Sometimes I worry about my twitter etiquette. I worry that I might have left a conversation at the wrong time. It’s not like an email or a phone call where you clearly sign off. Signing off in twitter is much more subtle! You sort of have to guess that a conversation has finished. Sometimes I come back to twitter to find that someone I was conversing with has left a tweet, when I thought the dialogue was over! Now I worry that I might look rude and ignorant for not getting back sooner, I feel the need to explain, but in 140 characters?
I think of these problems as learning your twitter etiquette. It takes a while. I remember my first tweets – they were clumsy, awkward, an attempt to make use of the micro blogging format for something worthwhile. I am pretty sure I have progressed in the way I tweet. I now converse with different people in different ways, building up a PLN (Personal Learning Network) along the way. Humour is a mainstay of my PLN weaving between threads of conversation and professional dialogue. The subtleties and nuances of messages written in 140 characters is somehow magically understood by those who engage. We are connected and recognise each other’s idiosyncrasies in an apparently effortless way. How does this happen? How do people reocognise when a comment is intended to start a conversation (if it isn’t a direct question or request for help and advice?) How do we pick up on lines of thought when they can only be expressed in such short bursts?
We are developing an understanding of twitter that enables us to read much more than we see into the limited number of characters. Twitter is evolving, it is adapting to the needs of its users and the necessary etiquette we need to get the most out of it, is developing too. I’m still not always sure I’ve left a conversation at the right time, but I’m clearer now than I was when I started out with twitter. My twitter etiquette is improving!
Reasons to Tweet
I use twitter for more and more reasons. From discovering it a couple of year ago and simply browsing the public timeline it has grown for me, to become a social media tool like no other.
What I tweet, when I tweet and why I tweet
I began to use twitter to find educationalists with whom I could share ideas and thoughts. This list of contacts grew to become my PLN (Personal Learning Network) and it now enables me to bounce questions and thoughts around the world to a hugely informative, enlightened and innovative bunch of educators. I use my PLN to find out about a whole range of issues related to learning, the use of technology in education, leadership and much more. I can find conversation, support, advice and professional dialogue from an ever expanding circle of experienced colleagues whatever time, night and day. People call twitter personalised CPD – available at your fingertips.
I also use twitter to share music (usually from spotify and blip fm) with friends. I also hear some great tracks through others doing the same. I share photos when I think something I’ve taken a picture of might interest others and I also share You Tube and Ted links quite often. I have found some great presenters, talks and interviews through helpful links from others on twitter and in turn, re tweeted these so that others might also benefit. That’s one of the great things about twitter, it is a fantastic way of sharing what’s worth sharing, of passing on what is worth passing on and joining conversations across the world.
Twitter is my radar
Throw out a question, a thought or an idea and see how long it takes for someone to respond with a link, a post or advice.
I love this aspect of twitter, it’s one of the greatest things about having your own PLN, it is there to support you in so many ways. I have thrown numerous questions out and never been disappointed with the responses I get. Many new ideas, approaches and tools are shared via twitter and I often refelct on how this microblogging has enabled me to move on professionally over a relatively short period of time. I can pick and chose from all that I read, that which is most relevant to me. I can then dig further into these key areas following leads, links and tweets, this enables me to furrow my own path in term of professional development and research.
As my PLN has grown so too has the power of twitter. Replies have grown in number and speed allowing me to read through a number of helpful responses to any question or concern quickly. I have begun recently to post my thoughts using the hashtag edthoughtfortheday – it is great to share a range of thoughts and ideas and get other people’s take on things, generating discussion with colleagues with different perspectives from around the world. Sometimes these short dialogues can prompt greater discussion on a number of areas of interest. Edchat is another great way to engage in education conversation, happening as it does every Tuesday evening. I often miss the beginning but it is easy to pick up the flow and join in the conversation – indeed it is encouraged!
I have reached a point where twitter is part of my education armoury – it is a constant flow of support, advice and encouragement, something I cherish and value as much as any formal CPD. It is at my fingertips, it is instant and it is relevant. I would truly be lost without it.
What price technology?
We are surrounded by more technology today than ever before – it is fantastic to have so many resources to support learning but it is important that the cart doesn’t come before the horse.
What of the teachers’ role?
What of pedagogy?
Can knowing about a whole host of web 2.0 resources take the place of excellent classroon practice?
It would be easy to deceive – with the knowledge of some slick apps to use in the classroom students could be engaged and motivated , but if understanding how some online tools can support students isn’t underpinned by quality first teaching does it simply become gimmicky and shallow? Something with a short shelf life that won’t be sustainable over time?
Where’s the learning?
New technologies need to be planned into lessons in a way that supports learning – not the other way round. Twitter helps me in this area, introducing me as it does to a range of new apps and tools that are proven in learning situations. When people have a great idea or they’ve just used a new tool in class, they share the good practice online which gives you a starting point. However web tools can become just like all those downloaded plans which some teachers still use – you can’t meet individual learners needs like this. Just because someone, somewhere has had success with certain tools doesn’t mean they will work in your situation. I like to play around with new tools that have been recommended through my PLN, some fit my learners needs and work well whereas others – although exciting and full of potential, aren’t going to enhance the learning experience in the way I want.
It is difficult not to feel like a kid in a toy shop with new web tools isn’t it? I have a list of great apps that people have told me about or that I’ve found for myself. I haven’t used them all by any means and I doubt I ever will. It would be very easy to arrive back in school on Monday and introduce a class to any number of these exciting web 2.0 tools but unless it supports what I am trying to achieve with the children there is no point, unless it help the children in achieving the objective of their learning it is not helpful. Lets ensure that technology in the classroom doesn’t replace first class pedagogy, that children’s learning experiences aren’t about style over content.
Twitter is not a competition
I love using twitter – it keeps me connected to the world. Every now and then I try to contribute, say something I hope is worth hearing. Sometimes people reply, retweet or DM which is great. I find out absolutely loads of useful information from a multitude of professional educational contacts around the world. As many of my twitter friends say – it’s cpd at its best – relevant, personal and cutting edge.
For me, twitter isn’t a competition to gain online friends. I’m not in a constant battle with anyone to reach, 100, 500, 1000 friends. I’ve no particular compulsion to popularity of this sort. Why would that matter to me? I follow people on twitter because they have interesting things to say, because they lead me to interesting blogs, because they recommend great resources and because they are passionate about education. I hope people follow me for those same reasons. I don’t follow people to find out what they had for breakfast, to find out what TV show they are watching or where they went for their holidays. Likewise I hope people don’t follow me for any of those reasons (although I do like tweeting my blips and will occasionally share the odd family titbit – and do enjoy the odd one from my friends!!)
No, I view twitter as a great line of informal, professional communication. If, along the way, I get to know my community a little better, then great. I see twitter as part of my professional armoury, a constant source of advice and information that helps me in my day to day practice. I hope my community will grow but I want it to grow organically, with purpose rather than as a race to my first 1000 followers. I am following some truly inspirational educators, with ideas and resources that they are happy to share with the world – that’s the community I want to be part of. The expression global village could have been written for such an innovation.
Twitter is not a competition - it is a collaboration. It is chance to become part of an international forum that can only have a positive impact on our educational practice today, tomorrow and always.