Sunday, 20 January 2013

How I currently use Twitter for Education

This Summer I became addicted to Twitter.

I originally created an account when I first got an iPad, last Summer. The school I work at had decided to implement 1:1 iPads for students and was piloting the initiative with the Year 9 cohort in 2012. Staff got iPads (though had to purchase them themselves - more on that in a different post) before the Summer break. During that time, I downloaded hundreds of apps in order to see what was out there that could be useful in the classroom, as well as for organising myself. I created accounts for so many different things that I had to create a list to track what the service was along with my username and password. I did a lot of learning that Summer.

Back to Twitter- Although I downloaded the app and signed up, I didn't really use it. I hadn't previously had an account online, and couldn't really figure out what the point was at that stage. Because I had so many other things bubbling away, it ended up slipping by the wayside.
In late 2012, I unsuccessfully applied for a job (outside of teaching, but still in education) but figured that having an active Twitter account may help my chances of landing it. So I reintroduced myself to Twitter and spent a little bit of time discovering what it was all about. I learned how to follow people, how to follow conversations with hashtags, how to retweet - most of the basics. In fact, I still only use the basics at this point. I found some educators and organisations to follow, and as the list slowly grew, I discovered more professional reading than I could possibly have imagined. I never otherwise would have had the time or inclination to go looking for the material that I now read daily. Though I didn't (and still don't) have many followers, I retweeted links to articles and other things that I found interesting. I was, for the most part, a passive user of Twitter - consuming what it could offer me, and regurgitating some of the interesting stuff that reflected my interests.

As the year rolled on and into the Summer of 2012/13 my usage of twitter shifted.

It is transforming from passive consumerism to active creation and participation.

I think the turning point was when we had bushfires here at the beginning of January.
There were many fires in Tasmania, and in fact all up the Eastern seaboard of Australia. Record temperatures and unfavourable winds contributed to the catastrophic nature of this fire season. The fire that wiped out several small communities began only a few kilometres from our house - in fact we had to evacuate for 3 nights because of the imminent threat to our community. My father-in-law lost a rental property in the fires. My wife's mother, brother and sister were isolated on the Tasman Peninsula for several days without power and many other things - worrying that their home may be taken by the fire (luckily it wasn't). Other friends of our family lost everything. Many families of my students will have been severely affected.
As soon as I noticed the smoke, I was constantly looking at the Tasmania Fire Service website to see what was happening. Unfortunately, it did not provide as much information as I was keen to get.
I had heard that people used Twitter to follow what was happening with the recent hurricane in New York, so I decided to see what I could find.
There was heaps of stuff. I branched out and posted updates on what was happening in my local area. I was glued to #tasfires, and felt part of an amazing community. People were using Twitter to find missing people, update where the fire was at, offer and seek help... all manner of things (there was a pretty amazing Facebook group too).
So in between reading #tasfires posts, I was doing more professional reading and exploring the Twitterverse. I found more groups and people to follow. I followed links to blogs and read them. I searched for other blogs and tweeted links to them. More people followed me. 

It is now getting close to the end of our Summer break, and I have (thanks to finding it via Twitter) enrolled in an online course through Coursera : E-Learning and Digital Cultures. #edcmooc
I am looking to Twitter now to actively contribute to professional discussions, continue learning and discovering more. It has even inspired me to begin this blog so that I can expand on what could be said (not enough characters in a Twitter post!).
I might leave my first blog post there. I'm not much of a writer, so if you are reading this and the structure of it hurts, I apologise. I intend to write more though. The more I do it, the better I will get.


  1. Hello Ty, I read your blog post with great interest. I'd just recently written one myself where I was asking people to tell me how they'd used Twitter. Yours was a brilliant example of how you've got ideas & professional networks from it, and also used it as a channel for live updates and info on real life events, in this case the bushfires. Thanks for sharing your story. PS - I also found out about the course through Twitter so I'm a fan too!

  2. Hello Ty, Thanks for this blog post. I only signed up for a Twitter account because the course instructors advised us to. I confess I am at the lurking stage, reading tweets,grabbing anything interesting,and searching for inspiration. How wonderful it is that we now have devices to keep us connected not just in an educational or entertaining way, but in a life saving way. Glad you are safe and I will be looking forward to more of your blog posts.