ELEVATE: #OklaEd Unites Educators on Twitter


#oklaedDuring the last week of the school year, while the rest of the school may have been counting down the days until summer vacation, Kimberly Blodgett posted in her classroom: “Five days until I miss you.”

The fifth-grade teacher at Little Axe Elementary got the heartfelt idea after stumbling across a Twitter phenomenon that is uniting educators from across the state. Using the hashtag #OklaEd, Blodgett has discovered a new world of encouragement and professional development that she can access any time of day.

Blodgett said adopting a more positive approach has been one of the biggest things she’s been able to take away from tweets that carry #OklaEd, a hashtag that identifies the post as having to do with education in Oklahoma.

The #OklaEd hashtag was born in January 2013, when Kevin Hime, superintendent of Clinton Public Schools, and Rick Cobb, now superintendent of Mid-Del Public Schools, were seeking a way to tie their education-related posts together. In February, the hashtag was solidified when Hime attended an EdCamp gathering in Yukon. Fewer than a dozen people attended one of the breakout sessions, and the idea of a weekly chat caught on.

Today, anyone interested in Oklahoma education can engage in the #OklaEd chat on Twitter from 8 to 9 p.m. every Sunday.

“I think it’s great every Sunday evening to watch everyone share their ideas back and forth. It’s inspiring to me,” said Blodgett. “ It’s a very positive energy. It makes you excited about what you do.”

Hime said the strength of the #OklaEd chats is the variation of moderators. Parents and PTA leaders have taken on the task, as has State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister.

“Some people have chats that are always one topic. But with #OklaEd, this week it may not be for you and you might be a lurker, but next week it might be right up your alley,” Hime said.

Dr. Jason James, superintendent of Alex Public Schools, said the Sunday night chats have given him the opportunity to build relationships with like-minded educators. In addition, he said Twitter has changed the public conversation regarding Oklahoma public education.

“Twitter has allowed educators to collaborate and share information in real time. Educators have been exposed to thoughts and ideas from educators across the globe and not been limited to the concepts of their local district,” James said.

James calls Twitter instantaneous professional development that ignores the “one-size-fits-all” mentality of traditional training.

“The days of the boring ‘sit in one place for two hours at a time while some speaker drones on about something you’re not interested in’ is becoming extinct,” James said. “Twitter has created the personal professional development phenomenon that can be crafted to meet every single teacher’s need. You can get information on any topic just about any time you need it.”

Tyler Bridges, assistant superintendent at Clinton, said at least half of his staff uses Twitter to gain and share information about education. He said the 10-15 minutes a day he spends following his feeds is a small investment to get a great return.

“If you try it and see the benefit from it, you connect with other educators. If you get to where you find a group you really identify with and are getting some good ideas from, it becomes a priority. 

Bridges said his district regularly gleans technology and lesson ideas – 140 characters at a time – from posts tagged with #OklaEd.

“It’s all the time that we’re begging, borrowing and stealing from just about everybody that comes across. That’s how the game works,” he said.

#OklaEd collaborators also participate in Positive Post Friday, marked by the tag #PPF, in which educators can tout the success of their students or share inspirational notes. #1CoolThing and #PPA (Positive Post August) have also been trending under #OklaEd.

Blodgett says the upbeat attitude of the #OklaEd community has changed her approach toward teaching — and that helps her stay excited about supporting her students.

“Don’t bog down your students with what not to do. Instead, make it more positive and focus on what they can do,” she said. “On the first day, don’t tell them what they can’t do. Instead, focus on being excited to be there and happy to see them.”

 

 

 

Last updated on September 1, 2015