**Updated on June 5, 2011
One of the greatest challenges in any professional learning community is finding meaningful learning partnerships for the singletons—art teachers, band directors, media specialists, foreign language teachers—in a building.
While many singletons choose to collaborate with learning teams that are studying content connected to their areas of personal and professional interest or work to offer targeted support to teams on an as needed basis, Twitter can be used to connect any singleton to digital peers working in the same field.
The following three strategies can help you to find electronic conversations and colleagues appropriate for the singletons in your school:
Exploring Twitter Hashtags
The first challenge singletons in PLCs face is finding peers teaching the same content areas that they can network with. Thankfully, there are literally thousands of singletons who are using Twitter to connect with each other.
One of the best ways to connect with those potential colleagues is to explore ongoing Twitter conversations organized by hashtags—short identifiers starting with # that users add to the end of specific posts to sort them into easily searchable categories.
While new hashtags are being used by Twitter users all the time---and while there are general hashtags being used by all teachers at the elementary and middle school levels----some of the most popular for singleton teachers include:
#musiced: A tag added to the end of messages posted by many music teachers, #musiced—along with its sister tag, #musicedchat–is a great source of information and connections for music teachers of almost any age level.
#banddirector: Related to the #musiced hashtag, #banddirector is a hashtag that is being used specifically to enable connections and sharing between band directors.
#artsed: Perhaps the largest group of singletons in our schools are arts—both performing and visual—teachers. The #artsed hashtag can help any arts teacher to make connections with digital colleagues. You may also find new follows by exploring the #artchat hashtag.
#mathchat: While many schools are able to sustain vibrant math professional learning communities, there are often singletons working in high level classes. The #mathchat hashtag—which is used by educators across grade levels and curricular areas—can be a source for spotting potential partners for these teachers.
#scichat: Like the #mathchat hashtag, #scichat can be a source of potential connections for the singletons—physics teachers, chemistry teachers—in your science department.
#esol: Some of the most isolated singletons in our buildings are English for Speakers of Other Languages teachers. The #esol hashtag—which is one of the most active ongoing hashtag conversations for educators—is sure to provide networking opportunities for any ESOL teacher.
ESOL teachers might also discover that the #esl hashtag is a valuable source of new connections as well.
#careerteched: Career Tech Educators and Family and Consumer Science Teachers are equally isolated singletons in most of our buildings. That’s why the #careerteched hashtag—along with the #wkdev hashtag–are so important. For perhaps the first time, you’ll be able to pair your career educators with likeminded colleagues.
#spedchat: Depending on the size of your school, special education teachers could very well feel like singletons, too. The #spedchat hashtag brings together all kinds of practitioners—counselors, social workers, special educators, regular ed teachers—interested in special education.
#titletalk: While there is no single hashtag being used to organize the thinking of media specialists, several use #titletalk to spotlight regular weekly conversations with authors and to share interesting reads with one another. The #librarian , #tlchat , #kidlit , and #kidlitchat hashtags are also good sources for connecting with other teacher librarians.
#ntchat: If your school is anything like mine, you’ve probably got a bunch of new teachers that need guidance and support—and while they’re usually embedded on existing learning teams with experienced colleagues, sometimes having other new teachers to listen to and outside voices to learn from can make the first years of a teacher’s career feel a little less lonely.
That’s why connecting with peers who use the #ntchat hashtag in Twitter makes so much sense.
#gtchat: I'm not sure that there could be any more lonely professional than the gifted educator. Heck, I've worked in 5 different schools over the past 17 years, and think I've only ever met 4 teachers who worked specifically with academically gifted students. Talk about a small PLC.
Be lonely no more, AG teachers! You can easily track down peers by poking through the #gtchat hashtag. Be sure to explore the #gifted hashtag too, though. They're often used interchangeably by your peers.
#latlang: Probably the most interesting Twitter hashtag for singletons is #latlang. Designed to bring together Latin students and Latin teachers, #latlang is actually one of the first education related hashtags created by students.
You can learn more about its origins---a very Latin kind of thing to do---by exploring this Shelly Blake-Plock blog post.
#profdev: Strangely enough, the professionals who are in charge of supporting adult learning in our schools---and for helping to structure the work of collaborative teams---are often singletons, too!
That's why the #profdev hashtag is so useful. Bringing together instructional resource teachers and faculty trainers, it's a potential source of great resources and connections for those who support teaching teams.
#isedchat: The #isedchat hashtag is a bit different from the other hashtags in this Twitter for Singletons list. Instead of serving a specific category of teachers within a traditional building, it's designed to serve all of the teachers and school leaders working in Independent Schools---a critical but unique segment of the education world.
What makes the #isedchat hashtag doubly valuable is that its core members join together every Thursday at 7 PM EST on Twitter for a synchronous conversation on topics that resonate with the professionals working in Independent Schools.
#ushist : Related to the incredibly popular #sschat hashtag being used by social studies teachers, the #ushist hashtag is a relatively new hashtag that many singletons and teachers in small schools will find valuable.
It brings together a group of educators interested in teaching US History---a required course in almost every state, but a topic that is small enough that one teacher is usually responsible for all of the instruction in most high schools.
Interestingly enough, many AP US History students are using the #apush hashtag to talk about their experiences in class. The search strand might just make for interesting reading for US History teachers!
#physed : The singletons that I always feel the worst for in PLCs are elementary school physical education teachers. After all, they (1). work with every student in the school and (2). almost always work alone.
That's why the #physed hashtag is so important. It can quickly connect physical education teachers to motivated peers who are interested in learning together. And while it's not nearly as active, physical education teachers might also want to check out the #healthed hashtag to find peers to learn with.
#cpchat : Let's be clear about something, y'all: PRINCIPALS are learners in PLCs too---and depending on the size of your building, they could be singletons as well!
If you're a principal that finds yourself feeling alone all-too-often, check out the #cpchat hashtag, the most popular and active hashtag being used by connected principals. You might also be interested in the #edadmin and #edleaders hashtags as well.
#ece : In many states, early childhood educators or pre-kindergarten teachers are members of school faculties. Because their programs are small, however, these educators can struggle to make connections and to feel a part of PLC work. The #ece hashtag---like its #prek cousin---can help these isolated teachers to build networks of co-learners.
#ageduchat : Having spent every bit of my school career working in affluent suburbs of big cities, I've never met an agricultural educator. Turns out that Ag Ed is more common than you'd think, though!
And Ag Ed teachers are joining together on Twitter too, using the #ageduchat hashtag as a homepage. Ag Educators might also be interested in the conversations being curated with the #agchat and #agedu hashtags as well.
The lesson to be learned from this list of Twitter hashtags is that there are ALWAYS other singletons using Twitter to connect with one another.
With a bit of browsing through each of these conversations, you’re sure to immediately find resources—and more importantly, digital colleagues—that can help you to improve your practice.
Exploring Twitter Lists
Here are direct links to just a few collections of singletons using Twitter that can be found in the We Follow directory:
It’s important to remember good search practices when using services like We Follow and TweepML. Try several different terms when looking for singletons working in the same field as you.
While generic terms like “dance” may turn up everything from belly dancers to professional ballerinas, more specific terms like “dance teacher” are likely to turn up practitioners that you can learn from.
It’s also important to remember that because Twitter is constantly growing—300,000 new users signed up every day in the Fall of 2010—and because Twitter is still a new tool to many educators—it’s a good idea to return to these lists every now and then to see if there are new singletons worth adding to your digital learning network.
Exploring Twitter Followers
The power of Twitter rests in the fact that Twitter users are constantly searching out likeminded peers. That means the networks of people that your Twitter friends are following are also likely to be perfect sources for finding new digital colleagues to add to your own personal learning network.
After you’ve used We Follow or TweepML to find a few singletons working in your field, spend some time exploring their “Followers” and “Following” lists, found directly beneath their usernames:
In the sidebar of your own Twitter homepage, you’ll also notice that Twitter is generating a list of recommendations of users that you might be able to learn from.
This list is built by automatically comparing your own Twitter network to the Twitter networks of people that you’re following:
There’s a measure of certainty that the new colleagues you find in both of these ways will be worth adding to your own Twitter network simply because they’ve been “prescreened,” either by your existing peers or by the computer algorithm that Twitter uses to generate the recommendations in your “Who to Follow” list.