Are you a leader or a follower? Me? I’m a follower, and my students and I are very happy about that. When I say I am a follower, I mean on Twitter. I love Twitter. I would not have said this a few years ago, because I thought Twitter was just a constant Facebook status. Who needs to see a Facebook status updated in real-time? I never really cared about people telling me they were buying a latte, working out at the gym, checking in to a sporting event, or even taking pictures of themselves trying on outfits at the mall and posting them as a status; is what you’re doing really that important? In some cases, I am sure that people’s Facebook status’ are incredible, relevant, and personally I do enjoy a good status! What I realized is that a Facebook friend and a Twitter follower are two different people. We can lead or follow on Facebook, but on Twitter we can simply be followers; and this is a good thing!
We’ve been telling our students for years to be leaders, not followers. What’s wrong with a follower? I follow. I follow over 500 people and over 20 Edchats on Twitter. I follow the national parks, museums, teachers, TV stars, the news, sports teams, and what’s trending in the educational world. Following is what makes me a better educator! Like I said, I love Twitter. I love Twitter because of the people I follow and my followers. I don’t want that to sound arrogant or self-centered, but I like knowing there are educators out there who value what I am trying to do. People have discovered things on Twitter they never would have imagined, and they did it with 140 characters or less! We can get right to the point in 140 characters — or realize that we need to choose our words wisely. Hashtags have sparked movements in education. Heck, my friend who is our Athletic Director calls me Hashtag because of the tweeting I do on certain nights. One of the reasons why; I don’t live in North Dakota, nor have I ever been, yet some of my favorite ideas for the classroom have from teachers and administers in North Dakota. Five years ago, would anyone have sought connecting with teachers from different time zones? Today, there are an endless amount of chats from #edchat, #tlap, #sstlap, #scitlap, #BYOTChat, #1to1chat, #nbtchat, #mtedchat, #flipped, #1st5days, and the list goes on and on! All but a handful of states have edchats going on during the week. The best part is that these chats are free and safe to explore! Hashtags and chats have allowed teachers to become authors, and some have attained celebrity status because of their work and their followers on Twitter. Sure, we can send our favorite band, author, or sports team a tweet telling them something, but we can also exchange ideas and share our passions with the world!
Twitter has made me ten times the teacher I was a year ago. I know teachers that have changed their methods, the tools they use in class, the way they deliver their content…They’ve changed everything they do as an educator; for the better. One of the reasons some of these educators change so much is because of who they follow or their followers. I have just over 1200 followers. It’s nothing to brag about, by any means, and not just because of the number of followers. I would make this statement if I had one follower who was a teacher or 10,000 followers who were in all fields of education. I have about 1000 teachers and students who check out what I’m doing in education. These followers are my friends from other school districts in the state. They are people I’ve connected with in hashtag chats. Heck, some of them I met one night when I just couldn’t sleep, and the #MTedchat came up. I thought to myself, what the heck is MTed? Now I have friends who are district superintendents in Montana of all states. These people are commenting, sharing, and engaging in discussions about what we as educators want to carry out for ourselves and our students. We’re creating PLN – professional learning networks – outside of our school. For some, this is great because the size of the school limits their amount of personal or professional growth. With schools who have a faculty of over 200, it may be hard to find that connection because of the so many differences in the staff.
Over the past three months, I’ve gone from a Tweetdeck of two or three chats to well over 20! Now few humans could really stay on top of 20 different chats that happen at different times on separate days of the week, but just following them a couple of days later helps too! Following on Twitter has made the earth flat again; we can connect at any point, but 140 characters or less so we can get to the point! I refuse to settle for any lesson. I seek guidance, look for ideas, and engage in discussions with people I have never met, yet they still wish to help. The world is a big place!
The number of followers you have is irrelevant. The number of tweets you send out is also somewhat irrelevant, but that we as teachers are out there trying to connect with others who have a similar passion, teach the same age, or teach the same subject is huge! What if you had just one follower? What if you only followed one person? That one person could help inspire you to make better lessons, change your approach to assessing the students, or just provide encouragement when you check out what they’ve recently tweeted. As a follower you can search for inspiration or seek coaching from someone who you believe in. We can see what other teachers are doing, try to adopt a practice/idea, mold it to fit our school, and then model it with our students! This is free professional development! Think about who you should follow, why you should follow them, and then how you following them can turn you into a better educator. So ask yourself, do you want to be a leader, or a follower?
@MrBarry628 if you want to “follow” 🙂