Whenever it comes to writing about Twitter in a blog post, I never know how basic to go in my descriptions. I guess I must assume that there will be many people who have no idea about Twitter. I can also be confident that many other readers are capable of writing a similar post with better strategies. The problem with Twitter is that it is confusing to explain, difficult to understand, and only learned when one begins to use it regularly. My use for twitter, although it can be very social, is for the purpose of personal development. If I was a boat builder, I would follow other boat builders, but since I am an educator, I will focus my following to other educators. The goal is to assemble a list of people who are not only knowledgeable about education and learning, but have a sharing and collaborative philosophy.
One of the first things I do, when I am considering someone to follow, is to check his, or her Twitter Profile. I limit myself to following educators, because I gear my Twitter account for professional learning. Many people have second Twitter accounts for friends and relatives. Once I access a person’s Profile I can verify that he or she is an educator and I can see the most recent tweets. The tweets will give an indication of the person’s collaboration. If there is no profile filled out, I usually do not follow that person.
Another important thing to check is whom they follow. That makes the profile a source for other educators to follow. Individuals can be found under the “Following” header on the profile page. In addition Twitter lists may be found on a person’s profile. They are special lists that Tweeters make up for specific groupings of people that they follow. Examples might be: Music teachers, Pre-service teachers, Administrators. These lists can be accessed and you will have more educators to follow.
Hashtags (#) are another source for follows. Tuesday is known as Teacher Tuesday on Twitter. On Tuesdays people will tweet out recommendations of teachers to follow on Twitter. Each of these recommendations will contain the hashtag #TT or #tt or #Teachetuesday. You may follow by clicking on the name in the tweet and the profile will pop up. The other way to do it would be to do a search for #TT, #tt, or #Teachertuesday. At that point all of the tweets from all tweeters will pop up. Most conferences or events carry their own hashtags. If you are following a tech conference hashtag the chances are good that the tweeters using them are educators attending the conference. The best hashtag to vet and gather follows is #Edchat. That hashtag is used by educators during weekly chats as well as by many educators to extend the range of their educational Tweets. Twitter has another day of hashtag recommendations on Friday; #FF, #ff, #followfriday. The difference between Friday and Tuesday is that Friday is recommendations of great Tweeters, and Tuesdays are recommendation of great Educator Tweeters.
Anyone can make up a hashtag. I made up a hashtag for people to make recommendations for books. I asked people to recommend one educational book that made a difference to them. I asked them to use the hashtag #Edubk. It served multiple purposes. I could do a search for #Edubk and have a list of books read and recommended by educators. I could follow any of those tweeters whose recommendation rang true. I also expanded the number of people to access by the number of Retweets generated.
Reading Blogs gives the best insight into who educators really are a good indication of whom to follow. Many bloggers use Twitter to drive people to their blogs. The obvious thing to do is to follow those bloggers who offer opinions of value. The extension of that source is to mine the comment page. Educators who feel opinionated enough to leave a comment will often have their twitter names available. Their comments offer insights to their philosophy. Another good method is to tweet out thought-provoking questions. Take note of those who engage in response.
I use many Social Media applications to complete my network of educators who help me in learning about education every day. Twitter is first in that bank of tools. I am an avid user and that is what makes writing this post most difficult. I fully understand how Twitter works. I also am very aware that explaining it is overwhelming for those not familiar with Twitter. Twitter is best learned as it is used. I only hope I haven’t confused more than clarified some strategies to develop a valuable Personal Learning Network.