Twitter – share ideas and knowledge
Or How to Have a Positive Twitter Experience
So, what is Twitter?
‘Twitter is not chat’
‘Twitter is the largest staffroom in the world’
www.Twitter.com is a social network service – currently free to join.
‘What are you doing?’ is the question when you log in to your Twitter account and whilst some ‘tweeters’ may post;
‘Watching TV’ or ‘Having a beer with friends’
There can be something almost ‘arty’ about these notes on the mundanity of our modern existence and there are some celebrities on Twitter who offer interesting insights into their day to day lives. Those who follow Stephen Fry gain a personal and almost intimate sense of his perspective and views on events in the world as they happen. For many of us, this is not the reason we use Twitter and prefer to use Twitter to share information, ideas and experiences of direct relevance to our work.
The following tweet exemplifies the kind of information that appears in the @northerngrid timeline
The tweet explained
- STLA is followed by @northerngrid.
- STLA is following @simfin
- @simfin has shared his Twitter document with all his followers including STLA
- STLA has shared this information with all his followers, including @northerngrid.
- @northerngrid can take a view on whether the document useful and if so, can choose to retweet the information to all their followers.
The restriction of 140 characters mean that users need to be brief and clear in their tweets and so tend to reference websites, blogs etc. where more information, extended conversations and exchanges can take place.
Twitter is a useful place to:
- Make new contacts/professional relationships
- Receive first hand recommendations of tools and resources to use in teaching and learning
- Provide meaningful support for ‘global’ colleagues who you may or may not not have met in person
Surely posting web links will use almost all of the characters available won’t it?
Most people use Redirect Urls to shorten web links eg http://bit.ly
You need to follow and have followers.
It may seem a little self indulgent to be concerned about followers – and there are some people who see this as a measure of their worth and strive for thousands of followers. The truth is, it’s relatively easy to use 3rd party Twitter applications to automate follows and followers and within a short period of time you can appear to be very busy and important – without tweeting a thing.
In terms of your PLN (personal learning network), followers are important as they will be sharing resources with you and sharing your tweets with their followers too. With a little effort it’s possible to identify people who will be genuinely useful to you, and by retweeting their tweets, you in turn will be useful to your followers and members of your PLN.
(You don’t have to follow everyone who follows you. Many will be autofollows and will have little or no idea of your interests or the contents of your tweets. After a while you’ll be able to form a view of who to follow – usually those who have a genuine interest in education are a fairly safe bet)
Who to follow
The following are focused around education, online learning and technology to support learners. (if you wish to use this document with your own colleagues then you are welcome to insert your own examples here)
@northerngrid (Northern Grid)
@stla (South Tyneside LA)
@simfin (Simon Finch)
(You can stop following anyone easily by selecting ‘Remove’ and this is very unlikely to cause any offence to the person or organisation you were following)
As you start to follow people you feel will be useful you can check who they’re following and their followers and select more people to follow based on a reasonable assumption that they’re probably interested in the same things as you. There is an element of trial and error but as it is easy to unfollow people who are ‘off topic’ you shouldn’t be put off if you follow the ‘wrong’ people.
I hate posting pictures of myself – do I have to?
You should choose an appropriate avatar – anything is better than the default Twitter image:
And it’s one of 3 pieces of information (avatar, bio and follow/follower/tweet count) that people will look at when deciding whether to follow you or not.
Write a meaningful Bio so people get a sense of your interests (and value!)
‘Educator, Science teacher, ICT Consultant, Author and Web2.0 / Interactive Whiteboard Trainer. Also general tech geek ;)’ – tells us a lot more than ‘love cooking, cycling and looking for answers’
It also helps if you can include a link to your blog or website. If you don’t have your own then providing the url of your school website is also a good way of helping others learn a little more about you
I link therefore I am
- If you find something on the web that you think others may find useful then share the link eg ‘Watching http://www.ted.com/ Would love to hear what your fave TED vids are!’
- You can make a tweet appear in someone’s timeline by using the @ symbol as a prefix to their name eg ‘@stla have you seen this?’
And you could ofcourse direct your tweet at one or more people simply by listing them in your tweet – each with an @ symbol before their names.
- You may see a tweet in your timeline that you think others may want to know about and you can retweet the tweet eg ‘RT @stla: http://bit.ly/5V0hu Really fun tool 4 kids’
(some people prefer to use ‘via’ rather than RT – both work in the same way and it is polite to attribute tweets to the person who shared them with you). Retweeting is a good way to make yourself useful to others and good way to make yourself known even if you feel you have nothing to tweet of your own.
- You can also send a direct message (D) to someone and this will only be seen by that person. (you can only do this if that person is following you) eg ‘d appleinsider thanks for the feedback’
This all seems a bit labour intensive and Twitter.com seems to have few features to do these things.
True – and that’s why most people use 3rd party Twitter apps to manage their Twitter accounts.
The following link contains a list of the 20 most popular Twitter apps (August 09)
You can see which app people are using to tweet in their tweets eg TweetDeck
The key benefits of using an app on your desktop include managing multiple accounts (your personal account and that of your school for example), organising followers into groups, saving searches so you can monitor tweets around a theme or conference and upload images and shortened links with greater ease.
Why do some people use # in their tweets?
If you use # with a word it can become a common agreed convention for a specific topic. For example we used #ngconf09 for the Northern Grid conference. This means that searching for conversations and information about the conference can be searched for more efficiently. Without the # naming convention some people may have used other words eg northerngrid, nthgrid, ngconference etc and these would not then appear in a single search and their comments would be missed by some people. At the time of writing there has been a lot of discussion and activity on Twitter around the importance of the NHS and people have used #welovetheNHS as a common naming convention.
Perhaps one of the reasons why Twitter has become so popular as a vehicle for sharing ideas and providing mutual support is the huge range of practical and sometimes amusing 3rd party apps available for people to use.