Connect, Celebrate, and Collaborate With Twitter

By Michelle C. Hughes and Jane T. Wilson
January 2015, Volume 38, Issue 5

Social media and mobile technology continue to change the way people communicate and share information. It’s a best practice for schools to use Twitter to create an online Professional Learning Community. Using Twitter, principals and teachers can offer frequent, yet brief, words of connection, celebration, and collaboration to build morale and strengthen communications within a school community.

Building relationships and collaborating with colleagues should always be a top priority for schools, yet the realities of meetings, grading, and lesson planning often alter the order of priorities. In Tweeting in the Classroom, Wayne Journell, Cheryl A. Ayers, and Melissa Walker Beeson recommend using Twitter to provide teachers with opportunities to make connections between real world issues and curricula. The authors suggest embracing social media as a helpful classroom tool to use with students.

Even more significant than using Twitter with students, we recommend using Twitter as a tool to build school community among teaching staff. In our work in teacher preparation, we have tried using various technologies (such as blogs and emails) to stay connected and offer support to novice teachers; most often, with these tools, conversation is typically one-way and limited.

To cultivate greater communication and collegiality, we recently stretched our technological skills and invested in a Twitter research project. Over one semester, we examined tweets sent between novice teachers in K-12 classrooms and their supervisors via a closed-conversation Twitter account. The supervisors tweeted prompts to encourage Twitter conversation among the novice teachers. (See the prompts below.)

We observed three distinct themes in the collection of over 500 tweets sent between novice teachers and supervisors:

  1. Connecting: First, supervisors and teachers embraced engaging in collegial discourse. Sometimes serious and sometimes light-hearted, the tweets provided opportunity to stay connected, offer encouragement, share goals, and share humorous moments. One teacher tweeted, “Why is it that the only time teenagers are totally quiet is when you ask them a question?” Another teacher tweeted, “What a pleasure to be with professionals!”
  2. Celebrating: Tweets also kept best practices at the forefront of teacher’s minds. After a classroom observation or walkthrough, a supervisor tweeted an effective strategy implemented by the teacher: “Ms. C. had students work with a productive partner to read, highlight, discuss, create an outline, and share results.” Other times, teachers celebrated successful instructional moments using Twitter: “My fossils bulletin board had students lift the rocks to discover the different types of fossils!”
  3. Collaborating: Twitter provided a welcome forum for quick dialogue regarding daily questions and concerns. Teachers tweeted and received quick responses from either a fellow teacher or supervisor to solve a problem or address a concern. “Allow and encourage students to work cooperatively and make learning fun and worth their time.” Another teacher composed the following tweet: “What are practical ways of cutting down the confusion and clutter of massive piles of assignments I have to grade?” One colleague responded, “Try and find a quiet place that won’t cause too much distraction and have a plan for what you want to accomplish.”

In our fast-paced world of rapid global change and growth, maintaining professional connections with colleagues becomes a greater challenge and priority for school communities. Embracing and using Twitter daily, or even weekly, can provide a platform to maximize teacher and supervisor interactions for enhanced connection, celebration, and collaboration.

Michelle C. Hughes is assistant professor of education at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California. Jane T. Wilson is associate professor of education at Westmont College. Both have served as high school administrators.

Twitter Prompts

Twitter prompts Click to expand.

Need 140-character inspiration? Try these prompts that supervisors and teachers in our experiment used.
Click the image (right) for a shareable graphic version of these prompts.

  • Tweet one thing you are excited about this school year.
  • Tweet a concern you have for the school year.
  • Tweet an example of how you are using the Common Core in your classroom.
  • Tweet a professional goal for the week.
  • Tweet an organization tip.
  • Tweet how you are using technology in your school this week.
  • Ask a colleague for help and management advice.
  • Tweet a professional book recommendation to colleagues.
  • Tweet about a funny moment in your school.
  • Tweet advice for rest and renewal.
  • Tweet one question you ask students to promote higher-level thinking and real-world application.
  • Tweet about how you faced a moment of discouragement.
  • Tweet something you admire about a colleague.
  • Ask for advice to help you succeed this week.
  • Respond to two tweets from colleagues.
  • Tweet something you are doing to develop as a professional.
  • Tweet a photo from your classroom.
  • Tweet something you do or say to motivate your students.
  • Tweet something you do to establish rapport with your students.
  • Tweet a reading strategy you have used successfully in the classroom.
  • Tweet something you are grateful for in your school.
  • Tweet a discovery from a recent professional reading.
  • Tweet a celebration.
  • Tweet an encouragement for your colleagues.
  • Tweet some wisdom regarding the first days of school.
  • Tweet a successful assignment given to students this month.
  • Tweet about a professional disposition you are seeking to display.
  • Tweet about what amazes you about teaching.
  • Tweet a tip about how to deal with difficult parents.
  • Tweet a tip to build rapport with students.

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