What is the first thing you think of when you think of Twitter? Most people think of a popular social networking site that people use for socializing, sharing random opinions and befriending cool celebrities. Think of Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore. Yes, they are no longer together. But, they were one of the Twitter trend setters. Do you think of trending topics? Do you think cool and youthful people use Twitter? I thought this. I rebelled against the Twitter fad for a long time. My cool friends jumped from Facebook to Twitter and tried to convince me that Twitter was cooler and better. I refused and rebelled. I opted to be the uncool one. After all, why did I need to follow the status quo of popularity. I’ve never been one to do something just because it’s cool and popular. I don’t flow with the wind from one thing to the next out of trend or fad. I knew of Twitter and for several years I had many loved ones trying to convince me to join.
Last year, May of 2011, I finally threw the towel in and decided to give it a try, mostly to appease my husband who continued to get on my case about trying it. I signed up for an account and that was the most of my Twitter use for several months. That account was a personal account that really did not get any use. Finally last July, my husband said he had heard many professionals were using Twitter for professional purposes and networking. He does emergency management for his career, so he had no idea if educators used Twitter or how they used it. He was giving me advice from his experience as an emergency manager. Funny thing is that he unknowingly gave me excellent advice. Twitter is used enormously by educators and he nor I knew this. Due to his persuasion and success with Twitter as a professional, I reluctantly decided to give the Twitter bandwagon one more try. This time I signed up for Twitter with a professional account. I had no clue what I was doing but decided to give it a try. I was clueless of the incredible opportunities and universe that would unfold in 140 strokes or less right before my eyes.
I had just started blogging around this time as well. I started out using Twitter by connecting my blog to it and automatically Tweeting blog posts. Most of my first blog posts were links to articles by other people on other websites. I was new to blogging so I needed to learn how to blog so found it most simple to blog simple articles at first. I stumbled my way through blogging and Twitter. I joined Twitter and linked my blog to it with my husbands encouragement. Never did I think anything would happen. Well, surprise! After a few clicks of the mouse, and pressing publish on my blog, those posts automatically published to Twitter. I found myself with Twitter followers and blog post re-tweets. What in the world was a re-tweet? I had to ask my husband this question because I was clueless. I found myself seeing these odd # marks at the bottom of posts that were re-tweeted. I had to ask my husband what the # mark meant, because I didn’t know. He said they are a hashtag. I said, “huh?” He tried to explain the hashtag principle to me and how they work. At first it was hard for me to understand their importance and why I should use them. Personally I thought they were silly and meaningless. Turns out, I was wrong like everything else I thought about Twitter. My husband encouraged me to pay attention to the hashtags at the bottom of Tweets and to learn what they were. I asked him, “How would I know what they meant?” He showed me how to Google hashtags to find out what they meant and how to search the hashtag at the top of Twitter of see the entire hashtag conversation. It wasn’t until I did this, that the blinds began to fall. Wow! Right before me was this enormous network of educators from all around the world having conversations, sharing material, networking, encouraging each other, supporting each other, helping each other and just being great professional colleagues. I thought, “Wow! I’ve hit the jackpot!.” I was blown away! I’ve worked in all sorts of schools and never have I seen so much sharing, encouraging, networking and supporting of each other. School days go by so fast and there is so much to do in not enough hours that it is really hard to find time to network, share and collaborate with other teachers. If you do, the time and interaction is very limited. But, on Twitter teachers from all around the world were helping each other and networking 24/ 7 when they had time. Crazy! Fabulous!
As a Twitter Newbie, I started out following anyone who followed me because that is what I knew to do. My husband helped me out and I probably would not have taken off as fast as I did had it not been for him. He was a seasoned Twitter user and had used it professionally for a while. He explained the standard Twitter jargon to me, showed me how to do a basic Tweet, showed me how to search for people to follow, explained what type of people I should follow, showed me what type of things were good to Tweet and re-tweet and showed me how to Tweet with hashtags.
Once my first few blog posts were re-tweeted, I had followers, and I had begun to follow back, the Twitter stream of people I followed began to light up with Tweets. I began to read the Tweets and began to see how connected everyone was. I began to see more and more educators on Twitter who I then, reviewed profiles for and followed. I did not want to miss a Tweet because I thought all of them were worth seeing and reading. I was enthralled. ”Man had I been dumb for rebelling against Twitter for so long,” I thought to myself many times. I began to use hashtags and started to see Tweets sent to me with my Tweets featured in paper.li, scoop.it, and storify. I didn’t know what those were at the time, but thought, “Wow, my tweets are getting noticed, how cool?!” I had to look at these websites and Google them before I figured out what they were and how they worked. Nonetheless, I followed the people who featured my Tweets, and my following and followers began to increase.
Quickly, I began to get the niche for using Twitter. I also began to understand all the amazing things it could be used for and all the amazing people in many content areas and professions I could network with. Where else would I get such wonderful opportunities for networking besides going to some costly conference? I had never heard of a PLN, but did know what PLC’s were. I began to see Tweets about PLN’s and out of curiosity began to research, read and learn about PLN’s.
I stumbled across Twitter chats by accident. My husband didn’t even know what Twitter chats were. He was helping me download and learn to use Tweetdeck. He typed in some hashtags and to our amazement we saw this Twitter chat for #ntchat unfold in front of our eyes. This is when I learned about Twitter chats for educators. Not too long after this I began to draft a blog post What Teachers Should Join Twitter… What I have Learned as a Twitter Newbie. It wasn’t until 2 months later though, that I actually finished this blog post and published it around the beginning of Oct. 2011. By then I had been on Twitter for several months and the blog post had slowly been written that entire time. I posted this blog post naïvely. I didn’t think it would spark as much interest as it did. As usual, I had the post automatically published from my blog to Twitter. I had never heard of the Twitter chat group for principals called #cpchat. During the time this posted published to Twitter, #cpchat was in the middle of a chat session. I posted the original post with a few hashtags and I guess from there some #cpchat members picked up on it. Then, to my surprise I began to get re-tweets. Out of sincerity I sent thank you’s to the re-tweets. Then from that, #cpchat members, #edchat members and so on re-tweeted the post and it spread like wildfire. I had been on Twitter for several months and knew that Tweets could spread but I wasn’t prepared for this. I guess many people could relate to my post of being a Twitter Newbie and what I learned in such a short time. The interest floored me! I was also new to blogging, so you can imagine how seeing the Tweets spread like wildfire and seeing my blog numbers for the post go to over 1,000 in 24 hours, double floored me. Within the short weekend span I had over 5,000 hits on this blog post. This taught me a lot. Thank you everyone for the interest. In the process it was a huge learning opportunity for me.
This current post, is basically a one year follow-up to that post and what I have learned since. If you are new to Twitter or you are trying to get colleagues to join Twitter, whether you are an educator or not my post Why Teachers Should Join Twitter…What I have Learned as a Twitter Newbie will be a valuable tool for you. It is full of resources to get any professional started with Twitter, but especially educators. Below are some of my thoughts and helpful materials to get you, your colleagues or friends started with Twitter for professional purposes.
Bram Faems created a great SlideShare for understanding how to use Twitter in education. This is a valuable resource with great ideas to use if you are a Twitter newbie, just starting or if you are teaching others how to use Twitter in education for professional development.
Margie Verster also has a great SlideShare that you can learn a great deal from or use in a professional development training.
Here’s her updated version too.
Update: This is my second update today already. I found Maggie Verster’s School 2.0 Website in South Africa. It is amazing. There is something even more fabulous and helpful to all Twitter Newbie’s that I found on her website. It is a 20-day self-paced online professional development called Twitter Online Un-Workshop for teacher twits. This is a free workshop that anyone can take, even though it is directed at teachers in South Africa. You can take the workshop on your own schedule, anytime you want and pace yourself as fast or as slow as you want. I think this is the greatest Teacher Twitter Newbie resource I have ever seen. Amazing Maggie! Please, please check it out.
The following are my opinions and experiences. If you have more to add then feel free to comment.
1. As far as I’m concerned all educators should use Twitter. Facebook, Google + and LinkedIn have their advantages and place, but Twitter has a larger audience of great professionals and educators to connect with and network with. The feedback of instant tweets, re-tweets, education Twitter chats and keeping comments at 140 characters or less creates a unique formula to rapidly chat and network with others. You get quick almost immediate responses.
2. There are so many various Twitter chats available now for educators that there is now a chat available for every educator. Why not take advantage of free professional development and networking? Do it when you have time but I think it is unwise not to. Take advantage of the resources of available to you. A huge list of Twitter chat links and information is on my post Why Teachers Should Join Twitter…What I Have Learned as a Twitter Newbie. Use that resource to see available Twitter chats. I don’t participate in Twitter chats all the time because I don’t have time but I do participate when I can. They are very helpful. You meet excellent educators who are passionate and knowledgeable. You can learn from them greatly.
3. Yes, there are the standard Twitter users who use it for trendsetting, random chatting and whatnot. But, there are many professionals using it for their PLN’s to learn, collaborate, network and share ideas. Twitter is a powerful tool that has so many uses. When using it, it is public so do watch what you Tweet. Be professional and be wise. Try it. At first you will fumble like I did. Take it slowly. If you can’t handle hashtags at first, just sign up and follow a few people. Get used to sending Tweets, re-tweeting and replying. After you feel comfortable with that, then start trying to use hashtags. Try #edchat first since it is the largest education chat hashtag. After that, maybe try #edtech and then go from there. Access the list of education chat hashtags and links on my blog post Why Teachers Should Join Twitter. Be patient and don’t give up. If you need help or advice from a Newbie, I’m happy to help. Just message me on my blog or send me a Tweet @adaptivelearnin.
4. At first you will feel like you need to read every Tweet and that if you don’t you will miss something valuable. It is okay to feel this way. Since you are a newbie your excitement and adrenaline is going rapid. This is normal. After a while you the adrenaline will subside, you will get a hang of using Twitter. You will realize that you don’t need to read every Tweet. You may miss some material, but it is always there for you to go back to and access if you so choose. The most important material that is Tweeted will be re-tweeted by many people and will be available through searching #edchat. So, if you feel you have missed something, relax, just search #edchat, and read through the #edchat Tweets. If it is not Tweeted on #edchat then most likely you have not missed anything greatly important. So, don’t worry. The most important Tweets, resources, articles, etc. seem to consistently get noticed, re-tweeted, curated on paper.li, scoop.it, storify, or listed on @zite. I used to need to see every Tweet. Now I have learned the system. I have also learned that I don’t need to see every Tweet. It is there when I want to use it and need it. If there is something important I can find it later from one of these resources or search options. I now follow over 1,000 Twitter users. I don’t have time to see every post. It doesn’t mean every post is not important. It just means that I have to pick and choose what I see and read. No one person is less important. Some days one person I follow on Twitter may be an asset and another day a different person will be an asset for learning. It doesn’t mean one is more important than the other. It just means that each are equally important to my overall PLN and will contribute to my learning and networking when it’s the right day and time. All PLN members are important otherwise I wouldn’t be following them and vice versa.
5. In the beginning you will want to follow everyone that follows you. At first as a newbie this is okay because after all you are trying to get your list of followers and following started. And, you are trying to get your PLN started. Over time you will learn the type of person who is good for you to follow. Every educator is different and so you need to decide for yourself who are the best Twitter users for you to follow and add to your PLN. You will learn that you don’t have to follow everyone who follows you. It is okay. And, it is okay if you follow someone but they don’t follow you back. Don’t take offense to it. You can network with people even if they don’t follow you back and they can network with you even if you don’t follow them back. My advice, don’t limit your following to only people who teach your grade level or content area. Yes, network with these people. But, also network with people who are in other grade levels, content areas and professions that may be valuable to your learning. Don’t limit yourself. You can learn a lot from people who are from different backgrounds and perspectives. I follow different types of professional users. I have learned a great deal from many of them. This has made me more knowledgeable and has made me a better teacher. I have networked with scientists, emergency management professionals, technology gurus, and so forth. My core content areas are ESL and music. So, you can see that I don’t limit myself.
6. Have conversations on Twitter but be professional. People like to be noticed and have conversation. It shows respect. It shows you care not just about the Twitter follower but about the person behind the screen name. It shows you want to network and truly have a PLN. Share your thoughts, ideas, suggestions, feedback, articles, blog posts, etc. Share, but be professional. I often share blog posts and articles. I am a junkie with reading articles on LinkedIn’s news feed. If I see an intriguing article on Linkedin’s newsfeed, then I share the article via Twitter. This is just one way I contribute. I have participated in Twitter education chat sessions, have networked and have had conversations individually too.
7. There are some Edcamp conferences, unconferences and other types of conferences that use live Twitter feeds using a hashtag when these conferences take place. You can learn more about unconferences by checking out Jason Bedell’s post What is an Unconference?
8. These Twitter conference feeds are valuable education opportunities. Follow them and read them as they are happening. If you can’t attend a conference, you can still learn a lot of material and information on what is taught at the conferences by following these Twitter conference hashtags. How do you know what the hashtags are? You will see Tweets posted when the conferences are about to happen with the hashtag listed. So, pay attention to those Tweets and learn the hashtags. Once you know what they are, write them down. You can also search #edchat to keep an eye out for conferences and their hashtags.
9. There are some Twitter and tech savvy educator gurus. These are good people to follow. You don’t have to follow everyone. Choose who you feel is good to follow but trust me, these are good people to follow. You will learn a lot from them.
10. Using Twitter as an educator is like having 24/7 professional development whenever you want to use it. It is accessible whenever you feel like using it. Check out this post I wrote for Social Media the New Professional Development. Use Twitter as you wish but don’t neglect your daily life by using it too much. In the beginning as a newbie it will be harder to resist turning off because you will be sucked in with all the wonderful resources and content. Try to have balance. Set limits and turn it off when you’ve hit your limit.
11. If you have a Smartphone, then use it for Twitter. I use my Smartphone to check Twitter more than I use my PC. Download the TweetCaster app and learn to Tweet from it. It is available for iPhones, iPads, Android devices, and Blackberries. I used to have an iPhone and used TweetCaster very successfully on my it. I now have an Android phone and an Amazon Fire tablet. I use TweetCaster on both of those devices and love it. Here is the TweetCaster User Guide by Handmark. Med Kharbach wrote a simple post for educators to help them use TweetCaster called TWEETCASTER – A GREAT TWITTER APP FOR YOUR MOBILE. You can download the Twitter app too but TweetCaster is better to use. The Twitter app has limited resources and features. The TweetCaster app is full of features and resources. The Twitter app is available on iPhone, iPad, Android and Blackberry devices. Use TweetDeck if you have to but that app on a Smartphone crashes often. It is horrible. I tried TweetDeck on all of my devices, iPhone, Android phone and tablet. It consistently crashed on all of them. It is not a good app. If you need to use TweetDeck use it on a computer, but not on a pad device and Smartphone. It works better on a computer. Bottlenose is a new Twitter app. As far as I’m concerned Bottlenose is the best of them all. It does not have an app available now for Smartphones or tablet computers. So, you can only use it on an internet browser or on a computer. Hopefully, in the future it will have an app because it is awesome. Remember when I said to not worry about reading all the Tweets on your Twitter feed. Well, Bottlenose will help you surf through and find the important Tweets. It’s a Twitter app on steroids. Here are some Bottlenose Resources. Jon Mitchell from ReadWriteWeb wrote a post explaining it, Bottlenose 2.0 Is a 6th Sense for the Social Web. Tamara McRill wrote a post about Bottlenose from a writers prospective, Yay, Bottlenose! Social media app saves drowning writers from a sea of constant status updates. Adam Dince wrote a post, Social Listening Just Got Easier With Bottlenose.com, that has visuals and the best explanation of using Bottlenose.
12. Learn to use lists on Twitter. This is a feature that I don’t use enough but it is worth while. When you use lists you can sort your Twitter following into groups or lists that categorize and make your following more organized. It will keep the number you are following lower and help you organize and keep track of people you follow better. I haven’t had enough time to turn my following into lists but plan to do so when I have more free time soon. Josh Catone from Mashable has a post on HOW TO: Use Twitter Lists. This will be helpful to you in getting you started with creating Twitter lists. My advice, don’t begin to use lists until you get comfortable with the basics of using Twitter and Tweeting. Don’t overwhelm yourself all at once. Start using lists once you feel comfortable enough with Twitter. Twitters Help Center also has directions on how to create Twitter lists.
13. Use Twitter a bit daily so that you don’t you keep up with your following and followers. They will network with you better and enjoy conversations with you more if they know you care. You show you care by keeping up with your Twitter feed at least a few minutes daily.
14. Using Twitter for professional purposes can open huge opportunities for you. It has opened up some blogging opportunities for me, professional networking and some great job opportunities. I can’t elaborate on my opportunities quite yet, but trust me Twitter has helped open some huge opportunities for me. Even if you don’t find opportunities on Twitter, showing that you have the technology skills, showing that you keep up to date with your professional development using Twitter and showing that you understand social networking for professional purposes, this in itself on a résumé will help lead to opportunities. It says you are tech savvy. It says you understand social media. It says you care about networking and collaborating. It says you care to be a team player. It says you care about life long learning and professional development. It says you are a 21st Century professional. It speaks volumes to other professionals.
15. Learn ways to use Twitter in the classroom and implement them. Only do this if you have your school systems or employers permission. Samantha Miller wrote 50 Ways to Use Twitter in the Classroom. This is a good resource to learn ideas.
16. If you have an education blog or other website, link it to your Twitter feed. Share your posts with your followers. This will help you contribute to your PLN. You can share your Google +, Facebook page, LiveBinder, Diigo, Tumblr, Wikispace, LinkedIn, Paper.li, Storify, Scoop.it and so on.
17. Lastly, if you don’t understand something, ask, and send a Tweet. No one will look down upon you. Education Twitter users are very kind and want to help. You will probably receive several Tweets with advice. It’s okay to ask. We are here for you. We understand. We were all newbies at one point, so we relate and will have an advice to help you.
18. Take it as slow or as fast as you need to. You know your computer skills. Be patient and don’t give up. You will be amazed at what you learn and what you find.
Lastly, here are some of the first the Twitter users I followed that were instrumental in teaching me, whether they know it or not: Lisa Dabbs @teachingwthsoul, Bongollp @Bongollp, Seven W. Anderson @web20classroom, Ray Schroeder @onlinelearningu, My Language Cloud @MyLanguageCloud, Chris Norkun @cnorkun, Electrokite @Electrokite, Steve @2learn2, Rich Kiker @rkiker, Tom Whitby @tomwhitby, Glogster EDU @GlogsterEDU, Spectronics @Spectronics, Knewton @Knewton, Greta Sandler @gret, Brad Patterson @brad5patterson, Diane Ravitch @DianeRavitch, Michelle Horst @Michelle_Horst, Valia Reinsalu @trulygreenfish, Silvia Tolisano @langwitches, William Chamberlain @wmchamberlain, Jessica Johnson @PrincipalJ. Hats off and bravo to you my friends!
There are many more Twitter users and assets to my PLN that I have learned from since, but these are the users who help teach me how to use Twitter. Some of them don’t even realize how much they taught me. Reading some of their Tweets and/or having real conversations with them helped me tremendously. It’s a year later, and I still remember you my friends! Thank you! And, thank you to all the rest of my PLN who are gifted, fabulous and knowledgeable people. My world is much more enriched with you in it.
Update: Chiew Pang shared with me an incredible resource that I must post here for everyone to use. It’s an Unofficial Index of Educational Twitter Hashtags. This will be helpful to many of you. Don’t forget that my other blog post from last year, Why Teachers Should Join Twitter…What I have Learned as a Twitter Newbie, has many links to Twitter hastag lists and resources as well. Thanks Chiew for this link. If anyone else has a link that you would like to share and have me post on here, please let me know.