Tales of a Closet Tweeter

You’ve seen the look. You’ve mentioned in polite company that you learned something amazing on Twitter. The room goes suddenly silent.  Eyebrows shoot up. Listeners exchange questioning glances. The people you think of as your colleagues look at you as if you have been caught with your hand in the till… or worse, the candy jar. Someone finally speaks up in astonishment. “Twitter?” he asks. Someone else giggles, and he continues, “Really?”
Thus, I’ve learned to keep my Twitter life mostly a secret. It takes too much time to explain, and my credibility ends up being on the line. Much as I depend upon Twitter as a means to learn and connect with other educators on a daily basis, I still feel the need to curb my enthusiasm in my “real” life, lest I stir up reactions that suggest the mad visionary at the close of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan”:

And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
[Her] flashing eyes, [her] floating hair!
Weave a circle round [her] thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread….

Twitter, well yes, really.
A Post-Election Night Story
With CNN burbling in the background as the vote counts came in, my husband, Larry Kahn, and I perused our respective Twitter feeds.  It was interesting to read and “hear” real, raw voices over the bland hubbub of the “objective” commentators.  Among the mixture of snide jokes, vitriol, and ebullience delivered by the usually mild-mannered educators I follow on Twitter, I saw this post by master Social Studies teacher Diana Laufenberg:

That, I thought at the time, is the smartest thing I’ve seen all night.
The next day, as the discussion in my school’s faculty room inevitably turned to the election, I so wanted to share the way of thinking about the election Diana Laufenberg had inspired in me. But I kept my mouth shut. I wasn’t sure yet if my new colleagues were ready to glimpse my secret Twitter life, though I was eager to expose them to Laufenberg, her inspiring 2010 TED Talk, “How to Learn? From Mistakes”’ her superb blog, Living the Dream, and her expert workshop at ISTE 2012 on “Learning Visually.” So I mourned the missed opportunity for collegial exchange and told myself I would bide my time.
This post, then, is meant to convey something of what I might have said to them, by way of sharing the ways I learn from my Twittering personal learning network.

How I’ve Used Twitter in the Past 6 Months…

  • I’ve connected or re-connected with interesting people, including a bright young teacher, Christina Mairs, from Northern Ireland, who served as a Teaching Fellow at my former school, and a future collaborator, Lisa Noble, from Canada, who shares my passion for teaching with technology.
  • I crowd-sourced my followers for suggestions about art tools to use in a class project.
  • I shared a photograph with a colleague, John Croft Norton (my editor at Voices from the Learning Revolution), whom I’ve never met in person, and he cracked me up with his humorous reply.
  • I’ve discovered new ways to learn creatively via Mesh Baltimore from Emily Letras.
  • I’ve participated in live conversations and networked with educator leaders at #isedchat and #edchat, just two of many educator chat sessions in Twitter.
  • I’ve connected with many readers of my posts for Getting Smart and continued our conversations about what matters in education.

How I’ve Used Twitter in the Past Week…

  • I’ve asked fellow tweeters for permission to use their tweets and photos for this blog post.
  • I’ve become a proud parent, learning from my step-daughter, Meghan Kahn, who is making her own mark on Twitter.


This is what I would like everyone I know to understand about my secret Twitter existence: I may be that crazy visionary at the end of Coleridge’s poem, but we should recall how that poem ends…

[she] on honey-dew hath fed
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

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Marsha Ratzel

Dear Susan,
This is an inspiring article and one that makes a compelling case for trying something new...even if it's not what everyone else is doing. And finding value with something....maybe even doing old fashion kinds of networking in new "modern" ways.
Thanks for writing this. It's wonderful.

HollyAnne Giffin

You're so right! I get fun of a good bit for my Tweeterous ways -- despite the fact that my account is strictly educational. Even the kids think it's weird.
Great post, as always.

Lisa noble

This is so well put-together. Terrific concrete examples, and reasons for people to try. Will be passing this on!

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