Whenever I recommend Twitter to teacher-friends or colleagues, the first thing I’m often asked is what educators tweet about in 140 characters or less. When I started using Twitter almost a year ago, I wondered the same thing. So I started paying attention and then eventually, I began capturing my observations along the way. Here’s how I notice educators making great use of this powerful tool:
1. Identifying and Retweeting Favorite Links and Resources: Many of the educators that I follow on Twitter spend at least a portion of their time sharing their links to favorite blog posts, resources, and tools. How do they find things to share? They bookmark them as they read through their RSS feeds, take note of them during workshops, trainings, and conversations with others, or favorite the tweets that are most valuable to them by clicking on the small star that appears to the right of each tweet in mouse-overs. The wonderful thing about sharing what you value is that it connects you to others who have similar values….and they share back. Angela Maiers models this for us better than anyone I know, and I’m grateful for that.
2. Creating Community: Finding others to follow is easy on Twitter. Users can access the “Find People” tool at the top of their home pages, and the newly improved search function can connect them to others. I also enjoy using Twellow to search by location, category, or name. Twitter has helped me connect friends and colleagues together who did not know each other before, and communities begin to build within communities. I love that!
3. Surveying: Educators often use Twitter to seek opinions, get support as they brainstorm, and poll people about resources quickly. If you need direction or input, Twitter is a great place to find it.
4. Problem-Solving: Several months ago, I was ripping my hair out futzing around with a data report that I needed to complete. I shared my frustrations on Twitter, and moments later, @datadiva tweeted back potential solutions and then offered significantly more help. I observe similar interactions daily on Twitter. It is, for many educators, a tremendous source of support.
5. Finding Company: I have watched everything from episodes of The Office to the victory of President-elect Obama in the company of friends on Twitter….even those who are states or countries away.
6. Garnering Support for a Cause: If it’s a worthy one, edutweets will often throw their support behind it.
7. Building Blog Readership: Edutweets who have something worthwhile to say often invite their followers to join in conversation by tweeting about their latest posts and inviting followers to provide feedback or comment.
8. Living Beyond Work: There is more to life than work, and the educators I follow on Twitter know how to live and laugh….well. They share jokes, funny anecdotes about their kids, recipes, and sometimes, even their worries. How about that time @datadiva was stuck in a cab in New York City on her way to a pd session? She was held hostage there for nearly 24 hours…after drinking massive amounts of water. Don’t know if that qualifies as a funny anecdote or a worry, but it was memorable!
9. Fisbowling a Conversation or Debate: One of the things that I love about Twitter is the opportunity that it provides everyone to observe and participate in meaningful conversations about what we do and why we do it. Some of the top minds in the field interact in this space regularly, thinking aloud, sharing what they know, and inviting all of us to the table. Here is a prime example of that sort of thing.
10. Growing a Personal Learning Network: Establishing a personal learning network on Twitter is one of the first steps educators take in growing an even more powerful one. In gaining new followers or choosing to follow others, we have the opportunity to meet those they value most and learn from them as well. Who do your followers follow? Who do those you are following follow? Visit their pages and grow your community!
Engaging on Twitter isn’t as difficult as it would seem, and giving thought to how you might maximize your use of this tool ensures that it will become a resource that you will value. You can follow me on Twitter at @angelastockman, and please consider following those in my community too! You’ll be happy that you did.
This piece was also posted at The English Companion Ning.