Twitter can be a scary place. Seriously, you sit there looking at your screen reading at a relatively good pace for 2 or 3 minutes. Before you know it, you see the message - 43 new tweets. Really? In the last 2 minutes, 43 people I'm following sent a tweet?
How can I possibly follow all of this?
The most calming answer is that you cannot follow all of this. You can follow some of this for a period of time. If you try to catch every single tweet* then you'll go out of your mind and think of twitter as some scary internet fast-lane where no one can even think. When put in these terms, how could twitter possibly be good for education? Don't we need time to reflect? The first thing to know about twitter is that anything worth your time will appear over and over and over again. Don't worry if you missed something - if it's good you'll see it again later.
*This gets more true the more people that you follow.
I'm trying to get teachers and administrators at Center to get on twitter. I've found that many are interested in theory, but getting the ball rolling is a challenge. There is legitimacy in this fear. Like many things, there is some real inertia in trying to get something new started. To get your twitter feed to a point where it is constantly interesting, useful and full of new and bright ideas takes some concentrated effort. You have to actually think and plan how you use twitter. You have to know it won't happen overnight.
With that in mind, I decided to try to make somewhat of a starter kit for those that are new to twitter. My hope is that you will spend an hour or so at a time getting more comfortable with twitter over the course of a few weeks. By the end of that time, you'll be much more comfortable using twitter and will start to see the incredible potential that it has for you as an educator.
Good luck on your journey!
The first hour...building your list of followers.
Following a good group of people is the most underrated aspect of twitter in my mind. If you are not following the right people, then your feed will be full of nonsense that isn't of importance to you. While twitter will encourage you to follow Kim Kardashian when you get started, she won't be very helpful to you.*
*Many people will have an educator account they use for their own professional development and collaboration and a separate account for sports, entertainment, gossip, etc...
There are countless educators out there who are tweeting at all hours of the day and night about great resources, reflections and fresh ideas. In your first hour on twitter, go through each of the following educators and follow some of the people that they follow:
Starr Sackstein (@)
Laura Gilchrist (@)
Ted Huff (@TedHiff)
Joe Sanfellipo (@Joesanfelippofc)
Justin Tart (@justintarte)
Eric Sheninger (@NMHS_Principal)
Nicholas Provenzano (@thenerdyteacher)
Colleen McLain (@)
Joy Kirr (@)
Look at who these educators follow and follow as many as you'd like. Look for people whose profile is all about education and who have a significant following. The world should not always be about popularity, but if someone is tweeting solely about education and they have a few hundred followers, they're probably worth your time.
The second hour...find some colleagues.
At Center, we have a hashtag (#) set up for any tweets that we want to associate with our district. It is #CenterSD. I also want to get #CHS58 going at the high school and #CHS101 going for my classroom. Lots of districts, schools and even specific clubs and activities have set up their own hashtags. Ask around at your school and see what these hashtags are at your school. Once you find the hashtag, follow your colleagues and start the collaboration.
The third hour...follow a chat.
Chats are the bread and butter of twitter for educators and will likely be where you do lots of your connecting. There are way too many to follow all of them. Jerry Blumengarten (@) has done a great job of compiling chat schedules here. By searching for a hashtag such as #moedchat (Missouri educators chat) you will bring up every tweet that includes this hashtag. This is how twitter is organized.
I would suggest checking out #edchat (general educational chat), #edtechchat (general educational chat focused on technology), #pblchat (project based learning in the classroom), #satchat (topic changes every Saturday morning at 9:30 AM CST) or #NT2T (chat for new teachers to twitter). Some chats, like #moedchat, occur weekly at a specific time while many others, like #edchat, are constantly going on.
The fourth hour...make a list.
Some people use the heck out of the lists feature and others get along just fine without them. I have been a slow convert, but I now use them with regularity. A list is a grouping that you create and curate. I have created lists for Center educators, administrators I like to follow and educators who seem to specialize in using GAFE (Google Apps for Educators) among many other topics. You can subscribe to lists that others have created or create your own. A list allows you to create your own personalized feed on that specific topic. For example, you could make a list of politicians and then have your government class subscribe to that list and contact one of the politicians.
The fifth hour...get an app that manages your twitter-verse.
There are several out there, the most common being Hootsuite. This article lists the supposed top 10, but I'll admit that I've only ever used Hootsuit and love it. You can manage several social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn...), schedule tweets and follow specific hashtags, among many other cool tools. I keep a twitter account for my specific courses as a way to communicate with students and parents.
Hootsuite helps me to manage my own account (@chambersalec) and my two class accounts (@chambersmwh and @chambersgov) all on one platform.
And that's it!
OK, so it's a lot of information. Each section will inevitably last more than an hour to go through. You'll return to each part of twitter again and again. Before you realize it, you'll be following hundreds of educators and hundreds of educators will be following you too.
You may even decide to start a blog of your own!
Love it? Hate it? Leave your thoughts below and let's talk about it!
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