It took me a while to feel comfortable with Twitter. I opened a personal account years ago, but I just didn’t see what all the buzz was about.
Once my district started encouraging teachers to build their Professional Learning Networks, however, I reluctantly created a professional account. I was a little skeptical that it would be more of a distraction and less of a genuine resource, but it didn’t take long to convince me otherwise. I only spend an average of five minutes a day on Twitter, and in that short time, I find new ideas, get the most recent news in education, research the latest best practices, discover the most cutting-edge apps and read inspirational quotes that remind me why our job is so important.
As it turns out, Twitter is a place for teachers to share, to learn, to grow and to connect, which is exactly what we encourage our students to do. I read a great article on teachthought.com called, “What if Every Teacher Tweeted?” and it got me thinking about the people I’m representing this year as a Teacher Ambassador Fellow with the U.S. Department of Education.
The 2017-18 cohort of School Ambassador Fellows are always looking for ways to connect and collaborate with other educators to bring practitioner perspective to leaders at the federal level, and social media makes it easier than ever. As a way to reach those beyond our own networks, we will be hosting #FellowsAtEd chats through @usedgov the first Wednesday of each month.
We kicked off the series in December with a STEM focus in honor of Computer Education Week. We wanted to know how people are innovating STEM education in their schools and classrooms and communities so we could highlight those practices at the Department.
Without the Twitter chat, we never would have known that Sarah Gross’s (@thereadingzone) students from High Tech Technology High School in Lincroft, NJ have a camera trap project. They wrote a grant, set up cameras on campus as a biology research project and blog about the fascinating wildlife. Or that a group of girls from the same school started a STEMinist club.
We also learned about some incredible tools Audra Damron (@audra_damron) uses to introduce coding to preschoolers. These are successes we should be celebrating and finding inspiration from, and we are grateful to find them through the power of a hashtag.
If you have something to share or want to be inspired by new ideas, we invite you to engage in #FellowsAtED by joining our next chat on Wednesday, January 3rd through the @usedgov Twitter account. The topic is social and emotional learning because we know, as educators, how important it is to focus on the whole child, and we want to hear how you and your schools are meeting your students’ needs in innovative ways.
I don’t consider myself a techie, but I understand the importance and value of using technology to connect to the rest of the world. If we expect our students to challenge themselves with technology, we should embrace that for ourselves and our colleagues.
Educators across the country are already connected by our desire to make an impact on our students and their futures. Let’s make it official. Let’s do this TOGETHER. Learn from each other. Inspire each other. Lift each other up when we are feeling down. Push each other. Make each other better. #FellowsAtED can make us one colossal classroom. Let’s get connected.
Applications for the 2018-19 cohort of School Ambassador Fellows are open now through January 31st.
Melody Arabo is a 2017 Teaching Ambassador Fellow with the U.S. Department of Education and was honored to serve as the 2015 Michigan Teacher of the Year. She has been a third grade teacher at Keith Elementary in Walled Lake, MI since 2002.
Photo at the top: The 2017-18 cohort of ED School Ambassador Fellows