Sunday, March 1, 2009

Learning to Twitter, Tweeting to Learn

Twitter was a little like a new toy at first, I used it a few days and then stopped. I don’t know if I got tired of it or maybe I was just frustrated with the lack of interaction. I started by following all my tech favorites: Leo Leporte, Kevin Rose, Sarah Lane, John C. Dvorak, Patrick Norton, Amber MaCarthur and Cali Lewis. Then I also followed a couple of teachers that had a podcast or Blog on the internet like Rodd Lucier and Mr.Teacher. Most of these people have so many followers that they can’t possibly follow everyone in return and so no interaction.

Lets take a step back and help some people out. First off, Twitter is a service that lets you tell people what you are doing, feeling, ask a question, or simply interact with others all in 140 characters or less. You can follow people and you will see what they “Tweet” (what you call a post on Twitter). People can follow you, and they are not necessarily the same people that you have followed. Are we thoroughly confused now? The best way to start is to follow people you think would have the same interests as you and hopefully the same type of people will follow you. Now this is the best part of Twitter in my opinion. This is where new networks and communities are formed.

So I stopped using Twitter until I found out I should search for people that would have the same interests as me. I looked for more people involved in agriculture, teaching, teachers using technology in classrooms and people involved with the FFA. I did not just search out internet superstars. You see that was my problem at first. I was following people that had great information that I could gather, but I had no interaction with. I went from about 15 people I was following to about 50. Within two days I was overwhelmed with people who started following me.

This is when Twitter came alive for me. I first started by repeating information others had Tweeted, a Retweet. It is kind of like a bibliography and a nice tweet all at the same time (The proper way to retweet - “RT @username tweet from person”) This will put you on someone’s radar that you like what they are talking about plus it helps promote the other person by allowing people following you to see someone else’s tweet. The next step was to start “replying” to people (@username - tweet). This will allow the person to see that you are saying something to them. This is a bit like instant messaging except everyone can see what you have written. The last thing you can do is Direct Message someone or DM. A DM will get a message to a person without anyone else reading it (if you do it correctly - D @username - tweet). You can only DM someone when you are both following each other. Of course you can just tweet something of your own.

OK, enough about how to use Twitter. What can it do for you? You see, when I said earlier that Twitter came alive for me, what I meant was the interaction with others had started. As I “met” new people by following them I was learning new things that people had tweeted and I was able to ask questions and find answers from several sources. I am always after new ways to bring technology into the classroom and the education process either for students, teacher, or the entire school. Twitter helped me to build a network of people that were Tweeting their ideas, Retweeting the ideas of others, or putting up links to websites that people had found useful. I consider myself a life long learner, that is I am always looking for ways to increase my abilities and Twitter has helped me to stay on top of the cutting edge of Educational Technology or Education 2.0 as some people call it.

Twitter is used by many different people in many different ways. I found out for me that as I was learning to Twitter, I was also Tweeting to Learn. Twitter has allowed me to broaden my own PLN or Personal Learning Community. I hope educators can see the power of Twitter for themselves as well as their students. They need to see that it is not just another social media site that students “waste time on.” What a great way to have students, teachers, and parents interact and share information and learning with each other.

For more information on Twitter check out these websites:, Twitterforteachers, Once a Teacher… or search for Twitter on Google.

Here is a great presentation by Evan Williams: How Twitter’s spectacular growth is being driven by unexpected uses.