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Pub Story 2014-10-9 TweechMe
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{HeadLines} October 2014, Vol. 1 
Tweechme

 

By Sarah Stewart

While a growing number of educators are using Twitter for professional development and to build their personal learning network, many still do not. According to Scholastic, only eight percent of K-12 teachers use Twitter. One reason given often is Twitter's seemingly chaotic look and foreign terminology. Novice users can become overwhelmed by the stream of 140-character tweets, finding it too complicated and confusing to use. 

Twitter-fan and technology pioneer Susan Bearden understands the barrier, which is why she created an app that teaches teachers to tweet. Tweechme is a mobile app that includes simple, short lessons for novice, intermediate, and expert Twitter users. The app was developed specifically for teachers, and includes a calendar of relevant Twitter chats, where users can meet to discuss trends and topics in education and grow their PLN.  

“Twitter is intimidating for a lot of teachers, so I wanted to create a user friendly way for them to learn about Twitter, with videos they could watch and re-watch, that are short and unintimidating,” Bearden said. “I also think the mobile part is important. We talk a lot about mobile learning for our students, but we haven’t talked a lot about mobile learning for our educators, so that’s what Tweechme is designed for.”

Bearden got the idea for Tweechme while working with Crescerance, a company that builds custom apps and mobile friendly websites for schools and educators. Bearden connected with Crescerance CEO Alefiya Bhatia at the SAIS Conference in October 2013, and initially began discussing an app that students could build in the classroom. Bearden, the Director of Information Technology at Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy in Melbourne, FL, was already developing an hour of code program at the school.  She agreed to let Crescerance pilot their app program for kids (now called MADLearn) at its school with three fifth graders.

While the kids were brainstorming their apps about dogs and rainbow bracelets, Bearden imagined what app she would build if given the chance. As she regularly speaks on what teachers can gain from using Twitter, an app encapsulating that information seemed like the perfect fit. Bhatia encouraged Bearden to try it and offered Crescerance’s support in the project. 

With Crescerance’s help, it took Bearden two months to create the content for Tweechme, which largely consists of one-to-three-minute videos and screen casts. She said the process was intense, but that the end result was well worth it. The app includes sections Twitter 101, 201, and 301. The first section covers creating a Twitter account, terminology, hashtags, and teaching etiquette. The second moves into advanced features such as desktop tools, Twitter lists, and chats. The last covers Twitter chat moderation (want to start your own Twitter chat?), Twitter research, and advanced Twitter searches.  

Bearden launched Tweechme this summer while attending the International Society for Technology in Education Conference in Atlanta. The app quickly gained a following, with shout-outs from various speakers including Adam Bellow, founder of eduteacher.com. Bearden also gained the help of Chris Webb, a teacher and technology enthusiast, who updates the official Google chat calendar for Twitter. He offered to collaborate on Tweechme’s calendar, as chat schedules change regularly. 

Tweechme is available for both iPhones and Androids, has more than 1,000 downloads, and continues to gain a following. Bearden also plans to update the app regularly to keep it current. Along with its use as a resource for teachers, Bearden imagines more teachers will be able to make apps in the coming years as the technology progresses, making it affordable. The possibilities for creativity in the classroom and entrepreneurial endeavors are limitless. As evidence, the Rainbow Loom App created by one of Holy Trinity’s fifth grade students has been incredibly successful with more than 50,000 downloads. Can you make an app like a fifth grader? 

Conferences are a great time to use Twitter. As the SAIS Annual Conference approaches, this October 18-20, Tweechme is the perfect app to get you ready. On Twitter, you can start researching speakers, or reaching out to colleagues you hope to see. The action heats up during the conference where you can interact with the speakers and comment and share content in real time. You can interact with those attending, and share details with your followers who could not attend. You can catch highlights from sessions you miss by following our hashtag, #saisac. Conferences are an incredible learning and networking opportunity and Twitter takes that reality to another level. 

Check out the conference schedule and register at www.sais.org/ac. To continue this conversation on Twitter: @SAISnews, #saisac. 


  

Have a story idea? Send a note to sarah@sais.org

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