Are You On Twitter Yet?

Earlier this year, Kelly Jordan and I gave a few presentations on using Twitter for educators at various events.

If you’re not yet on Twitter, read this post to find out some reasons why you should be.

Confused about the Twitter language? Hopefully this brief explanation will help.

Need more tips? Check out my post of 10 Twitter Tips.

Twitter has certainly had an impact on my grade two students. Discover one example of how Twitter has impacted a student, here.

Finally, click here if you want to learn more about hashtags, which seem to be popping up more and more in a wide range of media.

twitterfollow

The Power of Twitter

In the last few weeks Kelly Jordan and I have been speaking to teachers and school leaders at the VITTA conference, ICON conference and our own school about the power of Twitter.

In our presentation we shared how we use Twitter every day as a form of ongoing, personalised and invaluable professional development. We stressed that Twitter not only makes us better teachers but impacts on our students.

We concluded our presentation with an example of the power of Twitter; sharing how it helped to connect one of my seven year old students to the world.

Jarrod is a student in my grade two class who earnt his own blog in June of this year.

When my students write posts on their blogs, I often promote their post with a tweet using the hashtag #comments4kids. You can read more about that wonderful hashtag here.

One Friday night in July, Jarrod wrote a new blog post asking his readers to vote on his poll to help choose his next blog post. Jarrod had only been blogging for a few weeks and had a very small readership.

Jarrod's blog poll

I sent out a tweet to my PLN and the #comments4kids followers encouraging them to support Jarrod.

Jarrod tweet

The response was amazing! My single tweet was retweeted 17 times.

Jarrod retweet Two

27 people took the time to leave a comment on Jarrod’s blog post.

42 conversations Jarrod

Jarrod’s Clustrmap showed 113 visits in 24 hours.

Jarrod Clustrmap 113 visits

The poll Jarrod put in his blog post showed 117 votes.

Jarrod poll

The next morning, Jarrod’s mum emailed me: “You should have seen Jarrod’s face when he saw his post this morning, he was so excited!”

Without Twitter, Jarrod would not have had an authentic audience for his work. He would not have received validation and encouragement from a wide range of teachers, education professionals and students. Jarrod would not have received the positive reinforcement that showed him his voice counts.

Jarrod is seven years old and is now connected to the world. Many of the people who visited Jarrod’s blog on this one night in July have returned to offer Jarrod more encouragement, support and conversation.

All this from one tweet…

How have you experienced the power of Twitter?

All About Twitter Hashtags

After writing my Teacher Challenge guest post on using Twitter to build your PLN, I was asked by a number of people about hashtags.

I know when I first started using Twitter, it took me a little while to get my head around what the # symbol meant. This is a handy feature of Twitter that is worth learning about.

What is a hashtag?

The # symbol + a word/acronym in a tweet is called a hashtag. It is used to categorise a tweet into a topic or keyword. Hashtags are not created by Twitter but by Twitter users.

hashtag

Why use hashtags?

There are so many tweets flying around at any one time that they can get lost in the crowd.

If you click on a hashtagged word in any tweet, you can find a list of other tweets with that hashtag. Whether or not you’re friends with someone, you can find their hashtagged tweet (as long as their profile is public). If you add a hashtag to a tweet, your tweet can potentially reach a larger audience.

Hashtags can help you connect with people who have similar interests. For example, you might be doing the Daily 5 literacy program in your classroom but you might not know any other people on Twitter who are also using that program. You could go to the Twitter website and put #daily5 into the search box to find a list of tweets from people tweeting about this subject.

daily5 hashtag

If you use a desktop application like TweetDeck, you can add a column with all the tweets on #daily5 so you don’t miss anything.

In TweetDeck just click on the + sign at the top of your screen and then put #daily5 (or your favourite hashtag) into the search box. Alternatively, you can click on a hashtag in any tweet in TweetDeck and a column with all the tweets with that hashtag will be added.

Hashtag etiquette

Most Twitter guides suggest one, two or three hashtags is a good amount to use. Any more than three hashtags can take away from the content of your tweet.

Where do you put hashtags?

Hashtags can replace a word in a tweet or be tacked on to the end of a tweet. Sometimes people put a hashtag at the start of their tweet to preface their message with the subject.

where to put the hashtag

Who makes up hashtags?

Hashtags are community driven. You can create any hashtag you like as long as members of your community or professional learning network (PLN) know about it and agree to use that hashtag.

To avoid using a hashtag that is already being used, it is advisable to search for that hashtag first. Things can get confusing if your hashtag is being used by another group! http://hashtags.org/ is a useful website to find out about hashtags being used.

The lighter side of hashtags

More and more people seem to use one-off random hashtags to add a humourous element to their tweet. You definitely don’t want to overdo this but they can add a little fun to your interactions with others.

hashtag humour

Conference backchannelling

Most conferences these days have a hashtag. This will generally be advertised prior to the event and allows people to connect their tweets about the conference before, during and after the event.

A hashtag can be used for a conference backchannel. Backchannelling allows conference participants to engage in an online discussion about what they are seeing, hearing and learning. It allows passive audience members to become active. Sometimes, people who can’t make a conference will also get involved in a backchannel by following the hashtag.

If you’re on Twitter you might have seen many tweets flying around with the #ISTE11 hashtag recently. This hashtag allowed participants at the ISTE conference in Philadelphia to connect while also giving a running commentary to non-participants.

hashtag iste

Tweet chats

Usually, conversations on Twitter are interspersed with gaps of time while people come online and offline. Some people plan times when everyone is online to engage in a live chat about a certain topic. These are often called “tweet chats” and are defined with a hashtag.

One of the most well known tweet chats in the ed tech world is #edchat. Each week there is a different topic and up to 2000 people from around the world get together and have a focussed conversation.

You can use a client like TweetChat to converse in real time or you can simply add a column with the hashtag search to TweetDeck or whatever Twitter application you prefer.

Anyone can organise their own live tweet chat. Just come up with a hashtag, a time and a topic, and get your PLN on board!

Archiving conversations

If you want to keep an archive of hashtagged conversations from a conference or tweet chats, there are some websites that make it easy to do this. Try Keepstream or Twapper Keeper.

Trending topics

You may be aware that Twitter is often the first place to break news as it happens. Twitter has an algorithm to work out which topics or hashtags are the hottest topics or trends right now.

If you go to the Twitter homepage, you can see a list of trending topics or trends. There might be hashtags there that you want to follow! These aren’t all hashtags but if you click on any of the trends, it will take you to search results of tweets about the topic.

These trends can change by the minute.

hashtag trends

Some education hashtags to try

Now you know all about hashtags, why not try adding some to your tweets?

#vicpln – for teachers in Victoria, Australia

#Ultranet – discussion about the online portal for teachers in Victoria, Australia

#edtech – anyone interested in educational technology

#comments4kids – a way for students and teachers to find blogs to comment on and to get their own posts commented on (find more here).

#elearning – anyone interested in elearning

#elemchat – this is a live chat for elementary (primary) teachers but is also used for general discussions (find out more here).

#RSCON3 – this is the hashtag for the upcoming online PD that I discussed in this post.

Find more popular education hashtags here.

What hashtags do you use?

Do you have any other tips about using hashtags?

Guest Post about Twitter on PLN Challenge

As I have blogged about before, Edublogs supports a Student Blogging Challenge and Teacher Blogging Challenge which are two excellent forms of free professional development.

The current Teacher Blogging Challenge is called “30 Days to a Whole New PLN”.

There will be two or three posts each week about setting up, enhancing, and participating in your very own personal learning network.

This week, I was invited to write a guest post on using Twitter to build your PLN.

Click here to find the post

In this post I answer

  • What is Twitter
  • Why you should be interested in Twitter
  • What you will get out of being on Twitter
  • How to get started with Twitter to build your PLN

Guest post Twitter PLN

Head over to the Teacher Challenge site and check it out!

Top 10 Twitter Tips!

Without a doubt, Twitter is my number one form of professional development and I am always recommending it to other educators.

I first joined Twitter in early 2009 although I didn’t start using it daily until early 2010.

I find Twitter to be a one stop shop to meet like-minded educators. It is a place where I can find advice, give advice, find great links, share my work and engage in general musings about education.

For me, Twitter has never been a place where I tell people what I am eating for breakfast or catch up on celebrity goss. While I use Facebook to keep up with friends, Twitter is purely a professional medium for me.

If you’re new to Twitter, this is a terrific video that explains how Twitter can be used as a professional development tool for teachers

(I came across this via Michael Graffin @mgraffin – thanks!).

As a regular Twitter user I thought I would offer some advice to new Tweeters.

1. Give it a chance! So many people who join Twitter have trouble getting their head around it or forming connections with others. I was using Twitter for months before I felt like I was a real part of the Twitter community and knew what I was doing. Make yourself check in to Twitter daily for a month before you make any decisions about whether it is for you.

2. Get a desktop application. The Twitter website is not overly user-friendly and most Tweeters use a desktop application to access and organise their tweets. I recommend TweetDeck. It is free, straightforward and available for Mac, PC, iPad, iPhone, Android etc. With TweetDeck, you can easily keep track of conversations, make lists and incorporate your other social networking sites (eg. Facebook).

3. Give and take. I have seen some people use Twitter simply to let others know about their new blog posts. While this is one great use of Twitter, why not strike up a conversation with someone or offer someone some advice? Like everything in life, you will find Twitter to be a more worthwhile and enjoyable experience if you give and take.

4. Tweet in less than 140 characters. Make your important tweets short enough so others can retweet them without having to shorten the tweet. If people have to go to too much effort to shorten your tweet (eg. after RT @username is added), they may decide not to retweet it.

5. Know where to put @username. I have seen so many people lately “retweet” a message by starting with @username. Don’t forget, with most Twitter applications, people will only see others’ replies if they are following both the sender and recipient of the update. Eg. you might think Mary has a great blog so you tweet “@mary has a great blog about teaching www.blog.com, check it out!” Only people following you and Mary will see the tweet. This really limits your audience.

6. To follow or not to follow. Some people only want to follow a certain number of people (eg. 100) so they can keep track of their tweets. If people follow me or retweet me and they are “quality Tweeters” (eg. teachers or involved in education), I will follow them back. I prefer not to follow businesses or commercial tweeters unless I’m particularly interested in them. Some people will disagree but I find this “following back” method polite. Over time, this can mean you could have 1000+ people you are following. Obviously that would be too many to keep track of but I create a list in Tweetdeck of people I’m particularly interested in. Currently there are about 150 people on this list. That may seem like a lot but some people don’t tweet all that often and I don’t feel compelled to see everyone’s tweets.

7. Let others know who you are! I do not follow back anyone who doesn’t have a bio. There are so many “spam” Tweeters out there, that I wouldn’t want to risk it! It takes minutes to make a bio that tells possible followers who you are. I much prefer people have a real photo of themself, rather than a cartoon avatar or other picture. People will feel much more of a connection with you if they can see who you are. Finally, when signing up for Twitter, it is best to use your real name (or close to) if possible. Being online and part of a PLN isn’t about hiding or pretending to be someone else. I don’t believe in having an online you and and offline you. Let us know who you are. Your digital footprint is valuable!

8. Use hashtags #. Hashtags mark key words or topics in tweets and help to categorise tweets. It is a way to get your tweet out to people who may not necessarily be following you. Hashtags can appear anywhere in the tweet. Clicking on a hashtagged word in any message shows you all other tweets in that category. Some hashtags you might like include #edtech #edchat #elemchat #comments4kids #vicpln. If you go to a conference you will generally find they have a hashtag so you can tweet before, during and after the event and connect with fellow delegates. Tip: don’t over hashtag your tweet – 3 is enough!

Here is a post I wrote all about Twitter hashtags if you want more information.

9. Drop in and drop out. One of the great things about Twitter is you don’t have to keep up with everything. I love Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach’s analogy of Twitter being like a river. The river keeps flowing but sometimes you might just walk past and have a quick look, sometimes you might hang around a dip your toes in, other times you might spend hours swimming around. You can use Twitter as your time and inclination permits!

10. Ask for advice. If you’re not sure how things work on Twitter just ask. I am @kathleen_morris and I’m always happy to help! Don’t know who to follow? Tweet me and I will give you some suggestions!

twitterfollow

Need more convincing on the power of Twitter? Chris Betcher has written a fantastic post. Find it here.

What are your thoughts on Twitter?

Share your Twitter tips!

Why Schools are Spooked by Social Media

I was pleased I was listening to ABC Radio Melbourne this morning when I heard the next segment was going to be about social media in schools.

While I braced myself for a flood of ill informed callers harping on the negatives of Facebook and the like I was pleasantly surprised at the outcome.

Denis Masseni, a Monash university lecturer and a director of Sponsor-Ed was the guest on the topic. Denis has written a report called “Why Schools are spooked by social media”, which presents findings from a survey of 140 principals on the subject of social media.

Throughout the radio segment, Denis addressed many issues related to social media in schools and callers also provided interesting insights. The most compelling statement for me was when a caller said something like “hospitals and banks can no longer operate without computers but classrooms can.” This is so sad but true and really says it all to me about the change that is needed in schools.

I enjoyed the conversation that ensued and subsequently sought out Denis’s report.

This 34 page paper is well worth reading. It is a powerful document that illustrates how the commercial sector uses social media in many ways which could be imitated by schools. It also addresses the “blockers” that stop schools from utilising social media.


If you are having trouble accessing the embedded report, visit this link to download a copy.

Denis defines the term social media as accessing, sharing, commenting and collaborating online, and for the sake of the paper, as blogging, Twitter and email newsletters.

In summary, the premise of the report is “With over 9 million people in Australia accessing social media (46% of the population), including 43% of small businesses and over 70% of not for profits, why are schools under-represented in their use of this new communications device in connecting with their parent community?”

The following statement from the report rang very true with me, (evident by the fact that a large amount of parents at my recent parent-teacher interviews commented how much they enjoy our class blog and regular class e-newsletters).

“Simply delivering information in more contemporary mechanisms and allowing for two-way communications will lift parental involvement and promote engagement. Parents don’t connect in the school yard in the numbers they once did – the pace and pressure of modern life has seen to that”

Denis sums up the future of social media with this statement:

“The way forward is to find schools that are enthusiastic about extending social media to parents and support their activities technologically, strategically, tactically and philosophically. These schools will provide the benchmarking for those waiting for someone to go first. We need the early adopters.”

What do you think about Denis Masseni’s report?

Why are schools spooked by social media?

Twitter from a Newbie’s Perspective!

According to the website, http://www.whendidyoujointwitter.com I joined Twitter on 9 March 2009. It wasn’t until early 2010, however that I started really using Twitter. I had tried many times previously to get into this social networking phenomenon but, like all things technological, I needed to see how Twitter could enrich my life in order to commit to really using it.

I started thinking more and more that Twitter might be of benefit to me when it became apparent that most of the writers of my favourite “ed tech” blogs are Twitter enthusiasts … I realised there must be something in it!

Sue Waters gave me the great advice that when you start using Twitter you should give it a go (ie try to do something on it each day) for a month. After that time you can make an informed decision about whether or not Twitter is for you. Well, I did this and decided that Twitter is in fact something that can enhance my professional knowledge, skills and connections.

I use Twitter solely to following teachers and people involved in technology and education (as well as a few news outlets). For me, it is more of a professional outlet, whereas I use Facebook to keep up to date with friends.

I use the TweetDeck desktop client to run Twitter and would recommend it. Generally, I have TweetDeck running all the time but I just check in when I have a chance. The beauty of Twitter is that you don’t have to keep on top of everything. Every time you check it you are sure to find out something new from one of your friends.

I use Twitter to give and to take. I like to share websites, videos, advice, articles, games etc with my followers and like to take the same in return. I also love how helpful Twitter can be. Numerous times I have put a call out on Twitter when I wanted advice on a tool or if I have a question about technology. I am always sure to find an answer and strengthen my connections with my PLN (personal learning network) along the way.

Recently, I have also discovered how worthwhile Twitter can be when looking for news. Tweets seem to reach the Internet  so much faster than traditional online news sources. An example of this was when my Internet wasn’t working the other day. I went to Twitter Search, typed in the name of my ISP (Internet Service Provider) and lo and behold, there were already many tweets from people reporting that their connections with this ISP were also down (in case you’re confused, I have two ISPs which is why I was able to access the net when the net was down!).

In my opinion, regular interactions with Twitter is one of the best professional development activities a teacher could embark on.

Click on the image below to follow me!

twitterfollow

If you are new to Twitter, Sue Waters has an excellent wiki that has lots of information about getting started with Twitter http://suewaters.wikispaces.com/twitter

Do you use Twitter? How has it changed your life?

Not on Twitter? What do you think is holding you back?