Getting Started with Twitter for your PLN (Updated 07/27/2013)

Note: This article is cross-posted at http://bit.ly/ecto. I wrote it as a quick introduction for work colleagues--which is why it has specific language for my district--and decided to share it here as well. After reading several other Twitter intros for educators, I'm feeling a bit of pressure to NOT post this article...but then that would go against my motto of making contributions, even when they aren't awesome! ;-)
Last Updated: 04/16/2013  - 5th question added


Getting Started with Twitter for your PLN

This article answers 5 questions about Twitter and helps you get started with building your Professional Learning Network (PLN). 


Image Source: http://goo.gl/vY3l4

BACKGROUND
As an educator, probably one of the tougher challenges you face isn’t just keeping up with the technology, but rather understanding how to leverage it in your teaching and learning situation. While in the past, we were limited by the occasions that served as “learning experiences,” in the 21st century, learning isn’t restricted to a special event bound by time and place. We don’t learn just when sitting in a meeting, or at a conference or from 8:00 to 3:30 PM when school is in session. Today, we have the potential to tap into a flow of conversation, a web-based learning ecology, that we can learn from 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Connected lifelong learners--as opposed to just being a "lifelong learner"--label this flow of conversation a professional learning network (PLN). In a PLN, you  can share what you're learning as it's happening with others. With the addition of a hashtag (such as #edchat or #ecbyotms) you let others who search on that hashtag in on what you are sharing, whether they follow you or not. This enables strangers committed to learning about similar interests to share ideas with each other.

One of the ways that connected lifelong learners build their PLN is by using a social media tool, such as Twitter. For educators, the question to ask isn't Twitter's stock, What are you doing now? but rather, What are you learning now? Read on and watch the videos to get started. 

Tip: Be sure to check back often since I'll be updating this entry over time!

1) HOW DO I GET STARTED WITH TWITTER?
Watch this short 15 minute video that walks you step by step on creating your Twitter account.



2) WHAT'S A TWITTER LIST AND WHY SHOULD I USE IT?
A Twitter list is a sub-set, or sample, of your total population of people you're following on Twitter. You can set up different lists for organizations you may be a part of. When you view those Twitter lists, you ONLY see what those people are tweeting rather than what everyone else you are following is sharing.

Watch this short video:


3) How can I take advantage of hashtags?
Hashtags are words embedded in a tweet that allow others to track what you are tweeting about. If I want to quickly find out what others are saying around the hashtag #edchat, I can do so by doing a Twitter search on the hashtag or taking advantage of one of the free services, such as Twubs.com.

For example, for #ecbyotms which is the EC Bring Your Own Technology @ Middle Schools hashtag, I can see what anyone has tweeted with that hashtag easily:


I can always find out what's happening by clicking on the http://twubs.com/ecbyotms link to see what others are sharing via #ecbyotms hashtag (or replace #ecbyotms with the hashtag of your choice!).

You can also embed a Twitter hashtag using code from Twubs.com...read this blog entry on how to accomplish this.


4) How do I better manage my Twitter account?
While you can use the Twitter.com web site, as well as one of the various mobile apps for Twitter, consider taking a look at Hootsuite.com, a service that is no-cost and enables you to control how you tweet. For example, with Twitter.com, your tweets are shared as they happen. With Hootsuite.com, though, you can schedule your Tweets. This is particularly helpful in a PLN situation when you want to queue your tweets in advance, whether that be for a simple reminder for a "hashtag chat" or something else. 

You can also have multiple Twitter accounts and manage them from one interface. Hootsuite.com makes it very easy. For example, you can see that the HootSuite.com screenshot below has various components...notice the tabs at the top of the window which reflect different accounts that Hootsuite can access. You can switch accounts by clicking on the tabs.



5) How do I track what I like via Twitter?
Track your Twitter Trail. As you are working your way through Twitter, there are several ways to keep track of what you are seeing. Here are a few ways to keep track of your twitter favorites:
  1. Favorite It - The quickest and easiest way is to tap on the star (on mobile apps, press and hold on a tweet you want to favorite, then press on the star. Other options include retweeting).
    Access Your Twitter Favorites by replacing "mguhlin" with your own username:
    http://twitter.com/mguhlin/favorites

    You can later embed your favorites in a web page, blog or wiki.
  2. Send it to Pocket (f.k.a. ReadItLater) - Use an intermediary tool like Pocket--works on mobile devices and your computer--to easily keep track of what's in Twitter. Pocket allows you to share the full text of an article, image, etc. to other sites like Evernote.
  3. ReTweet It - When you retweet, quote the tweet and add @myen to the tweet. This will allow you--if you have an Evernote account connected to your Twitter account--to save RTs to Evernote.
  4. Hashtag It - When you retweet something, add a hashtag to it. Drop the # symbol when searching on a hashtag.






Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure


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