Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Exit Slip: How to Survive Your First Year of Teaching

possiblestickfigure_m copy

image by Joerg Schiemann

This week, we will end on a positive note. I remember my first year of teaching clearly. Despite having been through a great education program, I felt unprepared for reality once in the classroom. I had to accept that I probably wasn’t going to get anything right the first time, and that I had to learn how to find my sense of humor no matter how frustrated I was with myself, my lack of resources, or my students.

Classroom management, I learned quickly, is not one size fits all. The strategies used are determined not only by the chemistry of the personalities in each class, but also my own chemistry with each class. The underlining strategy that took me forever to learn, but helped the most, was to be authentic. Be true to myself. I didn’t have to be a big personality and a mean presence to keep attention. I just had to be me in all my awkward, goofy glory.

The following two articles can help new teachers survive their first year.

1. In “Stay Positive and Pace Yourself: A Survival Guide for First-Year Teachers” by Sara Ketcham on neaTODAY, Sara highlights the benefits of planning ahead, setting limits to your work so you don’t burn out, and keeping a positive mindset so that you don’t add to the pressure of being a newbie.

2. In “Learn to Reframe Failure” on Medium.com, Elsa Fridman Randolph thinks about how we might “reimagine the P.E. curriculum to serve as a catalyst for developing a growth mindset in all areas (academic and extracurricular) of students’ lives.” The most important lesson in this article for teachers and students, and everyone, is that we benefit from understanding failure to be part of the learning process. As a new teacher, know that you may have to try several ways to do something (whether managing a classroom, motivating a student, designing a great lesson plan, or developing an appropriate assessment) before you find the way that works best for you and your students. Accept the challenges.

Share experiences and insights from your first year in the comments below, and have a great weekend!

Moving From Routine to Rousing at #ANEW15

SaraRomeyn

Sara works with a newspaper from the Newseum archives.

Post written by Sara Romeyn, high school Honors Global History and AP United States History teacher and participant in the 2015 Newseum Summer Teacher Institute: “Primarily Digital: Teaching Media Literacy to Plugged-in Students,” sponsored by Annenberg Learner. Look for the #ANEW15 hashtag on Twitter. 

I was fortunate to take part in the “Primarily Digital” workshop in late July. I have attended many professional development workshops in my 20-year career as a teacher, but this was one of the standouts. It was relevant, well organized, hands-on, collaborative, and exciting. Our classroom was buzzing with energy and participation. Teachers came early and stayed late. As I reflect on the experience three weeks later, I realize that the workshop organizers and leaders continually modeled best practices. My big goal for the coming school year will be to further integrate those best practices in my own classrooms.

So, let me take each of those best practices in turn and explain in greater detail how they might influence my teaching:

  • The “Primarily Digital” workshop was well organized. We began each day with a review of the agenda, which was projected at the front of the room and in our notebooks. The agenda provided both a schedule for the day and the learning objectives. I usually post an objective at the beginning of my class, but I will make it a more intentional practice in the year to come. I will also include a specific time schedule. Such a practice will help frame the work, keep us on task, and give the students a sense of what to anticipate for the day.
  • The “Primarily Digital” workshop was relevant. The instructors and leaders continually drew connections between the materials introduced and our own classrooms. There was a practical link to current events. In my own classroom, I think students appreciate understanding why we learn something and how it might inform or influence modern events. With the study of history, it is important to draw connections to the present day. I will continually focus on that objective.
  • The “Primarily Digital” workshop was hands-on. We had the chance to physically examine historical newspapers. We created a social media campaign and designed our own buttons for a political cause. We were up and moving and engaged in the task of “doing history.” This approach was so much more engaging that a lecture. Again, I want to bring these practices into my classroom, whether it is a gallery walk where students analyze photographs or a project where they utilize artistic talents.
  • The “Primarily Digital” workshop was collaborative. We worked in small groups on multiple occasions during the three days, and we learned so much given the opportunity to share our ideas and perspectives. Group work gives a voice to students who are less bold in front of a large class. The ability to collaborate is a key life skill…how does one listen carefully and respectfully?
  • The workshop was exciting. The organizers made fresh and interesting use of social media, including the visit to the Berlin Wall gallery where we tweeted as an East or West Berliner. In the Vietnam exhibit, we engaged in an on-line debate about the power of the media in a time of war.

I appreciated many aspects of the workshop. I came away with valuable resources, such as tools students may use when evaluating a source. I was introduced to several new tech tools, and discovered novel ways to use familiar tools. Ultimately, however, it was the structure of the workshop that was the biggest “aha” moment for me. By using multiple best practices for the classroom, the workshop leaders provided a powerful and engaging three days. I believe the best teachers are life-long learners, and when we use the summer to grow and have new experiences, we become better teachers. I look forward to recreating these practices in my classroom in the coming year.

See what else Sara was up to this summer on her blog. After spending a week in the “Primarily Digital” workshop, she left for a teacher exchange program to South Africa. In addition to learning about the history of Apartheid, she spent several days teaching in a high school in a township. 

Exit Slip: Neural Pathways and Political Discussions

Copyright: ikopylov / 123RF Stock Photo

How does it feel to be back in the building? I always enjoyed the first two weeks of the school year, meeting new teachers and reconnecting with peers, receiving class rosters and wondering what my new students would be like, setting up the classroom, and planning like crazy.

At my school we sometimes held informal discussion groups about articles related to our teaching practice, much like a book group would. Here is some food for thought collected from the web this week, either to consider on your own (and comment on below!) or share with others. This week, we are thinking about how we build students’ skills gradually in order to meet instructional goals and how to safely and fairly discuss political issues with students.

1. Guest Column: Don’t Short Circuit Education, a June post on Learning Lab/WBUR written by Alden Blodget, is about the importance of focusing on the learning process, instead of just focusing on achieving the goal. “We need to create schools that nurture the growth of neural pathways, the circuits, that result in engagement and recall. And educators need to trust that, if students build the circuitry, the lights will go on.” Learn more about how you build these paths in Neuroscience & the Classroom. Alden Blodget is a content contributor to the series.

2. In Politics in the Classroom: How Much is Too Much, by Steve Drummond on NPREd, Diana E. Hess and Paula McAvoy discuss whether or not politics should be allowed in the classroom and if controversial topics should be used as learning opportunities. Hess says, “My view is that if you’re going to have students involved in authentic politics, then it’s really important to make sure you have issues for which there are multiple and competing views, and you don’t give students the impression that there’s a political view that they should be working toward.” Read the article to find valuable considerations for class discourse. Do you talk politics with your students? If so, what has worked for you to create a safe and well-rounded discussion?

(Image Copyright: ikopylov / 123RF Stock Photo)

Exit Slip: Differentiation, Twitter Chats, Teacher Prep, and more…

Copyright: Sujittra Chieweiamwattana

Copyright: Sujittra Chieweiamwattana

Welcome to our new Exit Slip posts. On Fridays, we will recap some of our favorite education-related resources and entertainment found on the web or learned in a workshop during the week. We will also include thought-provoking articles on education in the United States. Please enjoy and post thoughts and responses in the comments below. Have a great weekend!

1. Differentiated Instruction Works: How and Why To Do DI, by Klea Scharberg: Carol Ann Tomlinson, Kristina Doubet, and Jessica Hockett discuss the importance of differentiated instruction and what differentiated instruction looks like in the classroom with Sean Slade, ASCD’s director of whole child programs on the Whole Child Podcast. My favorite idea in this podcast is that teachers and students benefit from a growth mindset. Everyone has potential and effort is more important than perceived intelligence.

2. Teacher Jennifer Roberts shared (via Google Hangout) how she uses Google tools with her students to give them feedback on their writing during the Newseum Institute for teachers, sponsored by Annenberg Learner. Watch her in action in Reading & Writing in the DisciplinesBlended Learning: Acquiring Digital Literacy Skills.

3. Also during the institute, we learned about Cybrary Man’s schedule of all education-related twitter chats happening on the web. Twitter chats are a useful tool for teacher professional development and sharing resources and ideas. Currently, we are hooked on #sschat and #CitSciChat. Which educational chats do you like best?

4. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is reporting that not all states are assessing the quality of teacher preparation programs and therefore not holding low-performing programs accountable, as required by federal law. Here is the article “New GAO Report: Teacher Prep Programs Lack Performance Data” by Lauren Camera in Ed Week. A link to the report is included in the article. Do you feel like your own teacher prep program prepared you for the classroom? Why or why not?

5. Finally, we will end this week on a humorous note. Key & Peele imagines what it would be like if we treated teachers like athletes in this entertaining sketch on their show. See the article and segment on Slate.com.

Annenberg Learner: Videos for Content Area Literacy

RWD_JRoberts

Jennifer Roberts asks students to compare two characters from The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe using evidence they have gathered from the text.

This post originally appeared on Litandtech.com May 8, 2015.

I am excited this week to be exploring the resources now available from Annenberg Learner [Reading & Writing in the Disciplines] and specific to disciplinary literacy. These are videos of students working on developing their literacy skills in a range of core subject areas.

I’m looking forward to being able to use these videos as starting points for conversations with my colleagues and administrators about what literacy looks like in all subject areas, not just English.

I also appreciate that the collection is searchable by discipline and topics like close reading, differentiation, gradual release of responsibility etc. It makes it easy for me to narrow down my search and preview the videos I might want to use.

Full disclosure, the reason I know about this project is because my classroom is one of the many that were filmed for the collection. It’s not possible to search by teacher, so if you really want to see me or my classroom you’ll need to look here and here, but you may also spot me in some of the expert commentary videos. My classroom shows up as an example sometimes while leading educational researchers talk about current trends in literacy instruction.

If you are a literacy coach, a resource teacher, an administrator, or anyone else responsible for helping teachers implement Common Core or develop student literacy then you will appreciate the resources from Annenberg Learner as much as I do.

Power Up Cover copy

Click on the book cover to find purchase information through Stenhouse.com.

By popular demand, direct links to videos from my classroom.

Check out Jen’s blog Literacy, Technology, Policy, etc… A Blog, about teaching literacy with technology in an era of educational innovation, and learn about Diana Neebe and Jen Roberts’ new book Power Up: Making the Shift to 1:1 Teaching and Learning.  

The Importance of Listening Earnestly

AppleHeadphones_123Reading skills are very important to students of all ages, and teachers justly spend a lot of time working with students to build good reading skills. But most of the information students receive over the course of an average day is not presented as writing—it’s presented as sound.

Success in life depends on being able to listen. Listening to someone talk is not easy when you break it down. It means being able to understand intonation, accent, pacing, and vocabulary (formal and colloquial and sometimes from other languages). Pauses have to be interpreted as meaningful spaces for thought or just time for someone to take a breath. Changes in volume are interpreted. “Ums” and “uhs” and repetitions have to be filtered out.

That’s a lot of work to do. But auditory literacy is an important skill to help students build. For example, they will spend their lives listening to the news. This means listening to people being interviewed by reporters. Students will need strong auditory literacy to understand whether a reporter is leading, criticizing, or supporting the interviewee, and thereby attempting to influence how we, the listeners, respond. When a reporter paraphrases an interviewee, we need to be able to tell if that reporter is accurately summing up the other person’s statements or subtly changing them to say something else. When an interview turns into a sharp debate or even an argument, we need to be able to understand why this is happening and what has triggered the shift.

Listening to classroom peers, administrators, and teachers is similarly complex and equally important. It’s about more than “paying attention”; it’s about developing aural intelligence, to add a category to Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences. And it’s a crucially important intelligence to focus on, because listening is a high-stakes venture. Unlike with reading, students don’t have the opportunity for multiple iterations of an aural “text.” An announcement is made once over the loudspeaker and that’s it. A speaker at an assembly makes a presentation one time. Test instructions are read out and then the test begins. Students often have to be able to get listening right the first time.

What can you do to help? Have students practice listening as much as possible. Here are some options:

  • NPR radio stories are available online as audio files, and they offer good practice listening to accents from around the world, high-level vocabulary, and interviews.
  • YouTube has millions of videos that feature people giving instructions—how to do squats, how to play the guitar, etc. Have students start a video and then minimize the screen so they can’t watch it and have to rely on listening.
  • Have students work in groups of four. Have two of the students debate a topic you provide to them (something non-controversial) for three minutes, while the other two students listen. Then have each of the listening students sum up the arguments they heard on both sides and let the debating students critique those summaries for accuracy, pointing out where they think the listening students did not hear them properly.

You can learn more about multiple intelligences at workshop 6, “The Mind’s Intelligences,” from Looking at Learning… Again.

How do you work on listening skills with your students?

Preparing Students to Read

Written by WGBH Education for Annenberg Learner, Part 3 of 3 (Go to Part 1 and Part 2)

LIT 7

Check out the new Reading & Writing in the Disciplines professional development course.

Accessing Prior Knowledge

When students read, their prior knowledge greatly impacts how they comprehend a text and learn new information from it. This prior knowledge includes both school-based and personal experiences, including previous instruction, academic and out-of-school texts, personal experiences, videos and movies, and discussions with teachers and peers. It is critical that readers are able to connect this prior knowledge to new learning for the most effective understanding of text ideas.

But prior knowledge isn’t just what students know about the topic itself; it’s also what they know about how to read a particular type of text, such as understanding the text structure, text features, language structures, and strategies for learning new information.

For example, students may come to a history unit about abolition knowing something about the slave trade, Abraham Lincoln, and Frederick Douglass. But they may also have an understanding of how to identify organizational text structures often found in history texts (e.g., cause and effect, problem/solution), how to use different text features that support informational text (e.g., headings, captions, timelines), and/or how to analyze, synthesize, and corroborate ideas by comparing and contrasting sources on the same topic.

Given that students will have a range of prior knowledge as they begin a particular reading, teachers need to assess the text (what prior knowledge is necessary for effective comprehension of new content) and the students (what they already know). Based on this assessment, teachers decide what content knowledge students need to develop, how to access it using a variety of resources, and how to help students connect what they know to new learning. It’s important to note that even when students possess prior knowledge, they often need reminders to activate and connect it to specific reading situations.

Setting a Purpose for Reading

Many students, especially struggling readers, have difficulty determining important information during and after reading, particularly as the disciplinary texts become more complex. Having a specific purpose for reading will support students’ comprehension of important text ideas, focus their attention on the text and accompanying text features, and provide motivation for learning new content. However, too often, students are given a generic purpose, such as reading a chapter to answer concluding questions. In this case, the purpose is simply to complete a task after reading.

In contrast, a specific purpose should address the text content—important information, key concepts, and author’s purpose or point of view. For example, in science, students may read to compare and contrast features of sustainable and non-sustainable energy. In math, they may read real world earthquake measurement data and use that information to create and interpret a graph.

In the earlier grades, teachers usually set a purpose for students before they read. However, the goal of this important component of reading is for students to learn how to set their own purpose as independent readers. As students become more proficient readers in each discipline, teachers may continue to model setting a purpose while still encouraging students to determine their own purpose, build upon their knowledge, and think more critically about text ideas. Setting a purpose often occurs before reading; however, as students read, they may revise their purposes and set new goals for learning. For example, a student may set an initial reading purpose of identifying the causes of the Civil War. During reading, the student may refine this purpose to focus on specific causes related to different geographical regions of the United States. In science, students may set a purpose for reading an article on climate change to understand the factors related to this issue. As they read, they may revise this purpose to discover specific human behavior that affects climate change. Again, this sophistication develops as a student gains an expanding view of the topic.

Using Prior Knowledge to Set a Purpose

Not surprisingly, students’ ability to set their own purpose for reading is closely tied to their prior knowledge. In other words, students must have a general understanding related to the topic in order to set a purpose for reading about it. A familiar strategy for connecting prior knowledge with purposes for reading is the KWL (Know-Want to Know-Learn) strategy (Ogle, D., 1986). With this practice, students determine what they already know about a topic, what information they want to know related to the topic, and finally, what they learned after reading and discussion. This process promotes connecting prior knowledge to new information, which leads to effective learning. Charting these understandings helps students to engage in the process of reading to learn. Also, teachers must have a clear understanding of what needs to be learned about a topic, because in many instances students have difficulty identifying what they want to learn due to limited understanding of the topic. These student and teacher understandings before reading influence the teaching that will occur.

Ogle, D. (1986). K-W-L: A teaching model that develops active reading of expository text. The Reading Teacher, 39 (6), 564-570.

Are you ready to incorporate discipline literacy strategies into your curriculum? Learn how with Reading and Writing in the Disciplines. – See more at: http://learnerlog.org/socialstudies/how-does-discipline-literacy-differ-from-content-area-literacy/?preview=true&preview_id=3168&preview_nonce=8d8bf65a26#sthash.6JEXI13f.dpuf

Are you ready to incorporate discipline literacy strategies into your curriculum? Learn how with Reading & Writing in the Disciplines

Read part 1 of this blog series on discipline literacy: “How Does Discipline Literacy Differ from Content-area Literacy?” and part 2: “Literacy in the 21st Century.”

Literacy in the 21st Century

Written by WGBH Education for Annenberg Learner, Part 2 of 3 (Go to Part 1 and Part 3)

LIT 16“Literacy is no longer a static construct from the standpoint of its defining technology for the past 500 years; it has now come to mean a rapid and continuous process of change in the ways in which we read, write, view, listen, compose, and communicate information.” (Coiro, Knobel, Lankshear, & Leu, 2014. Handbook of research on new literacies.)

Traditional views of literacy learning and development are changing to reflect a more global view of understanding and communicating in today’s increasingly complex world. It will come as no surprise that students spend a lot of time using technology outside of school. But what teachers are beginning to think more about is how this explosion of technology impacts the ways students read, write, think, and communicate about their world. Whether engaged in social media, texting, making videos, sharing images, reading e-books, or navigating the Internet, students are using a variety of literacy practices and tools. Combining these practices with other outside-of-school activities in which literacy plays a part—such as independent reading, writing, performance, and even sport—it becomes evident that many students engage in substantial literacy-based activities beyond their schoolwork. There is a high degree of motivation when students select their literacy practices and venues. Given this, it is important for teachers to understand the out-of-school literacy practices students bring to school and to relate them to school-based learning. This connection will expand and enhance their use of multiple literacies.

“Students engage in literacy practices and learning outside of school, learning they consider powerful and important. Typical approaches to secondary school content learning often overlook the learning and literacy practices that youth engage in apart from their school-based, content learning (Moje, 2008).”

Given the knowledge and expertise students have in using technology outside of school, digital literacy can play a significant role in school as a way to maximize productive learning. This requires instruction in new literacies, including how to determine where to find relevant information, analyze and evaluate websites, summarize and synthesize important information, incorporate videos, music, and other media of students’ choice into performance assessments, and produce projects that illustrate understanding. For example, when students are taught to evaluate the authenticity and reliability of websites, they are using the social studies strategies of sourcing and contextualization. When students create or locate images, or incorporate music into a project, they are making connections and demonstrating their interpretation and synthesis of key ideas. When done effectively, technology can provide a critical connection between home and school literacy and change the often-held view by students that reading and writing are things you only “do” in school.

For examples of how to blend these practices, check out the following:

Lapp, Fisher, Frey and Gonzalez (2014). Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 58(3) November 2014 doi: 10.1002/jaal.353 © 2014 International Reading Association (pp. 182–188).

Lapp, Thayre, Wolsey, Fisher, 2014. June 2014 doi:10.1598/e-ssentials.8056 © 2014 International Reading Association.

Are you ready to incorporate discipline literacy strategies into your curriculum? Learn how with Reading & Writing in the Disciplines.

Read part 1 of this blog series on discipline literacy: “How Does Discipline Literacy Differ from Content-area Literacy?” and part 3: “Preparing Students to Read

How Does Discipline Literacy Differ from Content-area Literacy? – See more at: http://learnerlog.org/socialstudies/how-does-discipline-literacy-differ-from-content-area-literacy/?preview=true&preview_id=3168&preview_nonce=8d8bf65a26#sthash.6JEXI13f.dpuf
How Does Discipline Literacy Differ from Content-area Literacy? – See more at: http://learnerlog.org/socialstudies/how-does-discipline-literacy-differ-from-content-area-literacy/?preview=true&preview_id=3168&preview_nonce=8d8bf65a26#sthash.6JEXI13f.dpuf

How Does Discipline Literacy Differ from Content-area Literacy?

Written by WGBH Education for Annenberg Learner, Part 1 of 3 (Go to Part 2 and Part 3)

LIT 15

Reading & Writing in the Disciplines

When students enter middle and high school, their teachers expect them to have mastered the basic skills and strategies necessary for reading and comprehending texts across disciplines and genres. Is this always the reality? Do the skills and strategies they’ve developed serve them equally well when they read a scientific journal article, mathematical proof, historical primary source document, Shakespearean sonnet, and technical paper?

The answer is, no. While basic strategies such as making connections, asking questions, inferring, summarizing, and monitoring understanding are important when reading across subjects, they are not sufficient unless they can be adapted to each discipline. Even if students have mastered these basic skills, they may still struggle to understand, analyze, interpret, and evaluate important ideas in discipline-specific texts because they do not have the topical language and specialized reading practices that are used by scientists, mathematicians, historians, literary analysts, and technical specialists. To understand how each discipline produces and communicates key ideas, students need to know what is specifically involved when reading across these disciplines. So how exactly is this discipline literacy different from content-area literacy?

Content-area Literacy

Content-area literacy strategies are traditionally defined as the basic set of strategies students use when reading and responding to texts, with little differentiation being made across the content-area subjects. For example, students may learn techniques for determining important information, making inferences, asking questions, and summarizing. They would then apply these strategies when reading science, history, and math.

Discipline Literacy

Discipline literacy skills support students in moving beyond the general reading strategies as they develop specialized practices for making sense of discipline-based texts through reading, writing, and oral language. These practices include understanding how information is presented in each discipline: organization of important information; specialized vocabulary and syntactic nuances; use of text features; and interpretation and evaluation of evidence. The focus is on teaching students different ways of thinking as they encounter texts by developing reader identities within each discipline—to become expert readers and communicators in a discipline by reading, writing, and talking like a historian, a scientist, a mathematician, etc.

Essentially, “[t]he difference is that content literacy emphasizes techniques that a novice might use to make sense of a discipline text (such as how to study a history book for an examination) while discipline literacy emphasizes the unique tools that the experts in a discipline use to engage in the work of that discipline” (Shanahan and Shanahan, 2012, p. 8).

What Does This Mean for Instruction?

It has been an unspoken expectation that elementary teachers would help students have content-area literacy skills in place by middle school. In contrast, the expectation around discipline literacy is that it’s the job of discipline teachers to build these skills. But in reality, these are not isolated tasks.

The Common Core State Standards have placed an emphasis on the need for ELA and discipline teachers to share the responsibility for teaching and assessing mastery of the ELA Standards. While this call for shared responsibility is certainly a change from what has occurred in schools for decades, it’s important because it has now been documented that discipline experts approach the reading of texts differently (Shanahan and Shanahan, 2008).

This does not mean that discipline teachers must also add “reading teacher” to the many hats they already wear. Rather, it means that they should model and share their own strategies for how to approach a text, how to determine and synthesize key ideas, how to critically evaluate the content, and how to engineer new possibilities. After all, who else is better able to support the reading of texts within a discipline than a discipline expert who knows the language and understands how students acquire text-based information?

They are, after all, the experts.

Shanahan, T., & Shanahan, C. (2008). Teaching disciplinary literacy to adolescents: Rethinking content-area literacy. Harvard Educational Review, 78(1), 40–59.

Are you ready to incorporate discipline literacy strategies into your curriculum? Learn how with Reading & Writing in the Disciplines.

Read part 2 of this blog series on discipline literacy: “Literacy in the 21st Century” and part 3: “Preparing Students to Read

Are you ready to incorporate discipline literacy strategies into your curriculum? Learn how with Reading and Writing in the Disciplines. – See more at: http://learnerlog.org/socialstudies/how-does-discipline-literacy-differ-from-content-area-literacy/?preview=true&preview_id=3168&preview_nonce=8bf5a75fad#sthash.YEQZS0jD.dpuf
Read part 1 of this blog series on discipline literacy: “How Does Discipline Literacy Differ from Content-area Literacy?” – See more at: http://learnerlog.org/socialstudies/literacy-in-the-21st-century/#sthash.aM3Bw6Qw.dpuf
Read part 1 of this blog series on discipline literacy: “How Does Discipline Literacy Differ from Content-area Literacy?” – See more at: http://learnerlog.org/socialstudies/literacy-in-the-21st-century/#sthash.aM3Bw6Qw.dpuf

How to Use Twitter Chats for Professional Development

hashtag_wordswagIt used to be that teachers had to get together at conferences to share their expertise, their lesson plans, their ideas and opinions, their best practices, and their questions. Now teachers have a wealth of online options for sharing what they know and for discovering new professional development resources and opportunities to strengthen their practice.

Until now, sharing nuts-and-bolts resources has been the main focus of most online teaching sites. But if you want conversation between teachers, a live give-and-take that ranges far and wide and dives deeply into specific topics, where do you go?

The answer is, increasingly, Twitter. Teachers have been following each other on Twitter for a few years now, chatting here and there over the course of the day and checking in to see what the latest word is from their Twitter network. But in-depth conversations are beginning to take center stage now, too: regularly scheduled, hour-long, focused conversations that allow teachers to prepare their thoughts ahead of time, alert colleagues, and then deepen and detail their understanding of a certain topic through real-time discussion and debate.

Twitter chats are the solution to teachers’ familiar complaint that Twitter can’t sustain conversations, that Twitter networks too often provide disjointed streams of consciousness that can’t develop or sustain meaning. If you’ve ever tweeted a question only to hear back sporadically from your network over the course of a day or two, and then see the comments begin to track into unrelated areas, Twitter chats are for you.

Need examples?

  • Take a look at this Storify version of the discussion at the March 25, 2015 #CitSciChat about Spring-themed #CitizenScience. Nine panelists, including Journey North, and 10 participants took part in an hour-long discussion of what they are doing to document the arrival of Spring in the United States, beginning with their project goals and moving to the discoveries their teams have made, details on their volunteers’ experiences, teacher resources fueled by their findings, best practices in the field and on social media, and what’s on the horizon for future projects.
  • Another of our favorite forums for directed Twitter chats is #Edchat, which schedules two conversations every Tuesday, one at noon ET and one at 7 PM ET. You can read the archived transcripts of previous #Edchats, which range from “Will methods of Professional Development be better served by educators self-directing their PD?” to “Why is personal branding so important in the digital age? How can students and educators brand themselves?”

As with any social media, there are some outliers in any Twitter chat who don’t stay on-topic or, even worse, spam the discussion with ads. But these negative voices tend to fall away quickly after the first few minutes, and the discussion focuses intently on the topic at hand as teachers talk frankly about their experiences and opinions.

Take a look at the examples in this post and do some investigating on your own to find Twitter chats that speak to you, and get involved in a conversation that matters to you.

Also check out these two articles to learn more about useful twitter chats for teachers. (There is something for everyone!):

Twitter Chats: An Hour Well Worth Your Time by Pete DeWitt, Education Week

13 Great Twitter Chats Every Educator Should Check Out by Susan Bearden, The Journal

If you’re using a twitter chat for professional development that you love and recommend, please share below in the comments!