Yesterday, Region 10 had their 2011 Technology Conference. At the beginning of the conference, it was announced that the twitter #hashtag for the conference would be #r10tech. As I typed in my first twitter post with the hashtag, I heard those around me asking what a hashtag was and I even heard one person say, “Twitter?” I stopped writing for a moment and pondered the thought and then finished my post. After writing it, I started to think about the sharing of information and how I read my “feeds” quite regularly. I learn from my PLN (personal learning network) and from users of hashtags every day. I’m not sure I would know half as much if it weren’t for the millions of twitter and facebook junkies around the world sharing information as I do on a daily basis. So, why isn’t everyone doing it? As I learned from Alan November last week, “You don’t know what you don’t know until someone that knows shares it with you.” Today I am going to share what I know with you.
I have been on Twitter for 3 years and I have learned a lot since then. First, I have learned that twitter is a fantastic place to share stuff you’ve learned, to learn stuff you don’t know, and to share timely information that may be of utmost importance to many people. I’m sure we could make a list of a million reasons why using twitter is great, but these are my top three. Last week, one of the administrators in my school district sent out an e-mail asking all of the administrators in the district to get twitter accounts if they didn’t have one already, and to follow him. I was thrilled that we were moving in this direction. I am thrilled that many have taken his advice and gotten themselves an account. What I’d like to do now is actually give a little bit of information to help my co-workers accept twitter as a destination they should frequent regularly and to guide them through best practices.
If you haven’t ever seen Kathy Schrock’s Guide on twitter, you ought to take a moment to look at it and all of the many links that she shares on there related to education. She has a comprehensive slideshow that delves into every part of twitter and all of the specifics on what you need to know. The most important thing she covers though to me is the associated software that I use frequently called tweetdeck. If you are getting started with twitter and really want to get the most understanding of why people use it, get tweetdeck. You will understand the amazing amount of knowledge being shared within minutes and you will be hooked!
When you download tweedeck, it will provide you with several preset twitter feeds including the feeds of those you are following. What it also does is it allows you to use searchable terms to find other people talking about things you may want to know about. An example would be the hashtag used at region 10′s tech conference. You can add columns to your tweetdeck by pressing the plus sign at the top left and then in the search box of the new column, type in a search tag. To read the conference attendees posts, you would type in r10tech. Your new column would be a scrolling look at all of the posts being typed in during the conference that included that hashtag. You can add and delete columns as you want. You will quickly see how incredibly helpful this is as you grow into your twitter account. At Alan November’s Conference on Friday, he told us that if we used tweetdeck to type in the word Egypt and watch what happens. I was amazed. That hashtag produces tweets every second. It moves so fast at times that it is hard to read.
The other cool thing about tweetdeck is that you can make groups out of those you are following to make people easier to follow. This is the part that I think will be most helpful to all of the new users in my district. If district individuals create groups, they can follow their own personal friends in one group and their district friends in another group. This feature helps me to process things easier. By doing this, I can also change my settings so that I get an alert on my desktop when a co-worker tweets and I can get very timely information in a very timely manner. I don’t always have time to go read tweets, but I do have time to read alerts when they are specific to a small group. If you have some time, go out and search for tweetdeck tutorials on youtube. There are plenty to get you well on your way. Make sure and check the dates of the videos, some of them may provide great information but may also be slightly outdated as far as the software goes.
I hope this small bit of information will entice you to go out and learn more about twitter, tweetdeck and creating your own Personal Learning Network. It’s a great thing and will definitely enhance your daily learning experience. In fact, so many people are taking on this learning experience in education that I am afraid it may cause an education twevolution!