Friday, 5 July 2013

The University of Twitter or One Click Away...

This post is going to be my tribute to Twitter which enriched my professional life and helped me when I needed it the most.

I remember myself, 3 years ago, attending an inspiring class organized by our TESL program at TDSB, where the guest speaker Mr. O (I am afraid to make a mistake in his name, so I’ll just stick to Mr. O) asked us if we were on Twitter? We all looked quizzically. I and the majority of my classmates had no idea what Twitter was. Then, he said that if we were not, it probably would be a good idea to check it out. He promised that it would be easy, just one click away. Then, he added that we could start by following him. I scribbled his twitter ID on a piece of paper that was lost almost immediately (it always happens). You would think when I got home that day I checked out Twitter as recommended by Mr. O?! Of course not, instead I stored that information somewhere at the back of my mind thinking that I would try it when I needed it. When I finally did it, almost 3 years later, I realized that I wasted three precious years!!!

Last September, I returned to work from my maternity leave. Those fortunate ones who have ever been on a mat leave know that it is an unforgettable experience which clears your brain completely. So here I was, back to work in the classroom going to replace the teacher and determined to meet all the expectations. I flipped through my old stuff and knew that it was outdated. One year out of the classroom, with the baby who never slept, I felt out of the game. I needed to brush up my skills, to boost my creativity and update my  technological status in the shortest possible time. Then, I remembered about Twitter and the wonders it might do and decided to give it a try. I signed up, created an ID and even wrote my own first and only for a long time tweet saying that I was a teacher and I was returning to work from the mat leave in 2 weeks. It felt lonely. So, I decided to turn to youtube and watch a couple of videos how to use Twitter and what it can do. Those videos actually were very useful as they lit up light on some features such as hashtags and lists. 
I went back to Twitter and started searching for words such as “teaching”, “education”, “esl” and so on. I found one or two people who met my criteria and started looking through their timelines. And then it happened, my realization, what I have done to myself, I wasted three years of my professional development without being on Twitter. This stuff was gold. Pure teaching gold or oil or whatever you call it!!! I followed some teachers, saw what  people they followed, always looked through their tweets and if it was interesting instantly followed them, too. I also checked the people who were recommended to me according to my interests. One day, some random twitter user followed me and I couldn't believe my excitement. I was telling my husband how wonderful it was and begged him to join Twitter and follow me, so I had at least 2 followers. I was checking out tweets, clicking on the links that sounded relevant and almost all of them were exactly what I wanted, needed or wished to happen in my classroom. It was so good that I was scared that Twitter was actually reading my mind. Two weeks later, I felt so confident and was equipped with a ton of the  activities that would blow my students away. I call this period my “Twitter honeymoon”. 
I distinguished my favorite Twitterers  and, when the number of people grew, I tried to organized them into lists. Some of the first educators that I followed were Shelly S Terrell who introduced me to webinars (after that I started frequently checking the webinars organized by different providers); Edudemic who introduced me to Infographics, Richard Byrne - Google Drive (which I love) and so many other great things, Nicholas  Provenzano - Evernote, John Allan - Bitly, etc (I am not able to mention everything, but you should trust me it’s a lot). I saw some familiar people. I met Tyson Seburn on Twitter and learned about self reflection and blogging. I also learned that it was about time to get out of the box and shine! By the way, if you do not know who these people are, hurry up, check them out, you might be missing out many wonderful things in your professional development.
The world started opening to me. But there was one more thing that I still wasn't able to comprehend. How do these wonderful people manage to look for information and tweet (my presence on Twitter during the first months was more of a passive one, I was consuming info, re-tweeting the stuff that I liked but was too scared to say anything or contribute)?
My husband, who is one of those people with world's wisdom regardless their age (I am always jealous at them), suggested upgrading my mobile device. It was a difficult choice (I turned to my students to advise me on it). Finally, I chose the simplicity of Apple's iPhone together with a 2GB data plan. I will have to admit that for me, as for many of you, buying an iPhone and paying for a monthly data plan is an expensive luxury. But once again, my wise husband suggested that it would be an investment into my professional development. It was an investment that paid off very quickly. Since I bought the device, I became more efficient in my research, I started checking out things on the way to work. I found out Zite and Pinterest and started also sharing with my PLN.  I turned from a consumer into a contributor. I was also able to follow #eltchat and even participate in their discussions. Slowly but surely, I started responding to and generating my own ideas and thoughts. I managed to write my first blog post on the bus and published it when I got home. I started tweeting the stuff that I created myself.  I learned about ESL Literacy Network and started communicating with other Literacy professionals. Today, I am so grateful to all these opportunities that opened to me due to my presence in Twitter.

Someone asked me what is so special about Twitter, what's the difference: you might as well google this stuff? My answer would be that when you google something you are looking for it all by yourself, but on Twitter the best minds of teaching world all over the world are looking for solutions together with you. It's a big difference. By the way, this post I also wrote on the bus.

Are you on Twitter? If you aren't yet, check it out, it may open your horizons in the most unexpected way...


  1. Fabulous post, Svetlana! It's so awesome to see a teacher's turn toward and realisation of the power of Twitter. And like you said, it's only a catapult into the broader social media staffroom, a topic I'll be doing a webinar for Tutela (and TESL Toronto) on in the coming weeks. Hopefully I can convince a few to give it a try, as you have I'm sure.

    1. Hello, Tyson! I look forward to your webinar. Twitter was an eye-opener, a breath of fresh air, I rediscovered my passion. I have been impressed by the people from the PLN: the teachers who volunteer their time, knowledge, experience to educate their colleagues and make our profession outstanding.

  2. Hello Svetlana, Thanks for your article about twitter. I hear a lot about these different technologies but I am completely hopeless in understanding their use. I just got my TESL certification from TDSB and I am looking for a job. I know I would need to use these technologies I have been hearing about but I don't understand how. Maybe I should start with twitter but would I have anything to tweet. I want to grow in my profession and I know I can't do it without the use of technology that exists. How do I get over my fear? I will appreciate some guidance.

    1. Dear colleague:

      Thank you very much for your interest in my post and social media. I will be happy to guide you on Twitter and yes, very soon, you will have lots of things to tweet about. Good news, you do not have to tweet anything, unless you want to, in the beginning. You can start by skimming through what other people are sharing, reading more carefully what is appealing to you, and retweeting if you like something in particular. To begin with, how about creating a Twitter ID and setting up your profile page. Tell people who you are and what you are looking for. Then, you might start following just a couple of connected educators. My recommendation is: @TESLOntario, @TutelaCanadaEn, @Edudemic, @ShellTerrell, @rmbyrne, @seburnt, @mrpottz, @StanzaSL.
      You can follow more people according to your personal and professional interests later. Let me know how it is going on Twitter for you. You can simply send me a tweet.
      I would strongly encourage you to attend Tyson's webinar on social media in education:
      It is very simple, just click the link that is indicated on TESL Toronto page at 7 p. m. (in Toronto) on August 1st (tomorrow). You will learn lots of useful tips there.

      Look forward to seeing you on Twitter.

      Warm regards, Svetlana


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