#SBGchat provides opportunities to discuss standards-based grading, while #Engchat allows us language arts folks to gather and share. #Makered and #DIYchat connect the maker movement to the classroom. #EdchatME and other state-based communities open their doors wide (It felt down-right fantastic to reach the 1,000 follower threshold participating in #CAedchat while sitting in North Jay, Maine).

My students benefit from the connections we make with professional creators and thinkers. Twitter led directly to Imagination Foundation co-founder and “Caine’s Arcade” filmmaker Nirvan Mullick joining a Skype call with my Humanities students. A number of other opportunities are in development because I tweeted our watching of a particular documentary, reading of a particular article, or listening to a particular podcast.

In the most practical sense, a number of strategies, methods and tools I employ landed first in my Twitter feed. Use of “jot lots” for student reflections, Kaizena audio comments for assessments, and Post-It notes as concept manipulatives, hatched from my Twitter PLN.

Perhaps most energizing of all, Twitter provides a group of critical friends and first readers, folks who take note of my work and offer constructive feedback. Yes, I feel underbite-y from time to time, my blood pressure rises, and then I simply choose to ignore it, let it go, and in the Twitterverse, that is perfectly okay.

More often, however, I am pushed to challenge my preconceptions and assumptions, to adopt more constructive points of view, and to ask, “How might we?” rather than, “Why can’t we?”

In March 2014, I will moderate a panel on designing thinking in the classroom at SXSWEdu, my first national conference stage. This happened only because of Mount Vernon Presbyterian School’s Mary Cantwell and Trey Boden and the ever-expanding #dtk12chat community. Certainly my practice had something to do with it, but it was through Twitter I learned of the conference, and my #dtk12chat colleagues who suggested we submit a proposal.

It is hard to turn away from such a high quality source of digital PLNs as Twitter affords, especially at a price of zero dollars. And besides, there is something special about saying to your students, “LeBron James and I trended on Twitter last night.” True story.

Dan Ryder is a 15-year veteran English teacher and improv coach at Mt. Blue Campus in Farmington, Maine. An adjunct instructor at the University of Maine at Farmington, he presents workshops on technology integration and improvisation throughout the state. As co-founder of education podcast and blog, www.WickedDecentLearning.com, he can be followed on Twitter @wickeddecent.