I tend to think a lot. When you ski and cycle as much as I do, there’s lots of time for reflection. Lately I’ve been thinking about how and why I use Twitter. In the spring of 2014 I came to a point in my career where I became impassioned with sharing. At eighteen years in I was wanting to do more. In my experience with technology integration training and professional development in general, I always found the most valuable part of the presentation was when presenters shared classroom examples and student exemplars or when teachers were given time to share with one another. It always seemed there were never enough classroom examples or time for sharing.
This led me to develop Mr. C’s SharesEase with my students. The idea was simple; to share my students’ work and learning, my favourite lessons, ideas and resources. I had the site but how to share with as many people as possible? At that point I started to leverage Twitter and model the positive use of social media in my classroom. My goal was to model by example and tweet only positive, purposeful content. The results far exceeded our expectations while giving my students a powerful, global voice. We started to make connections with people throughout the world and the more we shared, the more we received in return! We have collaborated, learned and shared with classes, teachers, principals, administrators, scientists, adventurers, thought leaders and politicians resulting in an enriched learning environment for my students.
This year I started to blog to further share our educational journey. My students often help me write and edit my blogs and give me input and feedback. The content of each blog is about my students’ learning, their work and what we have found to be successful (and challenging) throughout the school year. My students and I follow our M.A.D Innovation model and believe innovation occurs when action happens. Sharing allows us to make a positive difference for ourselves and others. When tweeting to share, my students sometimes suggest certain people and classes to tag in our tweets. We base our decision on their profile and the content of their tweets (much can also be learned about a person by the content of their Likes). This got me to reflecting about Twitter etiquette.
Are we sharing too much? Do people want to be tagged? Are we inconveniencing people by filling up their notifications with what we think is meaningful content but what they may deem as meaningless? I personally appreciate being tagged in a tweet. To be honest, I feel flattered that someone has taken the time to think to tag me and might respect my opinion. That said, I only have 5000+ followers. What if I had 25 000 or more? Would I still feel the same? All this led me to reach out to my #PLN on Twitter and pose the question: “To Tag or not to Tag?” I thank everyone for replying and sharing your input.
Here’s what I think. When I first started teaching some 20 years ago, I felt like I was teaching in the bubble of my classroom. Resources were few and the textbooks, unit plans, novel studies and worksheets were my guide. I had little opportunity to be mentored and sharing amongst teachers was not common. In fact, I hate to admit it, but if I came across a good lesson or idea, I’d hoard it. Today, thankfully sharing and collaboration amongst teachers is commonplace and there’s no better place for this than Twitter. Almost everyone who responded to my question wanted to be tagged and had no problem with it, in fact, they encouraged it! Their only regret was that sometimes they could not reply and/or missed the tweet completely, which is totally understandable. We certainly can’t expect an engagement most of the time, we all have lives beyond Twitter. Someone inquired if the size of a person’s network comes into play when tagging. I replied “No! I tag people who I genuinely believe would be interested in my Ss’ work, a lesson we’re doing or a resource I have to share.” Upon reflection, to be honest, sure sometimes the size of a person’s network does come into play. If I have an incredibly amazing break through moment with my students and think the greater educational community might benefit from hearing the idea, I may seek a leader with a large network to share my idea with. If I only have 500 followers and they share my class break through with their network of followers (and even tag a few more) think of the positive difference this may make for education. That said, I do realize that people with large networks must have notifications that look like most people’s Twitter feeds. Managing networks of that size must be cumbersome to say the least!
My take aways? I’ve always said that I believe that our ideas and resources are only as good as the people with whom we share. In my attempts to model the positive use of social media to my students, I’ll continue to share and tag with discretion. If I am overzealous in my tagging and/or you don’t wish to be tagged, please let me know, I’m still learning….