Teacher twitter invasion has students in search of new social media forum

Jacob Brase | Staff Writer

A new, yet all too familiar, audience has joined Twitter, creating concern among students at Mason High School.

On August 8 and 9, over 900 educators from Mason and surrounding districts gathered to discuss learning techniques at the second annual Mason Learning Series (MLS).

The Learning Series was a combination of conferences, speeches and classes, this year with a focus on using Twitter. Keynote speaker George Couros encouraged teachers to use Twitter to connect with students.

After attending the Mason Learning Series this year, Digital Image Design teacher Dan McKay said that Couros encouraged him to tweet in order to be heard by students.

“Couros’ main message was that if teachers don’t use Twitter, they’re becoming illiterate,” McKay said. “He really encouraged people to do things through Twitter.”

While Couros is not affiliated with Mason, the district used his message at the Mason Learning Series to get through to teachers.

McKay said this was the first time he has seen the school come out and advocate Twitter usage among all Mason teachers.

“It was the first time Twitter was being encouraged at a district level,” McKay said. “Twitter was a big push.”

McKay said this advocacy caused many teachers to use Twitter who have not before.

“Two years ago, I knew some people used (Twitter), but it wasn’t very widespread at all,” McKay said. “Now it seems to be super prevalent; pretty much my entire Twitter feed is teachers’ posts.”

English teacher Betsy Carras was skeptical of teachers on Twitter before the Mason Learning Series, but after listening to Couros speak, she had a change of heart.

“If I didn’t go to MLS, I wouldn’t be using Twitter,” Carras said. “They really got teachers excited about using Twitter; that’s why we’re seeing such a sudden transition.”

Mason City Schools Chief Innovation Officer Jonathan Cooper has plans for Twitter to be a key part in his innovation plan for the district. He said using Twitter helps eliminate boundaries for students’ education.

“I hope that students and teachers start to see each other (on Twitter) as learners that are a part of a larger community,” Cooper said. “I want teachers to be able to look on students’ Twitter accounts and understand the things that are important to that student.”

While teachers are just joining Twitter, most students at MHS have been using Twitter for years.

Sophomore Jack Cooper has been using Twitter for three years. Cooper says that the social media site has been the student platform for many years, and teachers’ being on Twitter jeopardises that.

“I’ve seen a lot of teachers create Twitter accounts and follow their students,” Cooper said. “They’re kind of invading our space, and I think a lot of students don’t want to post as much now.”

Cooper said that staff and students have different purposes for Twitter.

“Students are on Twitter to interact with each other and make funny content,” Cooper said. “Now that teachers are on Twitter, they’re trying to change the way we use it; they’re trying to make it a platform for education.”

This year over 40 percent of teachers are on Twitter, and posts with #MasonLearns and #MasonShines are very commonly seen from these teachers.

The hashtags were used to get teachers to start tweeting at the Mason Learning Series and has since accumulated over 185,674 impressions, or views by Twitter users, making it clear that teachers are involved on this platform.

For some students at MHS, the idea of teachers seeing their posts is a scary thing.

Junior Julia Goldfarb said that she uses Twitter for comedic purposes but fears her humor may be misunderstood by teachers..

“I like to make people laugh, (but) that humor is directed towards people my age,” Goldfarb said. “Teachers don’t understand the humor of kids and their different slang because of the age difference; they might misinterpret something. I don’t want teachers to see what I’m tweeting. Some of it’s weird, and I don’t want teachers to have a bad impression of me.”

As students are seeing teachers on Twitter, they can react to it in many different ways. The way they handle it will heavily impact the way students use Twitter. While Some students do not mind teachers joining, it may discourage many from using the social media.

Goldfarb said that students will utilize other social medias to compensate for their lack of privacy on Twitter.

“Students are realizing that teachers are crossing over a boundary,” Goldfarb said. “I think they’ll gradually start to limit what they’re sharing, and share it over different social medias.”

While the district is attempting to connect with its students, this effort may fail, for McKay said students could go as far as leaving Twitter to use a different platform.

“I can understand how when older people suddenly are all trying to use the cool new thing that teenagers use, it comes off wrong to students,” McKay said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if this causes students to migrate to a different social media.”