As you all know, I’m a big advocate of using Twitter as a professional development tool. This week, we’re going to look at how you can use Twitter to build your professional learning network and also gain invaluable resources! That’s right, the same social networking site that your students use to talk about sports and Lady Gaga, can be used for some of the best professional development!
There are two keys to getting dynamic information out of Twitter: 1) who you follow, and 2) hashtags.
Who You Follow. When you choose to follow someone on Twitter, everything that that person tweets will show up on your timeline. In the picture below, you can see the tweets of just a few of the people that I am following. They include the November Learning organizations; educators Brent Catlett and Steven Anderson; a social media institute; and Beth Sanders, a social studies teacher in Tarrant, AL.
There are so many educators across the country who share rich content on a regular basis. Once you find one or two of them, you simply look at who they follow and then follow the same people. Before you know it, you have a very dynamic, interactive professional network. And when I say interactive – I mean interactive! I have yet to find an educator on Twitter who won’t discuss and/or respond to you. Are you familiar with author Todd Whitaker? He is on Twitter and has endeared himself with many in MCS who tweet. If you tweet him or mention him in a tweet, don’t be surprised if you get a response!
Hashtags. Hashtags are very important to finding the information that you want on Twitter amid all of the “noise.” Hashtags are the keywords that come after the pound sign (#) and is a way of organizing topics. For example, we use #MCSLearn to share information related to resources in Madison City. The picture below shows a search on the hashtag #MCSLearn. Notice that the hashtag can appear anywhere in the tweet.
This next picture shows a search on the hashtag #edchat. #Edchat is one of the largest education chats on Twitter.
Many Twitter chats, like #Edchat, have live chats at scheduled times. However, even during non-scheduled chat times, there is almost always activity. Things are tweeted on the hashtags pretty much constantly. So, while participating in a live chat can be fun, it’s just as beneficial to go back at your convenience and search on the hashtag and read over the information that was posted.
To get started with Twitter, click here. If you already have an account, go ahead and sign in. If you don’t have an account, you’ll need to create one by entering your full name, your email address, and a password, and then click the Sign Up For Twitter button.
On the next page, you will be given the option to pick your Twitter username. Don’t worry too much about this; if you pick one now that you decide you don’t like, you can change it later. Once you have created your account, Twitter will send a confirmation email to the email account you specified when setting up your account. You will need to go to that email and click on the link provided in order to verify your account. Make sure you complete this step in the process!
Once you have completed the sign up process and are in Twitter, click on the Home button at the top left of the screen (it looks like a house and says Home). Once there, you’re going to go to the search box at the top right of the screen. That is where you are going to enter in the following search terms, one at a time.
First, type in #MCSLearn – don’t worry about capitalization, it doesn’t matter. What that search is going to pull up is our district Twitter feed. Now, it might look a little bare right now because it’s the middle of July; however, during the school year, there is a lot of information that is being shared on this hashtag.
Now, type in #edchat – WOW! That brings up a whole lot of information, doesn’t it? If you will look through it carefully, you will notice that some of the tweets contain links. This is where you find the gold; people will link to all kinds of resources that you may never have found otherwise (especially things that they create specifically for their own use, but share with their Twitter friends)!
If you want to learn more about following people, who to follow, etc., you can find the MCS Twitter for Teachers document here.
Here are 10 Steps for Educators New to Twitter.
For a thorough listing of educators to follow on Twitter, as well as a listing of educational chats (hashtags), you need to click on Cybraryman’s Twitter page.
I know that some of you already use Twitter; for those of you who don’t, I hope that you will at least spend some time and check it out. I think you might be pleasantly surprised! As always, let me know if you need any help!