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:
- Update Twitter, FaceBook, and LinkedIn.
- Large Twitter API Rate
- Custom Retweet or Twitter style
- Record, share, and watch video clip
- View YouTube Videos within TweetDeck
- Manage Multiple Twitter accounts
- Trending of local events and Twitscoop
- Create and mange Twitter List
- Follow Topics in real-time through saved searches.
- Saved Searches can be edited through the column
- Update Facebook
- Ingrates with LinkedIn Professional contacts
- See who is following you – you can have a who’s following you column so you can see what they are tweeting
- Preview short URL before opening. You can Also see the original link
- Backup TweetDeck by using sync and back-up
- Report and Block Spam Button ß Love this feature, it kills @mention spam quickly
- Flickr, Twitgoo and mobypicture is now supported
- keyboard shortcuts for speedy messaging
Things You can Do With Hootsuite
- Schedule Tweets
- Ping.fm Integration so you can update social networks that are not supported by Hootsuite
- Team Workflow
- Add, create and manage Twitter Lists
- Topic Search and Keyword Tracking
- Create Columns based on searches
- Secure Log in
- Web App – I can use hootsuite on any PC, Mac, Linux system as long as I have access to Hootsuite’s page
- Message Drafts
- View, manage, schedule, post to WordPress
- Ow.ly and Ht.ly URL shorteners
- Track Statistics
- Featured User List
- Update Facebook, LinkedIn, Myspace, and Foursquare
- RSS feed from your website to all of our social networks
- Preview Short Links and see Original Links before opening them.
- Report and block spam
- Follow User Lists in their own column
- 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.
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)
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. 🙂
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.