Develop your PLN through Twitter

This morning I’ll be doing something I haven’t done before: presenting a topic to many of my peers. Good thing I have a lot of faith in and love for that topic.

I don’t claim to be an expert in Twitter, but what I do know has helped me gather more knowledge about teaching, learning and the things I like to learn about. Not only that, Twitter has widened my circle of friends, of contacts, of people I can consult, from teachers just like me to experts in several fields about any aspect of teaching or technology. This is what we call a PLN, or Personal Learning Network, and everyone should have one.

In this post, which I’ll try to keep brief – but I’ll faiI – I’ll provide links to the resources I used and more.

Because there is SO much sharing on Twitter, the first thing I did when I agreed to present to you all, was to look for others’ blog posts about getting teachers on Twitter. Yes, there are quite a few conversations out there about this specific topic. The teachers on Twitter are so enthusiastic they want to share the love, but strangely enough, they run up against peers who are not interested for one reason or another. The outline for my presentation was based on two posts that I found most helpful. @MrHooker writes a blog called HookED on Innovation on which he posted The 21-day #TwitterGuide4Beginners.

Another, similar guide you might be interested in is Daniel Edwards’s @syded06 10 Stages of Twitter.

It’s a little more tongue-in-cheek, but a fun read and true nonetheless. Read his blog on learning and digital strategies at http://dedwards.me/

One of THE MOST helpful resources out there and someone every educator should follow is Jerry Blumengarten @cybraryman1. He has a massive collection of pages on every conceivable topic, not the least of which is a page on hashtags for Twitter chats. And I’ve seen Jerry pop up in a number of these chats. He’s a busy and involved guy, sharing one page and another full of additional helpful resources.

The Saturday morning #satchat is where I first discovered Twitter chats. Founded by Brad Currie and Scott Rocco in April 2012 it’s probably the largest, fastest chat on Twitter – sometimes hard to keep up with. But if you catch a portion of it, you’ve scooped some value. It starts at 7:30 a.m. ET. That’s pretty early for us, folks, but if you’re awake at 6:30, get a cup of coffee and plug in the hashtag. Browse the archives of past topics. If you sleep in, or if one hour wasn’t enough, there is a west coast version run by Shelley Burgess and other moderators. That 7:30 a.m. version hits us at 9:30. It’s the same topic, but a new set of people chiming in.

There are more regular chats than you would believe. On Mondays English #engchat and social studies #sschat teachers share the same time slot, 8-9 p.m. CT and sometimes get together and share a topic. At 9 p.m. #edtechchat and #tlap (fans of Dave Burgess’s Teach Like a Pirate) share time. Teach Like a Pirate is an imaginative, creative and passion-driven method of engaging students. Burgess is a passion-driven social studies teacher who brings moments of history to life for his high school students. The book is a quick read (Kindle edition is under $10, but you can’t dog-ear the pages). The #tlap chat rocks with ideas to use in the classroom. Likewise #edtechchat is full of tons of technology ideas. Tuesday has science #scichat and high school math #hsmath chats, but they’re 10 and 10:30 p.m. respectively. There are grade level chats and specialization chats. There are state education chats. The #oklaedchat is Sundays at 8 p.m. A more complete list is on a Google doc here.

Another way to use hashtags is backchanneling or livetweeting. During PD, meetings or live events, tweet out interesting portions, quotes, or links with a hashtag established for the event to consult later or share with those who could not be there. Search for topics you are interested in by hashtags. During the aftermath of the Boston marathon, there were numerous hashtags that brought up news: #Boston, #marathon, #bombing.

One of the most important things you can do with your new Twitter account is to find like-minded people to follow. Once you find a couple, like those mentioned above, or even myself @snidesky, go through the folks they follow and follow the ones that interest you. If you download the app on your phone, Twitter will occasionally send you notifications to the tune of “if you like @–, you might like @–.” That’s another way to grow your follow list. As you lurk or even participate in chats, follow those who seem interesting. When you begin commenting in those chats and have others converse back with you, they generally begin following you. Follow back. In fact, observe rules of etiquette by thanking people for following you and following back. Thank those who retweet anything you tweet.

It’s interesting to note that the kids are all about how many followers they have. In fact, most seem to have more followers than followees. I’m the opposite. I am following about double the number of people who are following me. I’m okay with that. I’m a learner and want as many resources as I can manage.

If you click on links in your Twitter feed that look interesting, you’ll find yourself landing on certain bloggers’ pages more and more often. That’s because they are writing about what you are interested in. Subscribe to their blogs. Tweet out their posts to share. Learn to shorten the links with an app like Bit.ly so that it doesn’t take up so much room in your tweet. They’ll thank you for it – if you mention them by handle. And you may gain another follower.

You may begin to think you could start a blog. Do it. You will have seen enough examples. Sites like WordPress, Google’s Blogger and Weebly are just a few of your options. Learn to reference (and link) others’ ideas into your own to create something original and then tweet it out. Give a shoutout to those you referenced. They’ll thank you for that, too. And they’ll retweet your post, and you’ll grow your audience even more.

We all have knowledge to share. Let Twitter help you be all you can be.

Here is a look at the slide presentation I will use today.

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About teachjournalism
I am a high school teacher of journalism, technology and reading. I advise the school's newspaper and yearbook, both student-led publications. Documenting and sharing my experiences is a way of reflecting to improve my own work and and inviting commentary so that we might all benefit. I believe, as I tell my students each year, that we all learn from each other.

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