“Twitter essentially prepared me to go into my second year and not give up,” said Josephson, now in her third year at Woodrow Wilson High in Northwest Washington. “I never would have imagined that it would have been the place to find support.”
Josephson (known to fellow tweeters by her handle, @dontworryteach) is one of a small but growing number of teachers who are delving into the world of hashtags and retweets, using Twitter to improve their craft by reaching beyond the boundaries of their schools to connect with colleagues across the country and around the world.
They say the camaraderie and free, instantaneous help they find through Twitter — and its steady stream of pithy messages, maximum 140 characters each — is far more useful than traditional school training programs, which often feature fixed agendas, airless rooms and canned speeches by hired experts.
“I always tell people the the most valuable 15 minutes I spend, in terms of my professional growth, is when I jump on Twitter at night and see what’s going on,” said Greg Kulowiec, a virtual colleague of Josephson’s who teaches in Plymouth, Mass.
When news of Osama bin Laden’s death broke on a Sunday night in May, it prompted immediate and furious tweeting among social studies teachers, Kulowiec said.
Within little more than an hour, they had pooled links to Web sites, documents and other resources, collaborating to write Monday-morning lesson plans aimed at helping students understand the event.
That same group of teachers has used Twitter to share tips for everything from using newfangled education technologies to facilitating classroom discussions and teaching about the Cold War.
“After a really good chat, all you are is excited to go back to work and try something,” said Kulowiec, an eight-year veteran of the classroom. “It’s very motivating to see other people motivated.”
The edu-tweet movement began in earnest in 2009 when three teachers, seeking a way to find others interested in talking about education issues, started a weekly Tuesday-night Twitter chat open to anyone in the world.
At first there were about a hundred participants, according to co-founder Shelly Terrell. But the conversation grew steadily as stars in the education field, such as author Alfie Kohn and historian Diane Ravitch, joined in.
Now there are more than 2,000 participants each week, Terrell said. Organizers added a second chat, at noon, to accommodate teachers tweeting from distant time zones in Europe, Australia and elsewhere.
Chatters determine the topic to be discussed each week by voting in an online poll. They mark their tweets with the hashtag #edchat, making it easy for anyone to search for the conversation, read and contribute.