For many teachers, twitter is definitely becoming a great way to connect with other teachers, find information and develop a Personal Learning Network (PLN). It can be a great addition to your Personal Learning Environment (PLE) which consists of all the tools and connections you use to do what you do whether it’s teaching or as an administrator or you’re not even in education. The fact is, to do the work you do more efficiently and effectively, to shift from busy to productive, learning to use the various tools at your disposal effectively will help you to clear away some of the clutter and bring focus, allowing you to put more energy into the things that are important. But where to start? For those people who are joining twitter, are new to social media or who know about these but are now just moving from casual observer to full participant, there can seem to be so many things going on. As I discuss in The power of Connection, teachers are looking for ways to connect and share. Although teachers are able, comments such as
I have such good intentions, and I have talked about it with more than one teacher. It just never seems to happen. There has got to be something systematic that can be done at a division or school wide level that allows for time in the day, (not just my 45 minute day 3 prep) that encourages and supports real collaboration. I am not scared of my admin holding me accountable later… I want them too!
demonstrate a common theme with teachers. Not only do they find it difficult to connect and collaborate in their own buildings but they have little time for other collaborations.
What if your purpose is to create connections with other like-minded people to share ideas and build a PLN of people with whom you can learn and grow?
Twitter as Connection
Twitter is probably the best tool for finding connections and building a PLN of other people with whom you can share and learn. For me, twitter is the gate that opens all sorts of possibilities for learning but it isn’t a place for the deep learning and professional development that changes practice. It provides the connections and allows for initial collaboration which are then lead to growth and development.
As someone who has used twitter for just over 7 years, there are a few things that I would advise anyone using twitter to pay attention to in order to get the most out of it as connection tool. I’ve often heard people say
Just tweet out your question – you’ll be amazed at the responses you’ll get.
Well, in the past I was amazed because it was like yelling into the wind – no one heard me. So when I hear that advice, I often cringe because for many people new to twitter, there is almost no response. Until you develop some relationships and begin to leverage the power of the connections, the responses, for me, were almost nil.
How To Leverage Twitter
As you start to leverage twitter, great things begin to happen. Here are 5 ideas to help educators leverage twitter to become a powerful connection and collaborative tool.
1. Fill in your profile information
One of the best ways to make connections is to have a profile that allows other people to see your interests. It’s also a good idea to include hashtags in your profile as that is another way people search to find connections. In my profile, I have included a picture and some different descriptors. By using the hashtags, when people search for those tags on twitter I will be listed. It also helps people to get a better idea of my focus on twitter. By doing this, I can leverage the power of the hashtags to build my PLN.
2. Join an edchat –
There are many different ways to get involved in twitter conversations but one of the easiest and most powerful ways to connect with other educators and get to know people you can turn to for help or support is by joining a chat or two. Usually the moderators of the chats have developed a fairly extensive PLN so see who they are following and the connections they have by checking out their twitter profile. If you check out my profile and look at who I am following, you will get a sense of the type of people with whom I connect. There are so many different chats – #saskedchat is one I moderate but some of the other larger chats include – #whatisschool #edchat #ntchat #edtechchat #iaedchat #sblchat – each of these discusses different topic related to education. For an extensive list of edchat check out Cybraryman’s list of chats. You can also check Chatsalad a site dedicated to all kinds of chats – with a time listed for the chats.
3. Use hashtags and @name
As I mentioned above, using hashtags and @name really connects with people. I’ve learned that a tweet to the twitterverse might get a response but, most of the time it just is another one of many scrolling by on people’s screens. However, if I add a hashtag or, more specifically, a @name I tend to get a response and some help as either people respond directly or they will retweet the question to others. When I began my podcast Learning Leaders I was stuck on a few different things . In order to get assistance, I made a connection with people I knew who did podcasting. This led to some great conversations and allowed me to get the podcast up and running on my blog and into itunes. What was great was that there was all kinds of feedback that I received
That’s the kind of power that twitter has and can really help you. How do you find who might be someone to contact? It’s a case of checking out some of the lists of people you know on twitter and checking to see who they follow. There are so many people who can help you but making a first connection is important. In my case, I tend to forward questions I get to people I think can help the person.
4. Develop a list or two
I’m not very good at this one but I know that using a list to track particular people and see what they are doing can be a powerful way to leverage twitter. One of the easiest ways to do this is follow the list of someone. To do this you need to go to the person’s profile and click on their lists. You can scroll through to see what lists are there and then, if you see one that you believe will add to your connections and learning , you can subscribe. Lists are a great way to find out who someone believes is important in a particular topic and can give you some great resources for building your own PLN. Once subscribed to a list, you can open it to see what people are doing. You can also create your own lists which can then help you if you are looking for something or want to make a connection.
5. Tweet things you read or hear or wonder
One of the best ways to begin is to tweet out things you are reading about or you hear discussed. It can be an interesting title or concept you are reading about or a conversation point that stuck with you. I have to admit I don’t do this enough at times. Although I may be reading something or listening to a podcast that is interesting, I don’t often tweet about it but I am improving this by making sure that when I read an article or listen to a podcast, I not only add it to my Pearltrees but I also send out a tweet and recommend people read or listen. When doing this, be sure to include the @name of the person or where you read it – it helps make connections for people. Retweets are great but I probably overdo them. More and more, I am interested, not in the quotes or slides people are retweeting from a conference keynote or session but how that is making them think different and question. I want to know what people are reading, thinking and wondering not what a keynote is telling them. Education has to change, I agree, but a conference keynote or session won’t do it. Instead, it will be what teachers are doing and the changing they are making. More and more, I want to read what teachers are thinking and the questions they have and how they are making changes. I already know what the keynotes are going to say!
Twitter is a great tool to begin to develop conversations and relationships with other educators. It takes a bit of time and it can be a bit overwhelming at the start. Using tools like tweetdeck and hootesuite on a desktop and mobile can help people to follow particular conversations. I’ve created a screencast of how to use tweetdeck to follow different chats and some of the key features.
Some other ways to follow a chat are: tweetchat, tchat.io, Nurph, twubs, oneqube, tagboard – each of these allows you to see the chat and, with some, join in the chat. This can make it easier to follow a specific chat and stay apace of what is happening and what people are saying.
Do you have any questions about using twitter? Do you have any great tips or ideas for growing a PLN? Sharing and connecting?