About half a year ago, I joined Twitter while taking a course on inquiry learning. My Twitter handle is @acrunning. We were asked to follow experts in our field who were regular bloggers and tweeters. These experts are educators, instructors, presenters, teachers, administrators and others who are passionate about literacy, communication, libraries and how children and adults learn, create and share information using technology. At the time, I felt a whole new world had been opened up to me and in fact, still do. While I’m hesitant to tweet but happy to read and “retweet”, I’m fascinated by the sharing and communicating that I follow.
What is Twitter?
Twitter is a microblogging platform of 140 characters. To become a tweeter, go to www.twitter.com, create an account with a username and search for people to follow. It’s nice when you connect with people who want to follow you so I start with a few people whom you know. I started with the network of students and professors from my course. It’s easy to use the “find” button to search for folks on twitter or they may include their twitter “handle” (usename) in their blog or on their website and click on “follow” to add to your list.
It’s interesting to compare the description of Twitter in the Common Craft video to my experience with it. The video was created in 2008 not long after Twitter came into existence (2006) and was used mostly to connect with friends and family regarding the minutia of life. As I’ve seen on Facebook, a lot space and time can be spent discussing the mundane details and changes in a person’s status from hour to hour and that kind of thing doesn’t interest me. What does interest me is the sharing from a professional point of view. I’ve learned about resources for librarians, seen pictures shared through TweetPic that would lend themselves to inquiry learning and watched video clips and slide shows. The timeliness of Twitter posts makes it a relevant tool for professional learning.
Personal Use of Twitter
Since joining twitter, I’ve had to learn a lot of new terminology to figure out what everyone is talking about when they refer to Tweetdeck, hastags and other organizers of twitter posts. Here is a helpful wiki: http://twitter.pbworks.com
One of the best places I’ve found for learning has been the Web 2.0 course discussion threads. Students on the course have diverse experience with technology and have been great about sharing it with others. Through this learning, I’ve ventured out on my own in the “twitterverse” (Richardson, 2008, p. 86) to explore not only the links that have been shared in tweets, but topics that interest me. I’m a runner so I was very interested to follow the tweets of news agencies and participants in the 2500th anniversary of the Athens Marathon, October 31, 2010. Here’s a sample screenshot from twitter traffic of this event:
As well, through twitter I “follow” and am followed some of the teacher-librarians in my district as well as a friend who is a real “techie.” Knowing that I may find resources that would be interesting or useful to my colleagues is motivation to overcome my fear and tweet my findings (I’m working on that). Also, on a personal note, one morning I was reading tweets when one of the links I opened was to a wonderful song. I listened to it and it made my day. As I have gotten into the habit of bookmarking things I don’t want to lose, I saved it to Diigo and would love to share it. Here it is (I hope it makes your day too):
I will never be a tweeter of the personal details of my family or give play by play of how my day started so I guess that leaves only my professional use of Twitter. I’m on my own in my family with this one. As I said in my previous post, our daughter is happy on Facebook – it meets her needs to keep up with her friends – and no one else communicates through either one of these social networking tools.
Professional Use of Twitter
The sharing of a variety of media in a burst transmission such as twitter is where the utility of this tool is for me. I really enjoy reading the tweets of experts and exploring the links or attachments that they share. Talk about just in time learning! Twitterers share the latest conference experiences, new books, websites, links to bloggers of whatever else they feel is relevant and useful to their followers. If members of a school or district staff or PLC for that matter, want to communicate quickly and in small posts, Twitter is the way to do it. As Will Richardson says in Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms, “following other educators on Twitter creates a ‘network at my fingertips‘ phenomenon where people ask questions and get answers, links to great blog posts or resources, or share ideas for projects as they go through the day (2010, p.86). A list can be created easily from the your homepage in Twitter. Here is a screen shot of my home page showing that lists can be added on the right hand side of the paIn an article entitled, Facebook vs. Twitter: Battle of the Social Network Stars” (2010), Curt Tagmeier talks about these two social networking sites and should a library choose one over the other. He concludes that there is room for both as they meet different needs and are relevant to different types of users. Where Facebook requires people to approve requests from potential contacts, Twitter does not. Twitter also does not require the same level of personal information thus lending itself well to those who wish to use it on a more professional level – sharing ideas and links, initiating discussions and perhaps trouble shooting. As he says, “the two services communicate in different ways to different users.”
Libraries looking to use social networking to get their word out can set up Facebook pages as well as send tweets. Imagine receiving tweets about a new book you’ve been waiting for or upcoming author visits! You could share this information with your followers by retweeting this news. With apps for mobile phones, iPhone and Blackberry users can keep up with events from wherever they are!
In an article in Teacher Librarian by Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson discussing divergent and convergent thinking regarding the future of libraries, they say that, “a wide range of technology tools allow young people to explore different ways to acquire and communicate.” This translates into the idea that “a student many read a book, explore more about the topic online and discuss their thoughts and feelings on a social network” (2010, p. 77) Twitter could be one such social network where sharing takes place or a conversation is started. They give examples of books that already take readers from the page to the screen: Nubs, Skeleton Creek, and 39 Clues.
Here’s a cool idea – a twitter post as a story starter. In “Twitter Takes Off”, author Neil Gaiman gave his 1.2 million followers an opening line and chose 1000 of the best posts to create an audio book. I’m not sure how this would look in an elementary setting but I could see it working in a secondary school or higher where students could more easily have Twitter accounts.
To find like-minded professionals to follow, Will Richardson has done some of the legwork for us by recommending: “Directory of Learning Professionals on Twitter” or “Twitter for Teachers.” (2010, p. 88) There are also groups such as #tlchat, #edchat, and #ukedchat. The number sign in front of the name tells you that it is a group twitter address. For educators who are already strapped for time, these starting points are extremely helpful. I haven’t joined a chat yet but have explored fantastic web resources that have and can add to instruction in the library.
In another interesting article, Patrick Tucker writes about his conversation in, “Reinventing the Luddite: An Interview with Andrew Keen” that “today’s expert needs to learn how to ride the wave” (2010, p. 2). There is no sitting back while the this technology moves on at break neck speed taking our future citizenry with it. We can be of no use to our students who speak the language of Twitter and other social networking sites if we don’t know what they are, how they work, and how to teach others to use them effectively. There’s no time like the present to pull out the surf board, find a beach, swim out to the wave and then hold on!
Michelle R Davis. (2010, April). Social Networking Goes to School :Educators are integrating Facebook, Ning, and other sites into K-12 life despite concerns about privacy and behavior. Education Week’s Digital Directions, 3(3), 16, 18, 20, 22, 23. Retrieved November 21, 2010, from ProQuest Education Journals. (Document ID: 2067981621).
Gaiman, N.. (2010, February). Twitter Tale Takes Off. Scholastic Scope, 58(12), 3. Retrieved November 21, 2010, from ProQuest Education Journals. (Document ID: 1976139161).
Janes, J.. (2010, May). The Biggest Front Porch. American Libraries, 41(5), 26. Retrieved November 21, 2010, from ProQuest Education Journals. (Document ID: 2052121581).
Levitov, D.. (2010, March). The Need for Information Specialists. School Library Monthly, 26(7), 4. Retrieved November 21, 2010, from ProQuest Education Journals. (Document ID: 1981618491).
Ondrejka, C.. (2010). “Big Brother” versus “Little Brother”: Two Possible Media Futures. The Futurist, 44(2), 33-34. Retrieved November 21, 2010, from ProQuest Education Journals. (Document ID: 1955682991).
Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, wikis, podcasts and other powerful web tool for classrooms. Thousand Oaks, Ca.: Corwin.
Young, J.. (2010, March). TEACHING WITH TWITTER. The Education Digest, 75(7), 9-12. Retrieved November 21, 2010, from ProQuest Education Journals. (Document ID: 1980047021).