Twitter – #8 of 10 Tech Things

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September 24, 2011 by k. liz

Ahaha . . . yeah, I know. Good thing I’m not a math teacher. I realized after I thought I’d finished my series on 10 Tech Things that number 8 was mysteriously missing. Well, that was going to bug me until I fixed it, so here you go . . . the elusive #8!

What is it? Twitter.com
What do I use it for? Professional Development and Ideas
How long does it take? Well . . . that’s totally up to your own self-control!
My rating: ********* 9/10

So, this post is a tad bit different than the others in my series. Most of the other technological things I shared with you all were classroom activities, or sites that would help you build resources for your classroom. Well, here is where I got most of my inspiration: twitter.

I don’t think that twitter needs much explanation anymore, but a brief overview for any of you who have still not jumped on board. I myself was reluctant until the beginning of this year, and since joining twitter, I must say that my personal professional development has grown by leaps and bounds. Of course I don’t need twitter to do this, but it has been a great instrument in helping me to learn and grow. Twitter is another social networking site in which you will find friends (here called followers.) You can follow anyone, and they can choose whether or not to follow you as well. All the “tweets” of the people you follow will show up in your twitter feed, and your followers will see every tweet you post. There are several great aspects of twitter to take advantage of:

  • retweeting: sharing something that you saw with your followers
  • direct messages: writing a private message to someone you follow
  • hashtags: using the # symbol to categorize tweets by topics
  • replying: you can communicate with other tweeters by replying to their tweets, they will receive a notification
So, why do I view this as a huge tool for professional development? Because, as a teacher in a classroom, I do not have countless hours to spend just reading up on the newest educational policies or practices. I don’t have time to observe other teachers’ classrooms, or to find teachers who also have time to sit down for an interview. Twitter is a quick, bullet-point style network that allows me to find, filter, and share information quickly and effectively.
Here are my few tips for using twitter effectively for education:
  1. Find a program that you can download onto your desktop, or open in a new tab that is manageable. Twitter.com only allows you to have one feed running, and things can get muddled and overwhelming. I suggest tweetdeck. There are several other twitter platforms out there though, so you can check around.
  2. Find and follow as many people that have similar interests to you as possible. You can always “unfollow” them later if you do not like their content. If you follow people using twitter.com, it will always suggest new people for you that have similar interests.
  3. Fill out your information with things pertinent to the education you are involved in and/or interested in. My profile mentions that I teach Kindergarten in Turkey. I also have listed some of my interests. This will help make it easier for people to see what things you will be tweeting about. A couple of other tips for your profile – choose a picture that people can recognize, get rid of the egg that twitter gives you! Also, if you have a blog, link it into your account information. That will help generate traffic to your site! 
  4. My most important tip for getting all you can from twitter: Use columns and hashtags!! This is why I recommend tweetdeck. In tweetdeck, I usually keep open my normal twitter feed, a mentions column (if people reply to you, this is where they will be stored), a #TEFL column, and a #kindergarten column. This means that I will see all tweets that have those topics mentioned in them, regardless of whether or not I am following the people who tweeted them. This is the best way to find new ideas and posts about different topics that interest you. Rather than googling and sifting through pages of information on the internet, I can see a short link on someones tweet regarding #kindergarten activities and it is one click until I am there.
If you are disciplined enough to set a time limit on your twitter use a day, this can be a huge time-saver and still give you plenty of ideas from people who are in similar positions as you are. Be sure to help out your followers and share links that you find interesting as well. The more we work together to share good links, the easier it is to grow as teachers. Also, you can email tweets to yourself to check out later, when you have more time for reading.
I know that for me, I have found twitter to be a very effective tool for connecting with educators around the world, asking questions, getting answers, seeing new trends in TEFL, and finding activities to use in my classroom. Go ahead and give it a try . . . if you REALLY don’t like it, there’s always a delete button.
By the way, there are also tons of great ideas out there for using twitter with your students in the classroom. I’m sorry I haven’t addressed that in this post, maybe in the future. But my goal today was to share with you ways to use this to enhance your own professional development and teaching philosophies. 
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