Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Power of Edu-Twitter

I'm a fan of Twitter. Despite the abuse and misuse and the ridiculousness of Certain Leaders of the Free World, I like the instant reach that Twitter can have for good. I was reminded of this just yesterday.

Last week I was facilitating a workshop with elementary teachers -- how to use picture books to teach social studies. We were dipping into dozens of picture books, mostly from the National Council for the Social Studies list of Notable Trade Books. If you're looking for resources to teach K12 social studies, go there.

At the end of the workshop, a fifth grade teacher stayed behind and asked me if I knew of any picture books about grieving. One of her students lost a parent this month, and she was looking for ways to approach it with the child. I know I've read picture books about loss, but couldn't remember titles, and an Amazon search didn't bring up what I was really looking for. Yesterday afternoon, I sent out a tweet:

Within minutes, I heard from my friend Anthony (a school librarian in Minnesota) and John Schu, an expert in children's books. Within the hour, I had heard from a few other teachers and librarians. And then School Library Journal retweeted it to their network of 74,000 librarians and teachers. By this morning, I had 25 solid recommendations for books, several I've read and forgotten, but others I haven't seen before. There are five or so that were recommended multiple times, and I figure I'll purchase those, send them to the teacher, and she can see what works best for that particular student. She can gift the copy to the kid, and then I can replace that one if the teacher would like.

And that's the power of Twitter. So often teaching is an exercise in isolation and survival. If you're a teacher who doesn't feel like they have the support or connections at your school or local community, Twitter can help with that. If you're the only music or art teacher in your building and you need to bounce ideas off of other teachers, Twitter can help with that. If you have a great accomplishment you want to celebrate, Twitter will celebrate with you.

It took me a few tries to really understand Twitter and how it could be used professionally; I was introduced to it at a state tech conference a long time ago, and then introduced to the idea of Twitter chats at a national social studies conference. Since then I've figured it out, and I use it professionally and frivolously and everything in between. Because of the gradual way I grew into Twitter, I don't have a separate education account and personal account, which probably isn't recommended, but hey. I'm me. Good, bad, weird, thoughtful, messy. And that's okay. My engagement with other teachers on Twitter is probably what got my book Play Like a Pirate: Engage Students with Toys, Games, and Comics published, so I'll always be grateful to it for that.

If you're new to Twitter or old to Twitter, it's worth checking out. There's more on there than you'd expect. Sometimes the answers to your education questions are just a few clicks away. A great intro to Twitter in education is the book 140 Twitter Tips for Educators; these guys can teach you everything you need to know to get you started.

If you're already on Twitter, but haven't dipped into the Twitter Chats yet, here are some quick tips from Whitney Kilgore:

This is part of her brief introduction to what exactly Twitter chats are on Slideshare.

There's a list of education Twitter chats here -- I've participated in dozens of them, and get something good out of each. It may not be an answer to a question. It may be a reminder of something I already knew. It's usually a solid connection with educators who are inspired and energized and willing to put in time "off the clock" to find new ways to reach their students. If you've taken the time to read this far? You're one of those teachers.

Here's the list of books on grieving that were recommended by the teachers and librarians; the starred books were the ones recommended multiple times. Below that are the Twitter handles of those who have responded so far. Thank you for your help.

·         *** The Scar Charlotte Moundlic
·         The Next Place Warren Hanson
·         Tear Soup:A Recipe for Healing After Loss Pat Schwiebert
·         *** Boats for Papa Jessixa Bagley
·         Grief is the Thing with Feathers Max Porter
·        ***  The Sad Book Michael Rosen
·         *** The Heart and the Bottle Oliver Jeffers
·         Badger’s Parting Gifts Susan Varley
·         Goodbye Mog Judith Kerr
·         Missing Mummy: A Book About Bereavement Rebecca Cobb
·         *** Ida, Always Caron Lewis
·         Cry, Heart, But Never Break Glenn Ringtved
·         Granddad’s Island Benji Davis
·         Always Remember Cece Meng
·         What Happens When a Loved One Dies Dr. Jillian Roberts
·        ***  The Invisible String Patrice Karst
·         The Goodbye Book Todd Parr
·         I Love YouForever Robert Munsch 
·         Mrs. McBee Leaves Room 3 Gretchen Brandenburg McLellan
·         The Old Lady Who Named Things Cynthia Rylant
·         Death is Stupid Anastasia Higginbotham
·        ***  After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again Dan Santat 
·         Cardboard Doug TenNapel 


  1. I'm not very familiar with Twitter, thank you for sharing the post!


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