I know Twitter sometimes gets a bad rap, but if you follow the right people, Twitter can also be a powerful professional learning tool. As with most tools, it’s all in how you use it. Here are a few suggestions for teachers who want to use Twitter as a way to learn and grow.
Create a professional Twitter account. If you already have a Twitter account you use for keeping up with news or hobbies, that’s great. But if you want to use Twitter to connect with other teachers or education professionals, you might consider creating a separate account in which you only follow other educators. This will help you to filter out some of the distractions and concentrate on learning.
Organize your Twitter stream. Dr. Leidy once shared that he heard a speaker say trying to learn from Twitter is like a thirsty person standing in the middle of a rushing river. You know you can’t drink it all, but if you fill your cup from the water that flows past, you can quench your thirst. Unless you have the time to watch your Twitter feed all day long, there’s no way you’re going to catch everything. But there are ways to filter the flow of information a bit and make sure you see more of what you want. One way I do this is through an application called TweetDeck. TweetDeck allows me to create columns based on a particular topic of interest. In the screenshot below, you see four of those columns. “Home” is my normal Twitter feed. “Notifications” lets me see all tweets that include my Twitter name or any tweet of mine that someone else favorites or retweets. My “Favorites” column shows me all the tweets I’ve “favorited” so I can go back and look at them when I have more time. The last column is one I created to filter tweets by a specific hashtag…more on those in a minute. If you want to get more out of Twitter, I highly recommend trying TweetDeck or another tool such as Hootsuite or Twubs. Each of these tools provides a way of channeling that rushing river so you can drink the very best water.
Search for hashtags. The symbol we commonly call the number sign or the pound sign is now also used in social media to create a hashtag. A # in front of a word or phrase on Twitter (or any other social media) is a way of tagging or categorizing that tweet. I think of hashtags like labels you’d write on the tab of a file folder. If I went to a file drawer to find resources on Google Apps, I’d look for a folder labeled “Google Apps”. In Twitter, if I want to know more about Google Apps, I can search for #GoogleApps. Anything that anyone else has tweeted using the same hashtag will then show up in the results. In TweetDeck, I can create a column for a particular hashtag so I can keep up with conversations about that topic. Not sure what hashtags are out there? Check out this amazing list of educational hashtags by Jerry Blumengarten, better known as Cybraryman. You’ll find hashtags for your grade level, subject area, or just about any educational interest. Teach Math? Try #mathed. Art teacher? Check out #arted. Take a look at the list. I’m sure you’ll find something relevant.
There is so much more I could share about Twitter, but that’s probably enough for one post. If you’re ready for more, you can check out my Diigo list of Twitter resources here. If you’re just getting started with Twitter, create an account and give it a try. If you have any questions or need any help, just let me know. Once you’ve started your account, please follow me at @areardon and I’ll follow you as well. Make sure you follow our new MASD Twitter account, too – @MbgAreaSD – for all the latest news from the district.
If you’re already using Twitter as a professional learning tool, please comment below and tell us your best tips and tricks for getting the most from Twitter.