As I mentioned in a previous post I recently attended two technology conferences and from each conference I walked away with a new love for Twitter. Those of you who have read this blog for a while already know that Twitter is a microblogging service which allows users to post messages 140 characters or less in length for their followers to read. Twitter asks the question, “What are you doing?” and users respond. Its a nice, neat way to stay connected with friends and family all over the world that’s a little different than email or phone calls. Take a look at the video below produced by Common Craft – Twitter in Plain English.
While I liked Twitter on a personal level I couldn’t initially see an obvious educational application. Back in December I read a post about Twitterories where users collaborated on a story, but each user could only contribute 140 characters. I could envision this as a fun project in an English Language Arts class, but beyond that I wasn’t sure how Twitter could help me or my students. Well, two weeks ago I finally saw the light. The power of Twitter is in the network and it can be a great professional development tool!
At the two technology conferences (ETC and CUE) I met new friends and reconnected with old ones. Come to find out each of us had a Twitter account, but were having similar experiences not seeing the educational potential. After exchanging Twitter names conversations immediately started developing. One person would post a link to an article they just read or wrote and the rest of us would post a response, reflection, or additional information. Each of us brings a vast amount of knowledge to our own personal networks. Twitter provides opportunities for users to learn from each other.
Something else that makes Twitter interesting is that all of the people I am following aren’t necessarily in the same network. For example I am following educators in both Modesto and Sacramento. While, most of these people are also following me they aren’t following each other. So if I post a response to a friend’s article all of my followers will see the response even if they aren’t following the person who posted in the initial article. If I start my response with @ followed by the username of the original poster (@teacher123) all of my followers will be linked to that person’s page and can read what they originally posted. I have picked up a ton of great ideas and met some new friends just by doing this. Twitter also allows you to send a message directly to a user without all of your followers seeing it. To do this you place a “d” followed by a space in front of their username (d teacher123). Its kind of handy for clarification or individualized follow up. Twitter would be a great tool for teacher collaboration if they aren’t all at the same school site or even the same district. Here is a fictitious conversation to give you an idea of what is possible.
ucdjoe: Does anyone have a great ws for speed and acceleration? My kids need a review.
teacher123: @ucdjoe Yes, I have one I will email it to you.
abcteach: @ucdjoe Actually, I know of a great website too. http://www.amazingscience.com/motion
ucdjoe: @abcteach Thanks!
teacher123: @abcteach Hey! Cool site. Thanks for the resource. I’m following you now.
So how do you start Twittering? Its simple – go to the Twitter website and create an account. Then start looking for people to follow (I’m ucdjoe if you haven’t already figured out). Once you find someone’s page look to see who they are following. Chances are you know a few people on their list. For example, you can find Somerset and Savage teachers on my list. You can continue to use the Twitter website or you can Twitter via text on your cell phone (my favorite way actually) or use a third party program such as Twitterific. Give it a try, join my network, or develop one on your own. I think you’ll be impressed. Don’t worry if you don’t “get it” for a while, neither did I!