The Primary Source Librarian

Dedicated to Excellence in Teaching with Primary Sources

Finding My Twitter Voice

About a year ago, with encouragement from my friend Nancy White (@nancyw), I began to use Twitter. One year later, I agree with Nancy 100% that it has become my professional development tool of choice. The 500 or so educators I follow on Twitter supply me with endless links to thought-provoking education-related articles, blog posts, Web tools, conference presentations, and just plain great ideas.

But what do I have to offer? I’m just a retired school librarian with a special interest in teaching with primary sources. How long does it take to lose one’s relevance in this fast-changing world of education? I have no students with whom to test ideas and tools. I’m not a history teacher, so I cannot talk about the day-to-day use of primary sources…what worked, what didn’t, what I would change. I cannot go to the much-discussed conferences such as Educon or ISTE or meet educational movers and shakers in person.

Still, in my own Twitter way, I enjoy an enriching dialog with many of the influential education thinkers of today. Even when I don’t engage in personal conversations, I am still able to soak up their ideas, both practical and profound. Sometimes just being a “lurker” makes for powerful learning.

And what do I contribute? Well, a librarian is nothing if not a connector. So I connect people with ideas. Often these are ideas for teaching with primary sources, as this tweet shows:

Or sometimes I tweet out a link to an upcoming primary source professional development opportunity:

I help teachers save time by providing links to support materials for documentaries:

I tweet links to news from primary source Web sites:

But there’s more! I retweet other people’s tweets, often adding a hashtag or comment when I think a particular group will benefit:

Sometimes my “twitter voice” finds surprising outlets. For example, in February I will be the emcee at the Teacher Librarian Day for the Teaching with Primary Sources (TPS) program at Metro State in Denver. The TPS folks hope to demonstrate a survey instrument throughout the day, so I tweeted a request for examples of survey tools used in classes. Within minutes, I was “followed” by @SurveyGizmo, @Zoomerang, and @polleverywhere! I’ve sent links to TPS, but I’ve also passed one on to a history teacher in Massachusetts (@gregkulowiec) who was asked by a teacher in Venezuela (@mshuflin) if he knew of a free international survey tool. Convoluted? Yes! Helpful? Maybe.

In other words, you just never know where a single tweet might lead. Again, it’s all about connecting ideas with people, and that is where I have found my Twitter voice to be most effective.

When I can, I participate in various “hashtag” chats: #sschat, #tlchat, #eltchat, #edchat. Sometimes I contribute primary source ideas, but I also enjoy putting in my two cents on general education topics. The education community is so enthusiastic that some chats whiz by at an astonishing speed. No matter what may be the topic du jour, I always pick up new and creative ideas.

And once in awhile, a simple comment makes it all worthwhile:

So you see, even a retired Twitterbrarian can make a difference in a teacher’s life…and that of her students. It seems I’m not quite ready to be put out to pasture.

See you on Twitter!

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4 Responses to “Finding My Twitter Voice”

  1. Not only can a retired librarian offer the plentitude of resources that you offer, you and others can be the virtual mentors for newly minted or placed librarians like me. Thanks for allowing all of us to learn from you and your experience.

    • Deven, thanks so much for your kind words! Are you just beginning as a librarian this year? I know from your blog that you have the perfect characteristics of a librarian – endless curiosity, a desire to think deeply about education, and a real commitment to kids. You may just have discovered the best profession in the world! All the best, Mary

  2. Nancy White says:

    Mary, Your contributions make a huge difference to many of us. You are retired only from day-to-day teaching in a school setting. But the world is your classroom. You model for me what it really means to be a lifelong learner. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you, my friend!

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