I tweet therefore I am.
Despite being glued to my keyboard from the day my family went online back in 1997 it took me until this year to really get the point of twitter.
Facebook was easy. All these names and faces from the past could easily be reconnected with by checking friends of friends. Facebook is also a great way of organizing events and keep people I already know informed with what I’m getting up to.
I just didn’t get it.
What could you possibly say in 140 characters that could be of any substance?
Why did I need to tweet when I could say what I needed to on facebook where I wasn’t constrained by a character limit?
But then my life changed.
I went from this:
to starting a new a career as a primary school teacher. All of sudden my social network, which had 1 primary school teacher, wasn’t really fulfilling all my needs and I needed to start branching out. Facebook, which is primarly a vechicle for organizing relationships with people you already know, just wasn’t cutting it.
The attraction of twitter is simple, it makes me want to have drinks with people I’ve never met. Twitter has been compared to the office water cooler but I liken it more to the coffee houses of Vienna (which may or may not have nothing to do with my obsession with strudel). But I digress, twitter is a place you go to share and to learn.
Over time you’ll gradually build a rapport with people which will become part of your Personal Learning Network or PLN. I think of my PLN as an extension of the support I have through my course, people out there to challenge my preconceptions, introduce my ideas and, when needed, act as a personal cheer squad.
So what’s the story with twitter? First up you need to sign up to twitter my piece of advice is to choose as short a username as possible because in twitter you only get 140 characters to get your point across. So the longer your user name is, the shorter the message.
Then you need to install tweetdeck as either a plug-in for chrome or as a desktop application. The reason you need to install tweetdeck is twofold. Firstly a lot of schools block twitter and secondly it enables you to manage twitter a lot more effectively.
My tweetdeck looks a little like this:
In column number 1 are all the updates from people I am following. When one of the people I am following decides to post something: a blog post, an article of interest it comes up in that column. The people I’m following might not necessarily follow my tweets but I’ve decided to follow them because I’m interested in them. Occasionally I might decide (for whatever reason) I don’t want to follow that person any more in which case I will stop receiving their tweets.
In column 2 is edchat. Whenever anyone posts anything that has #edchat it will show up there. Using a hashtag immediately followed by a word in twitter is kind of like using a filter for a search engine. As a result, I don’t necessarily follow everyone who posts with the #edchat but it is a good source of general information, blogposts and newspaper articles on teaching and learning. What is awesome about this hashtag are the weekly edchats that take place for an hour at 9am and 11am on Wednesdays (NZST). Other hashtags that are of use are the #ntchat (new teacher chat) and the #elemchat (elementary chat). There are a whole bunch of different education related hashtags for teachers to follow. If you want to post anything to these chats, then you just post your message with #edchat or whatever chat you want and it will show up for other people (who might not be following you) to see and to share.
In column 3 are my references. In twitter if you want to respond to someone or perhaps direct them to something of interest then you need to put a @ and then the username. So for instance if you wanted to show me an article. you would say @traintheteacher and then post a link to the article. Sometimes someone might a think a tweet of mine is worth sharing so they will hit the retweet button in which case my tweet will be published with a RT in front of it. I try to make a point of thanking anyone who retweets or responds to my message because I think its important to nurture your followers.
There’s also a fourth column where I put my private messages. An important note on private messages, you can only send messages to people who follow you.
Who do you follow and how do you get people to follow you?
@rachelboyd (who I totally recommend you follow) has set up a google doc of New Zealand educators who are active on twitter. Perhaps of more use to student teachers are the educators who are willing to act as mentors to follow on twitter. If you participate in #edchats you might see a person that contributes some interesting thoughts, follow them.
At first I suggest you just read your feeds as they come in. But the fun part of twitter (at least for me) is interacting with people from around the world so if I see a cool post or tweet I’ll respond back at the person. You might have an article that you might want to share, a blogpost or perhaps a thought send it out there. Someone might respond to your post or retweet which means that then all the people following their tweets will see your thought which gains you followers. If you see a tweet from someone else worth sharing, then retweet by pushing the button which sends their message out to their followers. The easiest way to get followers is through having someone introduce you to their followers. That’s how I meet the fabulous Australian student teacher blogger @AshleyAzzopardi from a tweet-out from @Kathleen_morris.
It can take a while for you build up your PLN but once you’ve built up a following your followers become a source of support. I’ve asked my PLN all manner of questions from the seemingly simple (what do you get your associate teacher for a thank you present) to more difficult questions about teaching and learning. Whenever I’ve asked for assistance, they’ve always been there.
With twitter there’s always a new idea to see or a new conversation to be had which is why I will continue tweeting long after I’ve finished studying.
Just 140 characters can say a lot.
I tweet therefore I am.