We the Humanities is a rotation-curation project that I first heard about on Twitter from Krissie West, one of the project’s founders. Basically, each week a different person rotates tweeting for We the Humanities, which has a following base of academics, teachers, parents, students, and others interested from around the world. My week came up in March (13-19), and it started like this:
It worked (64 replies, 11 retweets, and 31 likes) because it was broad enough that anyone could participate. That taught me something about Twitter and what I should be offering my own followers–not just academic tweets, but also things from real life, news, and questions. Questions that are broad and general got the most responses, and the beauty of this particular beginning was how poetic the responses were. Each tweet read like a moment in a story or in a poem. And it was fun!
The first day’s theme was sound studies, and I had a bit of fun with the interdisciplinarity of the topic. It wasn’t limited to literature (my specialty) and was easy for others to relate to. I tried to keep the momentum going, sometimes asking pedagogical questions, academic questions, and even asking for help or just having fun.
I also tried to offer people resources and links to events and books, and I looked up
some of the folks in the field that I study to retweet them and get them engaged in the discussion with potential new followers. The best part was hearing about sounds from all different fields and time periods. It added to my perspective in my own work, something I hope to blog about for We the Humanities blog soon.
The next days were a little more predictable because I’ve been engaged in pedagogy conversations on Twitter for a long time. The planned themes were: digital humanities; race, gender, and disability in the classroom; student empowerment; and flexible pedagogy. When I started reaching for more general questions in those categories, many of the topics started to sound the same. So I started tweeting more personal questions and experiences. The advice is to be yourself, so that’s what I did.
And I found a way to bring in things colleagues and friends of mine had written into the conversation. I wanted to share their work and connect people to We the Humanities because it has been such an amazing resource and community for me for the last year.
Sharing resources or retweeting folks that I often go to on my own Twitter handle led to more likes and retweets, but questions and more personal anecdotes led to more replies and engagements. Those were the responses I would try to quote from and retweet to keep the conversation going throughout the day.
I also noticed that questions about schools, buildings, and local communities and policies gave more people an opportunity to share different perspectives from across the globe. That really brought out the beauty of a rotating twitter account like We the Humanities.
After getting more familiar with the followers of We the Humanities, I was able to expand my range of questions. I noticed toward the end of the work week that people were less engaged, so I lightened things up and asked about weekend plans, work and pleasure. During the weekend, I talked about my own writing, and I asked Tweeps to share advice for writing abstracts, presenting conference papers, and writing the dissertation. I figured most people were trying to get work done come Sunday, and the conversations about writing took off.
It would be great if more communities did this to share across disciplines, share events, and different takes and perspectives. Of course, it was a whirlwind of work! I probably went a little overboard and scheduled tweets for when I would be out of pocket for a while. But overall, I feel less alone in teaching and know that there are teachers out there, all over the world, who feel many of the same pains and celebrate similar successes.
If you’re not following We the Humanities yet, you should! And if you’re thinking about getting into Twitter, the best piece of advice I can give you is to remain positive and think about what you have to offer your followers. Oh, and be yourself.