the hashtag #edchat in the search box, and you'll see a real-time stream of discussion about an unlimited number of educational topics. It's pretty clear teachers are collaborating with each other by sharing solutions to their challenges—links to articles, resources and practical ideas:
Educators can also use Twitter to keep up with education policy. Before Twitter, educators often had no idea what the big players, like the Department of Education and the Secretary of Education, were up to on a daily basis. Now one can just scan the Twitter timelines of the DOE and the department's press secretary, Justin Hamilton. And it's not just a that teachers are able to stay up-to-date; there's also more conversation between educators and the DOE. In the wake of Arne Duncan's recent open letter to teachers expressing his appreciation for their hard work, which was not well received by many educators, teachers took to Twitter to let Hamilton know their displeasure. And, because of the nature of Twitter, he had to respond.
Not all teachers have totally embraced Twitter. Some are a little tech-phobic. Those that aren't are sometimes concerned about sharing information in public when their colleagues are getting fired for what they write on personal blogs and Facebook pages. If a teacher is honest about the challenges at her school—say she tweets about possible cheating on standardized tests—a vindictive administrator could make her life miserable for “airing dirty laundry.” But many avoid the pitfalls of public information-sharing by simply using anonymous identities on Twitter. And good for them. America's students deserve teachers who've been taught well themselves, and right now, Twitter is the best way for educators to get a continuing professional education.