Twitter tips for professional development
Posted June 14, 2011on:
I am not the first to offer Twitter tips nor will I be the last. But I thought I should offer some tips, one educator to another.
What prompted this? A few educators new to Twitter found me online and via email, so I sent them some resources that I had archived in Delicious.
What really pushed me to write this was what I read yesterday at the Guardian: Tweeting advice for Gwyneth Paltrow. In my haste, I read this as Tweeting advice from Gwyneth Paltrow. Thankfully the movie actress wasn’t actually adding “social media consultant” to her CV; it was just a journalist trying to make headlines.
There are lots of advice and tips for using Twitter for marketing, advertising, public relations and feedback, but there aren’t many focused on education. The following are some tips for the education professional who wants to establish a personal learning network (PLN).
1. Identify yourself
When you get a Twitter account, two things to do immediately are a) replace the generic egg profile picture Twitter gives you with a clear and decent picture of yourself, and b) describe yourself or your purpose for using Twitter in 160 characters or less.
Show yourself: Twitter is a social platform and other people want to attach a face to a Twitter handle.
Describe yourself: Doing this shows that you are serious about using Twitter and lets other users know who you are and whether you are worth following.
2. Don’t play the numbers game
I mention this in the context of your follower count (who follows you) or following count (who you follow). Companies and celebrities are all about high follower counts. Both want as many eyeballs and as much attention as they can get. They do not really care if a follower is a bot, a marketer or a pervert.
Quality trumps quantity. If you follow too many people, you get information overload. You might be followed by many, but do you know who they are? See the next two tips.
3. Follow wisely
Don’t follow everyone that Twitter recommends. Follow the folks you recognize or come recommended by someone you trust. Then look at who they follow.
The Twitter system might make some recommendations based on some social algorithm and this might be useful as a first cut. But it is people that decide who they want to be friends with, who they listen to or who they get married to. Apply the same principle on who to follow on Twitter.
4. Cull if needed
There are two ways of looking at this: Unfollowing someone and blocking followers.
Don’t feel bad about unfollowing someone. You might have followed someone by mistake or you might find their tweets irrelevant. Think of your Twitter stream as a customized newspaper or news programme. Unfollow so that you only get the sections of the paper or news that you want. This also helps reduce information overload.
I block some 20 to 30 followers a day. Why? First, my Twitter name is @ashley so I get followers thinking that I am someone else. I do not want to further mislead the already misled.
Second, I get followed by bots, marketers, spammers, etc. The more seasoned Twitter user might refer to my list of followers to see who else to follow, so it is my responsibility to keep out as much trash out as possible.
Third, I tend to block followers who have locked or private accounts. A Twitter-based PLN is about openness and sharing!
But I tend not to block those who are teachers or in the educational technology line.
5. Find your voice
It is OK to lurk and listen for a while. You learn the ropes and imbibe the culture of tweeting. But like blogging, tweeting is about finding your voice and sharing your passions.
Twitter used to ask “What are you doing?” This encouraged inane navel gazing. Now it asks “What is happening?” This cast one’s eye from one’s navel to perhaps someone else’s navel.
Many educators on Twitter use it as a PLN. To contribute, you could consider answering these questions:
- What did you find?
- What did you learn?
- What can you teach the rest?
Share inspiring YouTube videos, informative SlideShares or thought-provoking readings.
6. Consume critically, then tweet or retweet
Before you tweet or retweet a resource, make sure that you have read, listened or watched it. Others are relying on your recommendation.
Where the resource is not your own, retweet (RT) someone else’s recommendation. This not only gives credit where it is due, it also amplifies to your PLN what is emerging or important.
7. Monitor or converse with #hashtags
This Google Doc contains a list of education-related hashtags that you can monitor. You can read and participate in conversations with educators all over the world. Locally, please use #edsg to contribute.
I have one more tip that is optional but highly recommended. Link your Twitter account with a social bookmarking service like Delicious or Diigo. This will help you automatically archive and curate all the wonderful resources and ideas you discover on Twitter. I recommend packrati.us to make this link.
What other tips might be useful for educators who want to take charge of their own professional development?