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Twitter Chats to the Rescue: Mitigating the Challenges of Teacher-Centric Tech Adoptions

Background: CN and ES travel to school districts in the United States and talk with teachers, administrators, parents, staff and, oh yes, students. Based on those personal experiences and based on our readings, it is clear that the dominant mode of technology adoption in U.S. classrooms is teacher-centric: a teacher decides how to include — or not include — technology, such as laptops and now iPads, into that teacher’s existing curriculum. We have written about putting change on the backs of teachers and what a bad idea that is for everyone. But still, the teacher-centric adoption is the standard-operating procedure. (Geez, folks are listening to us; insert-smiley-face.)

One more piece of background: at University of North Texas, CN teaches online graduate courses in emerging technologies, interface design, etc. Many of the students are K-12 teachers. The conversation that follows was engendered by CN and ES reflecting on an online chat that took place during one of CN’s online courses.

Cathie: In reviewing the comments, over the years, made by dozens and dozens of teachers who participate in my online text-based chats, it is clear that teacher-centric is the dominant procedure for technology adoption in K-12 classrooms…

Elliot: Absolutely! For example, from just that one chat you shared with me … I saw one teacher who said that Nearpod worked for him since it modeled what he felt a math class should look like; another said ClassDojo was an effective solution… and another found Edmodo was the key!

Cathie: Each teacher, relatively isolated in his or her classroom, discovered his or her own solution. That’s really demanding on teachers' time — and truly a hit or miss strategy!

Elliot: And now with the explosion of apps …

Cathie: … during the laptop period, teachers had to navigate through the thicket of educational applications…

Elliot: … but now, teachers are faced with literally thousands and thousands of apps! Thank goodness for review sites like Kathy Schrock's and Scott Newcomb's!

Cathie: All the more reason to report on an exciting conversation from one of my online classes where teachers are using Twitter to share information with each other and help each other to mitigate the challenges that individual teachers face when trying to figure out how to use the latest and greatest technologies.

Elliot: One of your teachers …

Cathie: … careful, careful… a teacher who is a student in my class…

Elliot <sighing>: … picky, picky, picky… a teacher in your class talked about a Twitter chat that he and his colleagues in his school district engage in on a regular basis. Twitter? Tweets? Really?

Cathie: Get over it!

Elliot <smiling>: You're right; I'm wrong…

Cathie <smiling broadly>: … so what else is new…

Elliot <LOL>: … But, who would have thunk it? A text message — the most baseline technology — text messaging is even available on feature phones! And a … tweet…  is limited to 140 characters.

Cathie: But the teachers and tech staff of Denton, TX ISD are getting together and tweeting about a broad range of topics — BYOD issues, digital citizenship issues, hard-core tech issues… the full gamut!

Elliot: And the 140 character limitation per … tweet … is actually a feature not a bug!  No one person can inadvertently monopolize the conversation.

Cathie: And the Twitter Chats are archived, for free, on a site called

Elliot: Yes, I went to and bingo – there's their Twitter chats!

Cathie: So folks can review and reflect on what they talked about and share their observations with others!

Elliot: Central to your online class — and central to face-to-face classes — is conversation, is collaboration — Individuals working together to share insights and solve problems…

Cathie: … How many times have we said: Learning is in the conversation!

Elliot: Good interruption! …  So students who are fortunate enough to be enrolled in classes do have an opportunity to meet and talk and mitigate the challenges that arise in a teacher-centric tech adoption. And for those folks who are not enrolled in an online course…

Cathie: … the Twitter Chats are a great alternative!

Elliot: Folks out in Blogland, (1) tell us about Your Twitter chats, and (2) tell us how you and your colleagues are using Internet-based technologies to converse and collaborate, and reduce the challenges of teacher-centric tech adoption! Let’s hear from you! Write us please at: [email protected]

Cathie: Never underestimate the ingenuity and resourcefulness of a K-12 teacher!!

Elliot: Amen to that!

Thank you Garrett Chandler, Barry Fox and Dwight Goodwin of Denton ISD for sharing your Twitter Chat stories with us. 

About the Authors

Cathie Norris is a Regents Professor and Chair in the Department of Learning Technologies, School of Information at the University of North Texas. Visit her site at

Elliot Soloway is an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor in the Department of CSE, College of Engineering, at the University of Michigan. Visit his site at

Find more from Elliot Soloway and Cathie Norris at their Reinventing Curriculum blog at