Yesterday a few colleagues and I led our building’s first “tech fair”. Our first tech subject included “PLN”s or rather, Personal Learning Networks. I live off of Personal Learning Networks – simply because I am the only art teacher in my building and get little time to communicate with the other art teachers in my district. Therefor I take to the “cloud” and find art teachers across the state, region, country and ultimately the world – to share ideas with and foster our passion for education.
One excellent tool I use is Twitter. In college, I hated Twitter. The idea of it ‘weirded’ me out and I could not even begin to understand why anyone would want to participate but when I became a teacher, I set those feelings aside and decided that I would at least give it a try. I learned that there are a few stages to becoming “Twitterific”.
First stage, Refusal. You refuse to be on Twitter, subject yourself to Twitter and pledge never to partake in Twitter.
Second stage, Succumbing. After enough prodding or taking notice of the amount of people doing the “tweet” thing; you succumb and decide that you will get an account but you will not participate willingly. You set up your handle; you add some details but that’s it. Done-zo!
Third stage, Lurking. You get bored one day…or need a break from your every day life and you decide to log on; after retrieving your password and confirming your identity, you mess around with some settings and begin to “follow” people. They begin to follow you back but you don’t converse…you simply browse other peoples’ tweets. Occasionally you might favorite a good resource but you never, not ever retweet or respond.
Fourth stage, The Beginner. You begin to tweet because well, it’s 14o characters so how hard can it really be? Your favorites turn into a few retweets but overall, you stay on the sidelines – you still aren’t sure what you’re doing.
Fifth stage, Advancement. You begin to retweet more often and hold semi-decent conversations with people you may not know. You find yourself quoting other tweets and networking with people you don’t know but find interesting. You’ve fully committed to Twitter and you even smile thinking about it as a resource.
Sixth stage, OCD. You start to organize your twitter with lists; you use Instagram and TwitterPic to include media in your posts and you’re even giving out your handle at conferences, through email, and blogging so that more people can network. You’re hooked. You connect with companies, colleagues, and world leaders to see what they’re up to and your students get psyched knowing you’re going digital.
Seventh stage, Twitterific. You begin advocating the use and importance of PLNs such as Twitter – heck you might even lead a session during your school’s mini tech fair.
Now breathe. I know I may have lost you at at the second, maybe if I’m lucky third stage. I get it – technology is overwhelming but I have some great tips that helped me become successful with my PLNs – and I even have some PDFs you can reference later.
First off, knowing what is what when you log onto Twitter is more or less essential to really get the most out of your PLN. Click the image beside this for an enlarged image or click here for the PDF titled “What is What on Twitter” to get a low down on everything going on when you log into Twitter. For instance, find out that retweet means you are simply reposting another person’s tweet but giving credit to them where it is due. Figure out why people you never followed show up on your newsfeed and understand what “trending” means. Your home screen is your go to – if you ever get lost on Twitter, click your “home” button and be brought back to the screen you see here. Find out who’s following you, who favorited your tweets and who else Twitter thinks you might like. It’s safe to say, Twitter is smart. They are typically good at figuring out your interests by paying attention to what you say and what you are following therefore check out what they suggest – you never know what you might find!
The basics? The “@” symbol connects you; put it in your tweets and begin typing someone’s handle or name and it will automatically prompt you to connect with those people. It’s like an email address only much simpler and straight forward. A reply allows you to respond to a tweet and begin a connection with another user. A retweet reposts something someone else has tweeted but gives them credit where credit is due. Your followers will see that you retweeted it but know who it originally came from. A favorite is a Twitter bookmark; allowing you to reference it later but not share your interest with your followers. And finally, a hashtag, is a “#” symbol inserted before a word or phrase (nospaces) that summarizes your thoughts or pertains to your ideas. If you use these, it will become a link and anyone else in the world thinking the same thing who wants to “hashtag” it, will be connected your ideas. These hashtags are what gets topics trending – like current events.
Going in a littler deeper…click the image “Participating in Twitter” to get a better of idea how much you can push the limits of Twitter. Amp up your page with pictures, headers, and hashtags. Make lists to organize your different followings. Collapse and expand conversations with people; and if you aren’t so public, simply learn how to privately converse with idividuals using direct messaging. Create an album of photos and once again find suggestions from Twitter about who you might be interested in. Click here for the PDF.
Information overload? Probably. Can I blame you? No, because I was there once upon a time but there are five simple things you can keep in mind when using Twitter and other PLNs that will allow you to succeed.
1. Interact – Connect with people. Follow your following’s following. Follow and unfollow; don’t worry about whose following you.
2. Keep It Short – Think quick and don’t be long winded – that’s what blogs are for. Use your blog to write out ideas and link the post on Twitter. Let go of your grammer and all that jazz – it’s meant to be digital!
3. Retweet – Retweet anything you find valuable; you can always undo your retweets. Others will retweet your retweet – it becomes a network!
4. List – Keep organized with lists; filter out what you’re not interested in at the moment with these lists. If you are too lazy to make lists, follow other peoples’ lists!
5. Explore – Don’t be afraid to click around and remember if you hit the “home” button you’ll always find your way back to the beginning.
Good luck and happy networking!