Today, I came across a Tweet where a fellow educator was wondering how educators can get the most out of Twitter. This blog post discusses how I get the most out of using Twitter. Of course, every educator has different needs and time commitments so they may use Twitter differently and benefit from its use in their own way.
1. Schedule time for Twitter
You will need to dedicate time in your schedule to read Tweets on Twitter. I do this in two different ways. I have the Twitter app on my phone that I will check periodically when I have free time and will e-mail myself articles or posts of interest to read when I have more time. I also have myself signed into TweetDeck on my computer, so that way each time I log on, I can see the most recent posts on my timeline and hashtags that I follow. My caution to scheduling is that you shouldn’t feel that you need to always be connected. Take time with family and don’t obsess over posts you missed that day. If it’s concerning for you, read the missed posts when you have time, they will be there for you when you log in next. It’s also okay to skip over posts as it is not always possible to read every single Tweet that comes across your timeline.
2. Participate in the discussion
It’s great to be a consumer of Twitter, but even better to be a producer. When you come across an interesting Tweet worth sharing, reTweet (RT) it. Just make sure you read the entire Tweet first to ensure that you agree with the article being Tweeted or your can add your perspective when Tweeting it. If you have learned something interesting in grad school classes, conversations with colleagues or students, then Tweet about it and add a meaningful hashtag to your post (check out this list of educational hashtags). Share good stories of what is happening or being observed in your teaching practice (without naming students or school). By posting information you are interested in, you can connect with others who are interested in the same topic. This can help you increase your follower list.
3. Follow discussions on hashtags
There are several interesting discussions happening weekly on Twitter. Find out which topics interest you and see if you can find time to follow or participate in some of these discussions. You can learn more about the topic of conversations and further make better connections on Twitter. I like to use these Twitter chats to share resources and blog posts on the topic of conversation. I feel it’s just as important to share our learning and understanding with fellow educators than merely observe conversations. The best way to learn is to actively participate in your learning and Twitter is one way to actively participate in a professional learning community (PLN) of your choosing.
4. Take risks on Twitter
Don’t be afraid to provide your opinion on topics that matter to you, even if they may spark judgement. Just be certain that you express your ideas respectfully and with a certain degree of caution. Think about how your readers would interpret your Tweet and whether you are prepared to further discuss your opinion. I like to ask questions to further understand another Tweeter’s perspective or add a positive contradicting comment. For example, there was a recent discussion on social media use in education. I provided an example of how another school board uses social media in an effective way than another school board.
5. Encourage your friends and colleagues to participate on Twitter
Twitter discussions are as good as you make them and benefit those who use Twitter. I have to admit, before becoming a Twitter user, I was against using Twitter. I thought Twitter was used to communicate everyday feelings and status updates, that I didn’t see the need in using this social network. I was not aware that a large network of educators were using this media to discuss educational matters. These educators span across the world and can connect with you with the click of a “follow”. It was through my first grad school class that I was asked to participate in social media and since then have benefited greatly from this network. I am certain there are many educators out there with the same previous mindset and may need so encouragement or awareness of this tool. I encourage educators to discuss with your friends and colleagues about how you are using Twitter. Show them your timeline and explain what you are learning. Offer to help them set up an account and guide them through the process of learning how to use Twitter. Here’s a pfd that can help them understand how to use Twitter (New to Twitter…).