I admit it; I am one of those moms who got a Twitter account to monitor her children’s activities on social media. Until a year ago I had maybe posted 17 lame tweets and was notified every time one of my children or their friends Tweeted. THEN my life changed forever when I attended Twitter Math Camp in Jenks, Oklahoma. That is where I met Brian, a.k.a. @bstockus, and a group of dedicated, passionate educators from MTBoS. I was one of the few elementary teachers in attendance and I kept asking “when do the elementary people chat?” I was challenged by Levi Patrick, Oklahoma’s Secondary Math Education Director, to “get one going.” I tweeted out a survey using Google docs and in less than a month #ElemMathChat was born! Over the course of the year we have grown to nearly 900 followers and we host weekly chats throughout the school year. We have awesome guests who lead our chats and people from all over the Math Twitter Blogosphere drop in to chat about ways to be amazing mathematics teachers who make a difference in student’s lives.
I value these chats and interactions, and view my #elemmathchat peeps as invaluable members of my professional learning community. I will admit that the chat’s fast paced interactions can be overwhelming and hard to keep up with, but I archive the chats using storify.com ( ElemMathChat Storify) and am able to go back and search for a resource, conversation, or idea whenever I need to. I will also admit to using multiple devices – PC, laptop, and phone – as well as Tweetdeck to keep up with chats!
I have discovered that on Twitter, multiple conversations happening at the same time are okay, and I don’t have to try to keep up with them all. These chats are similar to an Edcamp where you can get up and leave, or move on to another question or side conversation without insulting anyone. Every week I am amazed at the sheer volume of dedicated professionals who set aside time in their busy schedule to chat and learn how to be better educators.
I am so passionate, and have benefited from these chats so much, that I lead presentations and promote these interactions as a great way to build a professional learning community tailored specifically for the individual. I use Twitter as a way to keep myself bolstered in my constructivist beliefs. I find chatting with like-minded folks who are dedicated to problem centered learning steeped with productive discourse helps me keep on keeping on. This type of teaching is so radically different than the traditional approach and having Tweeps in cahoots who ask questions, respond to your questions and share ideas and resources readily is like being in a utopian school!
I have been teaching since 1986 which is long enough to remember computers coming into public schools. I recall vividly a seasoned teacher turning to me and saying she was not going to learn how to use “these things because they will never be used in the classroom.” I see social media and other internet connections as being very similar to early computers. If I don’t embrace this new technology and learn to utilize it in a way that will benefit my students then I will be an educator prepared to teach yesterday’s children and today and tomorrow’s children will be left in the dark. So, in the last year I have gone from having no followers to having 432 and from posting 17 Tweets to 3025 to date! This social media world and all of the passionate educators that it brings into my life keeps me excited and on fire to teach. I regularly feel like a new teacher ready to take on and change the world. When I stop feeling this passion it will be time to retire, but I cannot imagine when that time will come!