Twitter, twitter, cheep cheep PD!

When Belgarion first learns the language of birds, he is amazed at how simple their twitters are…all about food and mating. When I first heard about Twitter, I was sure that pretty much summed it up. From what I gathered in the media, people were tweeting their lives: I’m getting up now, now I’m going to the bathroom, thinking about breakfast….way too much information for me! Then I began hearing about Twitter as a tool for a Personal Learning Network. Once again I pooh-poohed the idea. Who could post something interesting in only 140 characters? Fortunately, I was required to sign up for Twitter for my EDEL course…and after some hesitation, I am enjoying it.
Personal learning about the tool

Twitter is a social learning network of microbloggers whose posts (tweets) are only allowed to contain 140 characters. Often these posts contain links to other websites, videos or images. Starting an account is free and easy to do, as is posting your tweets. Then you need to find people to follow. I began by following the suggested list in our course outline, branched out to follow bloggers I read regularly, then began following some I found tweeting with the hashtags I was interested in. No, not hashbrowns, but hashtags. Hashtags are ‘twitter tags’, words or short phrases created by an interest group on Twitter. These words are prefixed with a #, such as #edtech or #edchat. Hashtags are similar to tagging in that they allow certain types of posts to be grouped together (Wikipedia, n.d.). For example, posts tagged #edtech will usually have information related to ways to use technology in education.
You can use the Twitter site to view and manage this information, however, there are other platforms available. Tweetdeck is a free download that allows you to tweet, create columns of; hashtags you follow, direct messages, your tweets, and tweets that mention you….although I don’t really have to worry about those 🙂 . You are able to have multiple accounts, so you can add in your Facebook account or create a personal and a professional profile, if you wish. When Tweetdeck is open, incoming tweets are heralded with a…yes, a tweet. You have the ability to set the timer for tweet notifications every second, or every 1000 seconds. (You can also turn the tweet sound off, should it become too annoying 🙂 ) While Tweetdeck is a download to your desktop, you may prefer a web-based platform for anywhere access. Hootsuite has the same functions as Tweetdeck, but also allows you to add your blogging account, so you can have a stream of your blog posts as pre-shortened urls, making them easily tweetable. Trying to decide which one to use? Here is a comparison chart fromJames Johnson for the two platforms:
Things you can do with TweetDeck
  1. Update Twitter, FaceBook, and LinkedIn.
  2. Large Twitter API Rate
  3. Custom Retweet or Twitter style
  4. Record, share, and watch video clip
  5. View YouTube Videos within TweetDeck
  6. Manage Multiple Twitter accounts
  7. Trending of local events and Twitscoop
  8. Create and mange Twitter List
  9. Follow Topics in real-time through saved searches.
  10. Saved Searches can be edited through the column
  11. Update Facebook
  12. Ingrates with LinkedIn Professional contacts
  13. See who is following you – you can have a who’s following you column so you can see what they are tweeting
  14. Preview short URL before opening. You can Also see the original link
  15. Backup TweetDeck by using sync and back-up
  16. Report and Block Spam Button ß Love this feature, it kills @mention spam quickly
  17. Flickr, Twitgoo and mobypicture is now supported
  18. keyboard shortcuts for speedy messaging

Things You can Do With Hootsuite

  1. Schedule Tweets
  2. Integration so you can update social networks that are not supported by Hootsuite
  3. Team Workflow
  4. Add, create and manage Twitter Lists
  5. Topic Search and Keyword Tracking
  6. Create Columns based on searches
  7. Secure Log in
  8. Web App – I can use hootsuite on any PC, Mac, Linux system as long as I have access to Hootsuite’s page
  9. Message Drafts
  10. View, manage, schedule, post to WordPress
  11. and URL shorteners
  12. Track Statistics
  13. Featured User List
  14. Update Facebook, LinkedIn, Myspace, and Foursquare
  15. RSS feed from your website to all of our social networks
  16. Preview Short Links and see Original Links before opening them.
  17. Report and block spam
  18. Follow User Lists in their own column
  19. Separate tabs for the different social media networks”

Sarah Worsham also has an insightful post comparing the advantages and disadvantages of Hootsuite vs Tweetdeck. For her, Hootsuite wins out. James Johnson ends up using both platforms; Tweetdeck when he is on his home computer, and Hootsuite when he is needing remote access. After using both for a time, I decided to do the same; I am currently using Tweetdeck on my desktop and iPad, and Hootsuite when I check in for tweets at school or other remote computers. Follow this link to see a screencast of my Hootsuite, and this link to see a screencast of my Tweetdeck.

Personal use of the tool

I could not see the use of Twitter to me in my personal life. To me, Twitter was like Facebook on steroids. And, as I have mentioned in previous posts Facebook is not really my thing. When I first connected to Twitter, I found it absolutely overwhelming. Reducing my columns to just those I follow and setting them up with hashtags helped, but there is simply an incredible volume of Twitter traffic. I am the type of person who HAS to answer the phone if it rings, and every ‘tweet’ sound coming from my computer seemed to twitter ‘Lookatme, lookatme’! Yet, if I turned off the sound, I forgot to check the tweets…so I finally just adjusted the timing so I was notified every 5 minutes (and sometimes, I just closed the darn thing :)). I decided I need a ‘Tweet Plan’. Fortunately, Nicole Nicolay wrote a wonderful post about developing your own Twitter plan.
However, MY Tweet Plan looks a bit different:
Yet, this Tweet Plan is decidedly for my professional use of Twitter. What about my personal use? David Carr, in his New York Times article “Why Twitter will Endure”, suggests that Twitter is a quicker way to get news, a more reliable way to share your ideas and  research the best buys. Ted Nation of the Globe and Mail, recounts his efforts to find his daughter who was traveling in Chile after an earthquake hit. Through Twitter, Facebook, LinkdIn, Google, Skype and email, they finally located her and spoke with her. Given all of that, I still must confess I find the thought of wading through all the dross to find the gold just too daunting. I could use it to connect with my daughter in the Yukon, or other relatives in the East, as Will Richardson (2009) suggests, but I use texts, phone calls, email and (sometimes) Facebook for that.
Professional use of the tool

Will Richardson (2009) suggests that one the benefits of using Twitter is that ‘you get smarter’ (p. 87). Through asking questions, sharing ideas, linking blogs or resources, he believes Twitter serves an ‘addicting’ (p. 87) addition to your PLN. The selection of hashtags I use, #edchat, #edtech, #elemchat, #tldl, all ensure that (most) of the tweets I get are related to ideas, thoughts and links I can use to further my teaching practice, to integrate technology into my lessons, to develop the library, and to deepen my understanding of how to best teach in this brave new digital world. I am interested in buying Kindles or Nooks for the library, and have found many tweets with information to help me make that decision. Alan November suggests that Twitter is essential as a PLN for educators (notes, Oct 4, 2010). He believes that librarians should work with staff to develop hashtags for their learning community and start to build a Twitter network within the school. Smaller elementary schools may be resistant…i.e. “Why not just walk down the hall?”, however, I can see it being useful in larger schools, for districts, and for cohorts of schools that are working on the same focus. If you had three or four schools who were working together to develop their practice in technology, for example, building a Twitter network would allow teachers in all schools to be part of the conversation, sharing thoughts, links and lesson ideas.
Laura Walker shares nine reasons to Twitter on the Tech & Learning blog:
1. Together we’re better
Twitter can be like a virtual staffroom where teachers can access in seconds a stream of links, ideas, opinions, and resources from a hand-picked selection of global professionals.
2. Global or local: you choose
With Twitter, educators can actively compare what’s happening in their with others on different continents. GPS-enabled devices and advanced web search facility allow searches that tell you what people are tweeting within a certain distance of a location, so if the other side of the world isn’t your bag, you can stick with your own patch.
3. Self-awareness and reflective practice
Excellent teachers reflect on what they are doing in their schools and look at what is going well in order to maintain and develop it, and what needs improvement in order to make it better. Teachers on Twitter share these reflections and both support and challenge each other.
4. Ideas workshop and sounding board
Twitter is a great medium for sharing ideas and getting instant feedback. You can gather a range of opinions and constructive criticism within minutes, which can help enormously, whether you are planning a learning experience, writing a policy, or putting a job application together.
5. Newsroom and innovation showcase
Twitter helps you stay up-to-date on news and current affairs, as well as on the latest developments in areas of interest like school leadership and technology.
6. Professional development and critical friends
One of the best things about training days is the break-out time between sessions, when teachers can get together to talk about what they are working on or struggling with. Twitter enables users to have that kind of powerful networking capacity with them all the time. It’s just a matter of finding the right people to follow.
7. Quality-assured searching
Trust the people you follow. Hone and develop the list of people whose insights you value. Once your Twitter network grows past a critical mass, you can ask them detailed questions and get higher-quality information back than a Google search would generally provide.
8. Communicate, communicate, communicate
Expressing yourself in 140 characters is a great discipline. You can become better at saying what needs to be said in my professional communications with less waffle and padding (even without txtspk).
9. Getting with the times has never been so easy!
Many of her reasons speak to why I believe Twitter can be an good way to build a PLN. It is, indeed, like a virtual staffroom. I like to talk about and share my ideas with others. On Twitter, I can get new ideas, check out and add to my ideas, and, through following good people find great links. Its easy and cheep, cheep PD. 🙂
What about using Twitter with students in the classroom? The video below suggests that Twitter is a way to connect to your students and their parents to keep them informed about what is happening in your classroom:
Our district is focusing on building and retaining student engagement in learning. In this video, high school students report being more engaged in their learning when using Twitter and other social media tools:
Berger and Trexler (2010) share some ideas for using Twitter with students. One is to following the tweets of John Quincy Adams’ trip to Russia (tweeted by the Massachusetts Historical Society). Each tweet is a line from his diary, with links to maps of his journey. Another is to follow Charles Darwin on his voyage in the Beagle. In Canada, you can follow @canadianhistory or @todayincanhist  for daily tweets about Canadian history. What about student writing? Kist (2010) talks about a collaborative writing project that  had students from different countries create a story on Twitter. Kathy Hanson, on her A Storied Career blog, talks about how people are using Twitter to create and share stories. Carol Cooper-Taylor, in her blog post 50 ways to use Twitter in the classroom, has these ideas on using Twitter with students:
  • as an opinion poll.
  • directing student’s attention to important points
  • building an instant “backchannel.”
She also suggests that Twitter can be used with parents to get their feedback. Her ideas seem to be directed towards secondary students. Perhaps elementary students could start on a site like Twiducate to get them used to the idea of Twitter. A sideways way to use Twitter FOR your students, rather than with your students is #comments4kids. This is a twitter hashtag of teachers that are using classroom blogging and are looking for other teachers and classes to comment on their students’ blogs.
Will students use Twitter? I was doing my 15 minute check in on Twitter when @2footgiraffe twittered, “small mile stone. Stu asked wht we did in class 2day. He missed. 2nd stu responded via twtr & sent him the link 4 the prezi 🙂 #edchat” (@2footgiraffe Wed 17 Nov 21:08 via Tweetdeck)
Final thoughts

I have found Twitter to be a good tool for professional development. It’s like having a flock of professionals in your backyard. 🙂 The links you click on have already been reviewed, so to speak, and if you have a question, you are sure to find someone who can help, or direct you to a resource where you can find help. However, I do find it tricky to find the time. Blog posts are static, they stay there when you go to get a cup of tea 🙂 and if you don’t get a chance to finish reading them (or you want to reread them), they are still there when you come back an hour or a day later. Twitter is like a conversation at a cocktail party, once you’ve left the room, the conversation is over (for you). I think I will stick with my Tweet Plan and go on for 15 minutes after supper (mind you, that 15 minutes could easily turn into hours if I fall into a great conversation!). Tweeting blog posts I read is easy…i am a regular user of the ‘Retweet’ button on blogs I follow, however, I feel that I should be adding a comment to my tweet saying why I consider this worth tweeting. Creating original tweets will be trickier, as I am often unsure of whether my ideas are worth tweeting. As well, I believe that when you tweet your thoughts, you need to be a part of the conversation, instead of doing a ‘drive-by’ tweet. 🙂 It is finding and taking the time to be a part of the conversation that I find difficult. So, why continue tweeting? Others that I look up to have tried to give it up and cannot. 🙂
David Warlick says he rarely tweets, yet one day he was watching, and followed Vicki Davis tweeting quotes from a session she was attending given by the Digital Learning Council. It started him thinking and he wrote a thoughtful post about the ideas that were being presented. (Interestingly, he didn’t tweet his thoughts, he blogged them, I presume because blogging offered him the opportunity to share his thoughts in an in depth way)
Doug Johnson wrote a post about giving up tweeting, but he must have started up again, ‘cause I follow him! 🙂 Recently, he wrote a post about Twitter where he suggested that the quality of tweets would be greatly improved if people were limited to five tweets per day. As a reader of tweets for professional development, I would agree. (While I enjoy @ shareski’s thoughts on education, I really don’t need to know that he is at his mother-in-law’s watching a football game.)
Will I continue my ventures into the “Twitterverse”, as Richardson (2009) calls it? Yes, I will. The trick will be in moving from being a passive  passenger on the Twitterflight to an active flyer in the conversations.
Berger, P. & Trexler, S. (2010). Choosing web 2.0 tools for learning and teaching in a digital world. Santa Barbara:CA. Libraries Unlimited.
Kist, W. (2010). The socially networked classroom. Thousand Oaks:CA. Corwin Press.
Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms, 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks:CA. Corwin Press.


Filed under Uncategorized, Web 2.0 Tools

13 responses to “Twitter, twitter, cheep cheep PD!

  1. Could you help me find the link that has David Warlick’s response to the Digital Learning Council meeting? Many thanks in advance.

  2. I would never tell anyone how to use twitter. Some use it simply to mine for links, others have very small number of people with little diversity, others use it to find random people who will add value or simply inform them about things they aren’t familiar with.

    Do you need to know I’m watching football at my mother-in-laws? Nope. But I will argue for the fact that part of the appeal for many is building relationships that include a degree of silly and seemingly trivial. This is one way we build social capital as well, these tools are social. There is a blending of professional and personal that is a real struggle for some.

    Again, everyone is free to use it as they please and it looks like you’re doing just that. Good for you. I’ll simply caution you to allow everyone to use it as they see fit. It’s a multi-purposeful tool.

    Also the value of silly is highly underrated.

    All the best.

    • Lissa Davies

      Good point about building social relationships…I remember the time you tweeted that you were picking up McFlurries (or was it lattes?) and had tweet ‘requests’ coming in from everywhere. It did make me laugh! As you point out, Twitter is a social network, and if I use the cocktail party analogy again, much of cocktail conversation is not ‘professional’, but is focused on relationship-building. My intent was never to tell others how to use Twitter, but to reflect on how I am using Twitter. If I sounded sanctimonious, I apologize. I am one who always values the ability to be silly and trivial; it helps us to take the world lightly. Trust me, I text the trivial to my friends probably as often as other tweet the trivial. 🙂

  3. No need to apologize. I knew you are thoughtfully discussing your use of twitter. I don’t have a problem if all someone wants to do is get links or focus on something specific. I simply wanted to draw attention to the diverse ways in which we can use social networks.

  4. Your post is very well researched and thought out. Well done you.

    For me there is no particular right or wrong with Twitter. To each his own I suppose. As a teacher who has Twitter open as a tab in the classroom I will unfollow people who swear or denigrate people or ideas on line and I decide who I follow or not. It’s up to me. In the school holidays I follow people who cuss but make me laugh!

    For me Twitter is like a waterfall- I can dip my fingers in it and sample the stream or not. For me the social capital is part of why I like Twitter. For me Twitter is a conversation.

    I quite like knowing that @shareski is watching football with his mother-in-law. It tells me lots actually. It tells me that he likes football (we don’t watch football where I come from- we watch rugby), it tells me he has more interests than just being all scholarly and learned, it tells me he has a mother-in-law that he is close enough to to go to her house and watch football- not a bad thing at all.

    For me, as well as the learning it is about the people.

    How did I find my way to your blog? Via a tweet!

    • Lissa Davies

      Yes, to each his own. For me, the Twitter waterfall (love that analogy) is currently a tad overwhelming, but then, hey, I find Facebook overwhelming!:) As a Twitter newbie, I am not yet entering in to much of the conversation. Consider me the hanger-on at the cocktail party, not sure of who anyone is and trying really hard to connect with the ideas that are presented. As I continue joining in the conversations, I will find more connections with others through their social tidbits. As you say, that helps you learn a bit more about who someone is, and what they value.

  5. hey

    nice thoughtful reflection on twitter. I’ll echo dawns thoughts on what it means to be professional and add that I find peoples social interactions very enlightening with respect to how they will operate if we work together. v. useful

    also regarding the small school and twitter. those are the people who are most in need of a pln. at a school with single teachers per grade level they often have no peers with their unique challenges. pln can help. whether they are willing now- that’s a different story. see Clarence Fischer

    • Lissa Davies

      I agree with the small school’s needs for PLNs. This is one way where I see Twitter being invaluable…to those who are isolated. As a teacher-librarian, I am isolated in my school, and am finding Twitter to be a way to connect with other TLs and tech leaders, not only in my district, but globally. I actually find it quite exciting! The willingness? As you say, that’s another story. I was at a conference where Alan November was discussing using Twitter, and I could see the audience’s (mostly elementary teachers) eyes glazing over. Somehow, someway, we need to begin to embrace the technology that our students are using and make it work for us. Pardon my ignorance, but who is Clarence Fischer?

  6. Nancy

    What a well written post! I thoroughly enjoyed your sharing of your varying relationships with Twitter & decidedly refreshing as you did not herald Twitter as the ‘gotta have, gotta do’ tool. Oh, & you might find it entertaining to know that I ended up here via one of @shareski ‘s tweets. (the one right after his tweet on signage in a field near his home, I believe).

    • Lissa Davies

      Thanks, Nancy! It was interesting to have his response, and it made me think of the importance of those social relationships. Still don’t think I’m going to tweet much of my life (I’m just not that interesting!) . 🙂

  7. Pingback: The Neverending Story – Web 2.0 « To Boldly Go…

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