You’ve read the ResourceLink blog’s previous posts on developing a Professional Learning Network using Social Media. You’ve seen the term PLN bandied around at conferences and online, and you’ve heard TV shows and radio stations asking you to add your comments via Twitter. You keep meaning to set up a Twitter account and see what the fuss is about, but it just seems far too overwhelming…
Here is your answer! A step by step, no-fuss explanation of Twitter, how to set up an account and how to use it professionally to access the wealth of resources, information and connections that are literally just one click away once you build your network.
If you’d like to learn more about the bigger picture of Professional Learning Networks, please feel free to view this presentation,
and to download the accompanying booklet. This should motivate and excite you enough to want to dive into the Twitterverse – and here’s how to do it!
Step One: Sign Up
As with all social media, to use Twitter, you need an account. While you can use a pseudonym, if you are planning on using Twitter as a Professional Learning Network, it makes sense to use your own name. Often you will meet up with fellow ‘Tweeps’ at conferences and other professional learning events, and if you use your own name it is much easier to make these real life connections. You can read more about the importance of being yourself on Twitter here.
Step 2: Acquaint yourself with the Twitter interface:
Roll over the image and wherever you see a small black Twitter bird, you will find information about the Twitter interface.
Step 3: Spend some time ‘lurking’
There is no reason for you to start ‘tweeting’ immediately. Of course, your experience using Twitter will be richer once you start interacting and making connections, but there is no hurry! Spend some time searching various hashtags, such as #edtech, #edchat or #tlchat. A great list of hash tags is available here (it is open to edit, so add any you discover and make the resource richer!).
Step 4 – Build your network
Search for a few well known Tweeps who share generously in your field of interest – for example, @gcouros if you are interested in contemporary learning, or @gwynethjones if you are a teacher librarian. Spend time building a small network of useful, quality tweeters who will become the backbone of your Professional Learning Network. Choose those who you find to be posting tweets that really interest you, and look who they follow – chances are, they will also have similar interests, and be worth following also. I have compiled a list of Tweeps you may like to begin with –Teacher Tweeps to Follow – but it is by no means exhaustive, and is reflective also of my own interests. Use it as a starting point!
Step 5 – Begin Tweeting
Once you feel comfortable with the interface, and you have a small network, it is good to start ‘giving back’. The community is only as rich as it is thanks to the generosity of everyone who shares. Don’t think ‘what I have to say isn’t worth sharing’ – there’s a great video that answers that doubt here;
The things you can share are many and varied. Try to keep it 90% professional – an occasional joke or private thought just shows you are human, and sheds light on your personality, but no one needs to know what you had for breakfast every day! Share useful links you’ve just discovered, your experiences with a new resource, quotes by experts, recent insights you’ve made while teaching…answer questions posed by others and ask your own – the more you interact, the more rewarding your experience will be. These guidelines are excellent if you are unsure.
Step 6 – Use a tool to help stay afloat
After you have been using Twitter for a while, you may find that using a tool such as Tweetdeck or Hootsuite helps you manage your Tweetstreams more effectively. These tools essentially ‘plug in’ to Twitter, and allow you to see multiple conversations or lists at the same time. You can even feed in other social media accounts such as Facebook, and view all posts from the same window. Tweetdeck and similar really come into their own when you are following a particular chat, for example if a conference is on that you want to attend ‘virtually’. You can follow the regular tweets in one column, and the conference hash tag in another – see below for an example.
Step 7 – Enjoy building your network and learning new things each day!
More information about Twitter, including presentations and explanations can be found on this Google Doc created by George Couros. Also check out this excellent presentation by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano.
Another great tool is this useful poster for educational hashtags:
Compiled By: OnlineCollegeCourses.com