Three 3 Steps for Using Twitter as an Educational Tool
(This is an amalgamation of several of the guides I have read. While I have no quotes word for word, I must give props to The Cult of Pedagogy, Kathy Shrock, KQED and teachhub, whose links are below the article. Thanks!)
I have had a twitter handle and account since 2009, and that was mostly because of some contest that needed it. I didn’t see the benefit of twitter, nor did I agree with the 140 character limit. Plus, I had Facebook and Farmville, and what more did I need? It wasn’t until Fall Cue 2015 that I started to unlock twitter as an Educational Tool, and really started to see the potential and amazing, world-expanding thing that twitter has become. Therefore, to help open the eyes of colleagues and remove doubt from the Nay-sayers, I present Twitter as an Educational Tool.
Learn the Language:
Just like any other environment, twitter has it’s own language and rules. There are things you may have never seen before, like hashtags and abbreviations that may seem daunting at first. Use this cheat sheet, made by @tysonkimberly and hosted on Kathy Shrock’s site, to get yourself accustom to the parlance.
Find your tribe
First off, I wasn’t using twitter as an educator should. I was thinking it analogous to Facebook, the only other social media platform I participated in. That was WRONG. I let my prejudice get the best of me, and I was a writer, why would I say something in 140 characters when I had pages and pages in which to bless my audience with witty prose and elevated insights? No one wanted to know about my feelings or my day in 140 characters. Also, in my small PLC, I could maybe count up on one hand how many teachers shared my views and outlook on teaching. That is because I hadn’t found my tribe.
It can be hard to find like-minded people, even in a community as big as some of the California school districts are. You don’t want to be alone, so let’s go looking for a tribe. Using some search skills online, you can find one easily. Are you an underwater basket-weaving Phenom looking to find others like you? Well they have a group online and use hashtag #weavinglife. Are you a TOSA in your district and looking for other TOSAs to share, cry, and support each other, there is a group using #TOSAchat. #ABbugchat is another tribe that talks about the insects in Alberta’s crops. Want to talk about home cooking and recipe swaps, #Cookclub is the tribe for you. If you can think of it, there is probably a group tweeting about it. I currently participate in three tribes, #edtechafterdark, #tosachat, and #ConnectedTL. If you asked me to pick one tribe, it would be the #ConnectedTL tribe I relate to the most. This is a group of “Connected Teacher Leaders,” coming together to talk about being teacher leaders.
Once you have found your tribe, follow some members. See what their last tweets are. Who are they tweeting with? This can be an easy way to grow a PLC. Once you follow a few and start conversing, this is where the power of tribe building on twitter really sets in.
Join a Twitter Chat:
Most of the twitter groups above have regular scheduled chats. A twitter chat is when there are several people online who are tweeting at the same time using the same hashtag. These schedules are listed several places online, just search for twitter chat schedules and you can find lists of them. There are two ways to participate in these Twitter Chats, depending on your comfort level. First, you can be a lurker until you feel comfortable. A lurker just lurks in the background watching the chat go by. All you need to do is type the chat name into the search bar in twitter and voila! You will see all of the tweets that have that hashtag. Feel free to browse and read to your heart’s content.
When you are ready, you can start participating in the chats. Usually twitter chats follow a routine of questions and answers, and you can tell them apart by the Q1 (for questions) or A1 (for answers). It is an easy and quick way to navigate what can be a whirlwind of tweets in a short period of time. Don’t be afraid to take it slow. I sat in (lurked) in #TOSAchat and #ConnectedTL chat for two weeks before saying anything. It was a little scary, tweets were flashing by my screen quickly and I found myself having to scroll down and catch up on the conversation a lot. Always remember to include the hashtag and name of the chat in your answer so it shows up in the chat feed. I usually place it at the end of the tweet.
Currently I am participating most in my #ConnectedTL tribe. I like that chat, it is moderated by a great group of teachers, and topics range from marketing to tech in the classroom to strategies best used to get training across to teachers. It has become a great part of my Professional Learning Community, and it the place I go to for questions and advice. I can say that my personal learning community has grown ten-fold, and the access I have to other professionals from around the state and country just couldn’t have happened without twitter.
Participating in chats will also get you followers, and that is a big piece of the PLC connection on twitter. I make sure to follow users whose comments are insightful and well thought out. Many of them will follow you back. Don’t be afraid to like and retweet things you find particularly helpful/insightful/funny. And don’t be afraid when people start following you as well. Spread those wings and embrace the community.
I hope this little twitter primer helps. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it, most in the education PLC of twitter are more than happy to help. Good luck, and I hope to see you on twitter soon (you can follow me @TechTomBUSD)!
Some great places I learned about twitter: