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Professional development takes off on Twitter

Principals, teachers, tech experts and other educators have created dozens of robust, professional learning networks

Twitter has become the new education conference—and it’s in session all day, every day of the year, some educators now say.

Principals, teachers, tech experts and other educators have created dozens of robust, professional learning networks—also called Twitter chats—to connect with each other and share solutions to common challenges.

“My PD is every day now—it’s not a special event,” says Scott Rocco, the superintendent of Spotswood Public Schools in New Jersey, who co-founded #satchat, which began as a network for administrators but is now open to anyone in education. “I have found the connections with educators on Twitter to be very powerful.”

Rocco moderates discussions on Saturday mornings by tweeting questions about big topics in education—two recent topics were leadership in digital instruction and meeting the needs of diverse learners. The chats attract 400 to 500 educators and the hashtag is in use constantly.

“Twitter gives you the opportunity to stay relevant and get resources that wouldn’t come around until you took the trip to the state conference or county meeting,” Rocco says.

Twitter networks are based around a hashtag, such as #satchat or #edchat, that users include in their Tweets to make them easier to find and follow.

Twitter PLNs

Just about every state and subject have their own chats. Here’s sample of the education hashtags

#1to1techchat

#3rdchat

#edchat

#engsschat

#flippedchat

#kinderchat

#mschat

#pblchat

#principalPLN

#satchat

#suptchat

#sshcat

#STEMchat

#WyoEdChat

The networks range from the grade-level specific (#kinderchat) to curriculum-based (#engchat) to those focused on individual states (#txedchat). Some of the chats take place at specific times of day while others are constantly underway.

Jerry Blumengarten, a retired teacher and librarian who spent 32 years in New York City schools, moderates #edchat, which was the first widely followed Twitter PLN. He says the chats can help educators develop curriculum.

“If you’re teaching a lesson on the Cold War and you want new ideas, you can ask on Twitter and before you know it, people are sharing ideas,” he says.

Former teacher Sean McCusker, who is now the social studies department chair at Libertyville High School in Illinois’ Community High School District 128, says the chats are a form of personalized learning. McCuskser created #1to1techchat, he says, to help districts launching 1-to-1 programs.

“They allow you to connect with people in an area and a focus, and then choose the portion of conversation that’s most meaningful to you,” says McCusker, who also leads #engsschat, a combined English and social studies discussion.

Theresa Stager, principal of St. Mary’s Catholic School in Michigan, created #PrincipalPLN with two public school principals. Principals collaborate through the chat, which also is a great resource for teachers aspiring to become principals.

“When people come together for a common reason, they’re more likely to find something in common,” she says. “When you jump into chats, you meet people you wouldn’t have met otherwise.”