If you are not familiar with Twitter, or you have been holding off on joining, you may be forgiven for thinking that it is merely a place for certain politicians to spew their vile, or for rich celebrities with names beginning with K to show off their every move.
However, if you find the right people and hash tags to follow, Twitter can be an extremely motivating and professional platform, where educators from various settings around the world come together to engage in a mutual sharing of ideas.
How can Twitter help language teachers?
The advantage of Twitter is that messages are limited to 140 characters. This might be seen as a limitation for some, but for teachers with little time, this can be perfect. Many Tweets (a Twitter message) include a link to a blog post or news article with more information, so you can read about an issue or idea in more depth if you have the time.
As you engage with Twitter you can follow people and groups with similar interests. In searching my own Twitter timeline, these are the ways in which I can see some language education professionals engaging
- Sharing information about an upcoming conference
- Sharing information about a new journal volume recently released
- Posting motivational quotes about learning languages
- Sharing links to newspaper articles about the benefits of learning languages, bilingualism, global citizenship, language planning, etc.
- Sharing blog posts on the use of praise, how to start the new school year (there are several of these), teaching the subjunctive, tips for teachers, etc.
- Introducing a new mobile app for language learners
- Asking advice about classroom routines
- Sharing infographics about language education around the world
- Sharing an activity to get students learning German talking
- Sharing summaries of conferences as they happen (see below)
And that’s just in the past few hours!
How to get the most out of Twitter?
To get the most of Twitter, you will need to find the right hashtags. These are phrases, prefaced with a hashtag (#) that are used by groups of people with common interests, and help to make finding information easier. The right hashtags for you will depend on your area of interest. So, for me, the hashtags I find that suit my needs best are
#langchat (very collaborative hashtag with its own chat events – see below)
#mfl (focuses on Modern Foreign Languages)
#mfltwitterati (large group of MFL teachers actively sharing)
#esl (for ESL teachers)
But it will be worth your time to search yourself for key words that suit your needs. Try different combinations of words and see what is being used, for example when I searched #teachfrench the tweets were not regular, but #frenchteacher seemed to have a lot more activity.
By using hashtags you can get connected to other language educators. If you like the things someone is posting and they are relevant to you, you can ‘follow’ them. You can check their bio to get an idea of who they are. It’s an idea for you to have a clear bio of who you are so that others know what you want out of Twitter. Once you follow someone, their Tweets will appear on your home page.
LiveChats with Twitter
You can organise to get together with a group of teachers at the same time for a live discussion. This is something that is becoming more popular for teachers as a fast paced way to get in some peer collaboration without worrying about the extra burdens of travel and expenses.
#Langchat is one group that does this well and serves as a great example for those who would like to start their own. They pose 4 or 5 questions over their one hour session, and teachers share their answers, thoughts and ideas with each other using the hashtag. Participants are given a heads-up about the topic and the questions, although the moderator works hard to post one question at a time, and keep everything going smoothly. See the examples from earlier this year:
The participants are often asked about the types of topics and issues they would like to discuss, so it meets the needs of the teachers who are participating. Read our guest post about Langchat here.
Experiencing conference vicariously through others
Most conferences these days announce a hashtag so that you can get news and updates. This is great for attendees leading up to the event, but also great for those who can’t attend as the conference progresses. Participants will often post pearls of wisdom from the presenters, and photos of important and interesting slides. This means that attendees who are interested in more than one session being run at the same time, and teachers who couldn’t attend, can still learn something from the conference. Conference hashtags also allow the wider public to get to know the key issues, key players and recent research.
If you want to join Twitter, go to http://www.twitter.com.
If you are already a member, please share your favourite hashtags with us, and don’t forget to follow me @Shannon_LTS 😛
OVER TO YOU …
*Are you a Twitter user?
*What have you gained professionally from using Twitter?
*What tips do you have for language teachers wanting to get the best out of Twitter?
*What are your favourite language teaching and learning hashtags?
Add to the discussion in the comments below,
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