What is this Twittersphere?
So what does this have to do with Twitter? Well, Twitter is just a giant digital filing cabinet for all your connections and categories of interests. It's like a universe of possibilities, a twitterverse. Or perhaps, a blanket of connection around the globe, a twittersphere.
On July 11 2014, there were 645,750,000 million registered users on Twitter. So as educators we should be leveraging this tech, right? There is a globalized online force of change agents, thinkers, and innovators all at our fingertips. Literally.
Twitter is a way to gather amazing resources, cutting edge educative practice and to connect with other educators in a globalized world. Not only that, but it flattens the playing field. Gone are the days of waiting for your educative idol to be booked by your school, and then after their half day workshop have that person surrounded by 150 other teachers only to be too shy to even say hello. Nope, now in 140 characters or less (and maybe a photo if you want to get fancy) you can get real time advice from experts just by asking. And that's it too... articles, blogs, resources are all curated at 140 characters, which makes PD fast paced- perfect for busy teachers.
So, How do I start?
Handle: If you are using Twitter for your professional life I recommend using your actual name or close to it. The reason? You want people to be able to find you. Unless you have a significant online presence like a website or blog where people can cross reference your name @wigglewacker4920 just is too hard for people to search.
Photo: For the first 6 months I was on Twitter, I used an avatar from one of the books I had written. I stayed at an even dozen followers (which included a handful of the teachers at my school, and a few friends from university). As soon as I put a picture on my profile and fleshed out my bio to represent me as a teacher and a learner, my followers jumped to 200 within a few days. A picture gives people an anchor, you are not a spammer, you are a real educator. You are a tweep.
Followers/Following: Twitter is NOT Facebook. I unfollow and follow people all the time. Twitter is my Personal Learning Network (PLN) and that network is in flux depending on my interests, research and connections at any given moment. Don't be afraid to unfollow someone if they are inactive or not contributing to your learning journey. You may pick them up later at a conference, from a blog, or a connection you make in the future.
But who to follow? Well there are a billion lists of 'Top Educators you Should Follow' and they ARE filled with amazing suggestions!! Truly, they are a really great place to start. BUT the truth is, my most powerful connections have happened when I have gone to the people that I admire and looked at who they are following. From that, I am connected by interest and common goals.
Hashtags # Remember those old metal filing cabinets? Remember the paper labels that always popped off of the files in them? If you are as old as me, you do. Well Hashtags are just a digital way of organizing all those interests you have into files. Some of my favorite Hashtags for education can be found at Te@chThought. Hashtags are sometimes to find people with the same interests as you, a chat or just a fun way to make a point #BecauseItsSilly. They give your tweets greater reach and help funnel information to interested people.
Search for interests by using the Hashtag in your top search button.
Chats: Chats provide an opportunity to engage in conversations with educators around the globe. Rapid fire and moderated, they provide an hour of intensive idea sharing and professional development. If you are shy, just lurk for the first few times- then jump in on the conversation- your ideas matter!
If you really get into chats and it is all too much- too fast, but you are kind of feeling like you OWN this Twitter thang, it is time to look into Tweet Deck to help you organize your Twitter feeds into channels and custom timelines.
#edchat: Check it out here: http://edchat.pbworks.com/w/page/219908/FrontPage.
#edtechchat: Focus on education technology on Mondays from 8 to 9 pm Eastern Time.
#satchat: Chat about education leadership on Saturday mornings from 7:30 to 8:30 am Eastern Time
#pypchat: Everything PYP http://pypchat.wikispaces.com/
#kinderchat: If you are interested in early childhood education, check out the kinderchat website.
#digcit: Want to engage about digital citizenship? Find out more information at gonevirtual.org/digcit.html.
Lists: Still finding it way too much information? Just breathe. It is!! You don't have to look at every single tweet made in the twitterverse. I spend each night for a bit checking out interesting articles, making connections and working my PLN. To help me I have made lists. A list is a curated group of Twitter users. You can create your own lists or subscribe to lists created by others. Viewing a list timeline will show you a stream of Tweets from only the users on that list.
So now what?
Now you hatch. Take a deep breath again, spread your wings and leap. You can't get it wrong!! Just be yourself, retweet the stuff that resonates with you, connect with people who help you on your learning journey and make the educative world a bit more awesome by contributing your ideas.
We need you.