Twitter can be addicting. I absolutely love this simple platform for professional learning and networking. Twitter can change your life–For better–And for worse.

Twitter for Better: The Platform

Twitter has changed my life for the better.

Late to the game (joining in August, 2013), I’m definitely a much-improved educator because of my access to this free platform. It’s that valuable. It’s not because of the platform itself, it’s just that I can’t find a better place where sharing resources, strategies, and ideas to make teaching and learning better occurs with such ease, frequency, and growth potential. It’s because of twitter that I’m reading now–more than ever–in my life.

Every single blog or book I’ve read in the last five years, I first heard about or clicked on via twitter. Nearly every single leadership opportunity, conference, edcamp, job prospect, or community event I’ve explored in the last five years, I was first made aware via twitter. Every weather forecast, PTA school spirit night, and even live sports updates, you guessed it–click on the bird!

IF I ever had a free hour at night or on the weekend to relax, I’d rather go on twitter than watch TV. But what’s cool is that the television-viewing experience is forever changed now, mostly due to twitter and the power to share through hashtags. Several sporting and entertainment events have specific hashtags where viewers can comment and interact–worldwide–during the experience.

Where were opportunities like these when I was growing up?

The only reason I ever joined twitter, however, is a much more unique story. I just wanted a digital space to store my teaching resources to make it easier for my fifth graders to learn about weather. I could efficiently and instantaneously access my prior tweets in a search because I hashtagged my tweets with specific science curriculum objectives, such as: #sci5E11, #sci5E12, #sci5E13, #sci5P21, and #sci5P31. This process is featured at #Hashtag180 Central, and the movement is spreading!

I’ve grown to love twitter so much in the last five years, that I nearly missed out on educators sharing resources and learning on other platforms.

Twitter for Worse: The Behavior

We teachers are a passionate, special kind of people. There seems to be a certain trust factor among educators on social media. You can only be so bad of a person, and still be an educator, right?

Kinda.

While there are good and not-so-good people in all careers and walks of life, it’s not uncommon for educators to follow ten new people a day, or at least twenty-five new people weekly or monthly. Reading a reputable bio and a stream of quality, education-related resources would most likely add value to an educator’s specific learning needs and professional learning network (PLN).

After a while, this pattern can grow into a habit… and a behavior. Is that so bad? Conforming to the teacher stereotype, many educators want every resource possible to do whatever it takes to serve and help kids and fellow lifelong learners learn and grow.

But try applying that twitter-developed behavior to other platforms, like facebook, for example, and many people may be offended by your well-intended friend requests. Although what’s posted online in one platform might as well be posted on all platforms and the world wide web, and although there really is no such thing as having separate personal and professional accounts anymore, and although trust in one profession doesn’t always transfer to friendships in the general public, it’s almost like each social medium has assumed its own persona with its own unwritten rules. And digital citizenship, the market, and the world are spinning their wheels just trying to keep up.

What’s routine in one platform is not always applicable to other social media. Every social media user is not necessarily on twitter. Everyone does not have the educator’s twitter mindset. Everyone doesn’t speak the same Communication Format Language. Not everyone equates transparency with trust. And definitely–Not everyone equates online activity with potentially real life, face-to-face, personal character traits of loyalty, friendship, and respect.

Twitter Mindset: Application

So who’s to blame for social media addictions, habits, behaviors, and misunderstandings?

Is it the platform? Is it the device? Two blogs have me thinking a lot lately…

  • St. John’s Prep Digital Learning Specialist, 2016 ASCD Emerging Leader, EdSurge columnist, TEDx and keynote speaker, and ConnectSafely Director of Education’s very own Kerry Gallagher shared how social media designers intentionally create mechanisms to activate dopamine in our brains. Kerry recommends that we Stop Thinking About Screen Time, and start asking some other questions.

Last summer, I had a lot of fun recording this video on Flipgrid, and then featuring it in my blog: Put the Phone… Down? At that time, my reflection was meant more for humor than for digital citizenship takeaways–but now–topics like these are becoming a thing.

It’s not the device. It’s not tool. It’s not the platform.

It’s the user. It’s why and how we engage. It’s how we treat each other.

It’s all a part of the learning process in our everyday lives–and in a very, very rapidly-changing world.

What are your thoughts?