When Belgarion first learns the language of birds, he is amazed at how simple their twitters are…all about food and mating. When I first heard about Twitter, I was sure that pretty much summed it up. From what I gathered in the media, people were tweeting their lives: I’m getting up now, now I’m going to the bathroom, thinking about breakfast….way too much information for me! Then I began hearing about Twitter as a tool for a Personal Learning Network. Once again I pooh-poohed the idea. Who could post something interesting in only 140 characters? Fortunately, I was required to sign up for Twitter for my EDEL course…and after some hesitation, I am enjoying it.
Personal learning about the tool
Twitter is a social learning network of microbloggers whose posts (tweets) are only allowed to contain 140 characters. Often these posts contain links to other websites, videos or images. Starting an account is free and easy to do, as is posting your tweets. Then you need to find people to follow. I began by following the suggested list in our course outline, branched out to follow bloggers I read regularly, then began following some I found tweeting with the hashtags I was interested in. No, not hashbrowns, but hashtags. Hashtags are 'twitter tags', words or short phrases created by an interest group on Twitter. These words are prefixed with a #, such as #edtech or #edchat. Hashtags are similar to tagging in that they allow certain types of posts to be grouped together (Wikipedia, n.d.). For example, posts tagged #edtech will usually have information related to ways to use technology in education.
You can use the Twitter site to view and manage this information, however, there are other platforms available. Tweetdeck is a free download that allows you to tweet and create columns of; hashtags you follow, direct messages, your tweets, and tweets that mention you….although I don’t really have to worry about those . You are able to have multiple accounts, so you can add in your Facebook account or create a personal and a professional profile, if you wish. When Tweetdeck is open, incoming tweets are heralded with a…yes, a tweet. You have the ability to set the timer for tweet notifications every second, or every 1000 seconds. (You can also turn the tweet sound off, should it become too annoying ) While Tweetdeck is a download to your desktop, you may prefer a web-based platform for anywhere access. Hootsuite has the same functions as Tweetdeck, but also allows you to add your blogging account, so you can have a stream of your blog posts as pre-shortened urls, making them easily tweetable. Trying to decide which one to use? Here is a comparison chart from James Johnson for the two platforms:
Things you can do with TweetDeck
Update Twitter, FaceBook, and LinkedIn.
Large Twitter API Rate
Custom Retweet or Twitter style
Record, share, and watch video clip
View YouTube Videos within TweetDeck
Manage Multiple Twitter accounts
Trending of local events and Twitscoop
Create and mange Twitter List
Follow Topics in real-time through saved searches.
Saved Searches can be edited through the column
Ingrates with LinkedIn Professional contacts
See who is following you – you can have a who’s following you column so you can see what they are tweeting
Preview short URL before opening. You can Also see the original link
Backup TweetDeck by using sync and back-up
Report and Block Spam Button ß Love this feature, it kills @mention spam quickly
Flickr, Twitgoo and mobypicture is now supported
keyboard shortcuts for speedy messaging
Things You can Do With Hootsuite
Ping.fm Integration so you can update social networks that are not supported by Hootsuite
Add, create and manage Twitter Lists
Topic Search and Keyword Tracking
Create Columns based on searches
Secure Log in
Web App – I can use hootsuite on any PC, Mac, Linux system as long as I have access to Hootsuite’s page
View, manage, schedule, post to WordPress
Ow.ly and Ht.ly URL shorteners
Featured User List
Update Facebook, LinkedIn, Myspace, and Foursquare
RSS feed from your website to all of our social networks
Preview Short Links and see Original Links before opening them.
Report and block spam
Follow User Lists in their own column
Separate tabs for the different social media networks"
Sarah Worsham also has an insightful post comparing the advantages and disadvantages of Hootsuite vs Tweetdeck. For her, Hootsuite wins out. James Johnson ends up using both platforms; Tweetdeck when he is on his home computer, and Hootsuite when he is needing remote access. After using both for a time, I decided to do the same; I am currently using Tweetdeck on my desktop and iPad, and Hootsuite when I check in for tweets at school or other remote computers. Follow this link to see a screencast of my Hootsuite, and this link to see a screencast of my Tweetdeck.
Personal use of the tool
I could not see the use of Twitter to me in my personal life. To me, Twitter was like Facebook on steroids. And, as I have mentioned in previous posts Facebook is not really my thing. When I first connected to Twitter, I found it absolutely overwhelming. Reducing my columns to just those I follow and setting them up with hashtags helped, but there is simply an incredible volume of Twitter traffic. I am the type of person who HAS to answer the phone if it rings, and every ‘tweet’ sound coming from my computer seemed to twitter ‘Lookatme, lookatme’! Yet, if I turned off the sound, I forgot to check the tweets…so I finally just adjusted the timing so I was notified every 5 minutes (and sometimes, I just closed the darn thing ). I decided I need a ‘Tweet Plan’. Fortunately, Nicole Nicolay wrote a wonderful post about developing your own Twitter plan.
However, MY Tweet Plan looks a bit different:
Yet, this Tweet Plan is decidedly for my professional use of Twitter. What about my personal use? David Carr, in his New York Times article “Why Twitter will Endure”, suggests that Twitter is a quicker way to get news, a more reliable way to share your ideas and research the best buys. Ted Nation of the Globe and Mail, recounts his efforts to find his daughter who was traveling in Chile after an earthquake hit. Through Twitter, Facebook, LinkdIn, Google, Skype and email, they finally located her and spoke with her. Given all of that, I still must confess I find the thought of wading through all the dross to find the gold just too daunting. I could use it to connect with my daughter in the Yukon, or other relatives in the East, as Will Richardson (2009) suggests, but I use texts, phone calls, email and (sometimes) Facebook for that.
Professional use of the tool
Will Richardson (2009) suggests that one the benefits of using Twitter is that ‘you get smarter’ (p. 87). Through asking questions, sharing ideas, linking blogs or resources, he believes Twitter serves an ‘addicting’ (p. 87) addition to your PLN. The selection of hashtags I use, #edchat, #edtech, #elemchat, #tldl, all ensure that (most) of the tweets I get are related to ideas, thoughts and links I can use to further my teaching practice, to integrate technology into my lessons, to develop the library, and to deepen my understanding of how to best teach in this brave new digital world. I am interested in buying Kindles or Nooks for the library, and have found many tweets with information to help me make that decision. Alan November suggests that Twitter is essential as a PLN for educators (notes, Oct 4, 2010). He believes that librarians should work with staff to develop hashtags for their learning community and start to build a Twitter network within the school. Smaller elementary schools may be resistant…i.e. “Why not just walk down the hall?”, however, I can see it being useful in larger schools, for districts, and for cohorts of schools that are working on the same focus. If you had three or four schools who were working together to develop their practice in technology, for example, building a Twitter network would allow teachers in all schools to be part of the conversation, sharing thoughts, links and lesson ideas.
Laura Walker shares nine reasons to Twitter on the Tech & Learning blog:
1. Together we’re better
Twitter can be like a virtual staffroom where teachers can access in seconds a stream of links, ideas, opinions, and resources from a hand-picked selection of global professionals.
2. Global or local: you choose
With Twitter, educators can actively compare what’s happening in their with others on different continents. GPS-enabled devices and advanced web search facility allow searches that tell you what people are tweeting within a certain distance of a location, so if the other side of the world isn’t your bag, you can stick with your own patch.
3. Self-awareness and reflective practice
Excellent teachers reflect on what they are doing in their schools and look at what is going well in order to maintain and develop it, and what needs improvement in order to make it better. Teachers on Twitter share these reflections and both support and challenge each other.
4. Ideas workshop and sounding board
Twitter is a great medium for sharing ideas and getting instant feedback. You can gather a range of opinions and constructive criticism within minutes, which can help enormously, whether you are planning a learning experience, writing a policy, or putting a job application together.
5. Newsroom and innovation showcase
Twitter helps you stay up-to-date on news and current affairs, as well as on the latest developments in areas of interest like school leadership and technology.
6. Professional development and critical friends
One of the best things about training days is the break-out time between sessions, when teachers can get together to talk about what they are working on or struggling with. Twitter enables users to have that kind of powerful networking capacity with them all the time. It’s just a matter of finding the right people to follow.
7. Quality-assured searching
Trust the people you follow. Hone and develop the list of people whose insights you value. Once your Twitter network grows past a critical mass, you can ask them detailed questions and get higher-quality information back than a Google search would generally provide.
8. Communicate, communicate, communicate
Expressing yourself in 140 characters is a great discipline. You can become better at saying what needs to be said in my professional communications with less waffle and padding (even without txtspk).
9. Getting with the times has never been so easy!
Many of her reasons speak to why I believe Twitter can be an good way to build a PLN. It is, indeed, like a virtual staffroom. I like to talk about and share my ideas with others. On Twitter, I can get new ideas, check out and add to my ideas, and, through following good people find great links. Its easy and cheep, cheep PD.
What about using Twitter with students in the classroom? The video below suggests that Twitter is a way to connect to your students and their parents to keep them informed about what is happening in your classroom:
Our district is focusing on building and retaining student engagement in learning. In this video, high school students report being more engaged in their learning when using Twitter and other social media tools:
Berger and Trexler (2010) share some ideas for using Twitter with students. One is to following the tweets of John Quincy Adams' trip to Russia (tweeted by the Massachusetts Historical Society). Each tweet is a line from his diary, with links to maps of his journey. Another is to follow Charles Darwin on his voyage in the Beagle. In Canada, you can follow @canadianhistory or @todayincanhist for daily tweets about Canadian history. What about student writing? Kist (2010) talks about a collaborative writing project that had students from different countries create a story on Twitter. Kathy Hanson, on her A Storied Career blog, talks about how people are using Twitter to create and share stories. Carol Cooper-Taylor, in her blog post 50 ways to use Twitter in the classroom, has these ideas on using Twitter with students:
as an opinion poll.
directing student’s attention to important points
building an instant “backchannel.”
She also suggests that Twitter can be used with parents to get their feedback. Her ideas seem to be directed towards secondary students. Perhaps elementary students could start on a site like Twiducate to get them used to the idea of Twitter. A sideways way to use Twitter FOR your students, rather than with your students is #comments4kids. This is a twitter hashtag of teachers that are using classroom blogging and are looking for other teachers and classes to comment on their students' blogs.
Will students use Twitter? I was doing my 15 minute check in on Twitter when @2footgiraffe twittered, "small mile stone. Stu asked wht we did in class 2day. He missed. 2nd stu responded via twtr & sent him the link 4 the prezi #edchat" (@2footgiraffe Wed 17 Nov 21:08 via Tweetdeck)
I have found Twitter to be a good tool for professional development. It's like having a flock of professionals in your backyard. The links you click on have already been reviewed, so to speak, and if you have a question, you are sure to find someone who can help, or direct you to a resource where you can find help. However, I do find it tricky to find the time. Blog posts are static, they stay there when you go to get a cup of tea and if you don't get a chance to finish reading them (or you want to reread them), they are still there when you come back an hour or a day later. Twitter is like a conversation at a cocktail party, once you've left the room, the conversation is over (for you). I think I will stick with my Tweet Plan and go on for 15 minutes after supper (mind you, that 15 minutes could easily turn into hours if I fall into a great conversation!). Tweeting blog posts I read is easy...i am a regular user of the ‘Retweet’ button on blogs I follow, however, I feel that I should be adding a comment to my tweet saying why I consider this worth tweeting. Creating original tweets will be trickier, as I am often unsure of whether my ideas are worth tweeting. As well, I believe that when you tweet your thoughts, you need to be a part of the conversation, instead of doing a 'drive-by' tweet. It is finding and taking the time to be a part of the conversation that I find difficult. So, why continue tweeting? Others that I look up to have tried to give it up and cannot.
David Warlick says he rarely tweets, yet one day he was watching, and followed Vicki Davis tweeting quotes from a session she was attending given by the Digital Learning Council. It started him thinking and he wrote a thoughtful post about the ideas that were being presented. (Interestingly, he didn’t tweet his thoughts, he blogged them, I presume because blogging offered him the opportunity to share his thoughts in an in depth way)
Doug Johnson wrote a post about giving up tweeting, but he must have started up again, ‘cause I follow him! Recently, he wrote a post about Twitter where he suggested that the quality of tweets would be greatly improved if people were limited to five tweets per day. As a reader of tweets for professional development, I would agree.
Will I continue my ventures into the "Twitterverse", as Richardson (2009) calls it? Yes, I will. The trick will be in moving from being a passive passenger on the Twitterflight to an active flyer in the conversations.
Berger, P. & Trexler, S. (2010). Choosing web 2.0 tools for learning and teaching in a digital world. Santa Barbara:CA. Libraries Unlimited.
Kist, W. (2010). The socially networked classroom. Thousand Oaks:CA. Corwin Press.
Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms, 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks:CA. Corwin Press.
How can you talk about blogs until you have actually done one for a while. I look back at the blogging I had the students do last year and they seem so superficial. Not the students but the blogging. It is almost embarrassing. There was little reflection in the student blogs, little construction of knowledge and the discussion between the students barely scratched the surface of learning. And collaboration within the discussion---it didn’t exist. I was using technology and therefore I was a good teacher. Wrong! Blogging isn’t about just picking a title, a URL and a topic. It isn’t only about making something look pretty by adding pictures or video. Blogging can be so much more. If done properly it can be a conversation between the writer and the audience. It can be a reflection of learning and potential learning.
Richardson knew what he was talking about when he said “if we want our students to learn from blogs, we have to experience that learning firsthand” and “[j]ust as writing teachers should write, and literature teachers should teach, teachers who use blogs should well, use blogs” (43).
Don’t get me wrong, I realize that blogs don’t have to be everything but the potential of blogs to lead students to become reflective, life-long learners who want to share and communicate with an audience to make meaning of the world is quite amazing. Teachers by using blogs with students “can promote student self-assessment by providing opportunities for students to think and talk about what they are learning, including why and how they are learning it. By encouraging them to evaluate their own progress, [teachers] are empowering students to reflect on themselves as learners” (2006, Joseph). Blogs, like the one we have done for this course, allow for this type of reflection. And if I am not mistaken, doesn't every course we teach in schools encourage student reflection?
Rachel Boyd has put together and excellent video on why we should be blogging with out students.
Anne Davis in Edublog Insights also has some great insights into why we should blog in her post on the Rationale for Education Blogs. Such as:
• Blogs provide a space for sharing opinions and learning in order to grow communities of discourse and knowledge — a space where students and teachers can learn from each other.
• Blogs help learners to see knowledge as interconnected as opposed to a set of discrete facts.
• Blogs can give students a totally new perspective on the meaning of voice. As students explore their own learning and thinking and their distinctive voices emerge. Student voices are essential to the conversations we need to have about learning.
• Blogs foster ownership and choice. They help lead us away from students trying to find what the teacher wants in terms of an answer.
• The worldwide audience provides recognition for students that can be quite profound. Students feel more compelled to write when they believe many others may read and respond. It gives them motivation to excel. Students need to be taught skills to foster a contributing audience on their blog.
• The archive feature of blogging records ongoing learning. It facilitates reflection and evaluation. One student told me that he could easily find his thoughts on a matter and he could see how his thinking had changed and why.
• The opportunity for collective and collaborative learning is enormous. Students have the opportunity to read their classmates blogs and those of others. This is not possible in a regular classroom setting.
• Blogging provides the possibility of connecting with experts on the topic students are writing.
• The interactive nature of blogging creates enthusiasm for writing and communication.
• Blogging engages students in conversation and learning.
• Blogging encourages global conversations about learning–conversations not previously possible in our classrooms.
• Blogging provides the opportunity for our students to learn to write for life-long learning.
• Blogging affords us the opportunity to teach responsible public writing. Students can learn about the power of the published word and the responsibilities involved with public writing.
There is so much information out there on how to blog with students and blogs are so easy to set up with free programs such as blogger and wordpress that any teacher who has students who have access to the internet and computers can have their students keep blogs. Teach Web 2.0 and Blogging Options for Educators have some wonderful resources for teachers who want to blog in their classrooms.
With all of this information and tutorials available to us on blogging and using blogs with students I wanted to bring up a question that has been at the back of mind the entire time I have been writing this post.
Should a teacher who doesn't blog or read blogs expect her students to blog?
After emmersing myself blogging for the last five weeks I realize blogging is tough and can a teacher who doesn't understand the difficulties with "putting yourself out there" really understand the difficulties students might experience. I realize I didn't even suggest that my students read blogs prior to having them create their own blogs. Was this because I myself didn't read blogs? Did my inexperience hurt the students? I am definately rethinking what I did. I still don't think I have a firm grasp on the nuances of blogging effectively. I don't agree with and never have agreed with the idea that "those who can't...teach" instead it really should be "those who do... teach". But then, that is just one short-time blogger's opinion.
Nancy Joseph. (2006). Strategies for Success: Teaching Metacognitive Skills to Adolescent Learners. New England Reading Association Journal, 42(1), 33-39,75. Retrieved August 9, 2009, from ProQuest Education Journals. (Document ID: 1047701411).
Topping, K.. (2009). Peer Assessment. Theory into Practice, 48(1), 20. Retrieved August 9, 2009, from ProQuest Education Journals. (Document ID: 1634923481).
Join ASLC and Diana Rendina, Renovated Learning and Walking Together in exploring the excitement and potential of Makerspaces to impact student learning and learn how literature can help you create an Inclusive Learning Commons!
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