I am a big social media user. I have accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+. However, the social media account I use most is Twitter, the microblogging tool. In Twitter, I share my own discoveries and learn from others every day. It is a huge source of professional development for me. Twitter is a great place to learn about new resources, trends in education, tools, and to ask questions of very smart people!
Until last month, the limit of characters that could be typed in a Twitter message was 140. It was doable, but often took some finagling to make the content I wanted to share fit in that amount of characters. Here is an example of a cryptic tweet from a Discovery Education VirtCon. It does not seem to make much sense out of context.
If I had the new 280 character limit back then, it might have read like this:
I liked the fact that the limit was 140 characters when I was reading my Twitter feed, because I could read through the stream of messages quickly. The 280-character tweets will definitely take more time to read.
However, for those of us that are long-time Twitter users, I assume we will will continue to be succinct with the information we share. Having the additional characters will allow us to not abbreviate words, use leet-speak, emoticons, or leave off a hashtag we want to include, so these longer tweets will become much easier to “decipher”. When Twitter conducted its beta testing of the 280-character limit, the company found only 5% of the users with the larger limit went over the previous 140 character limit.
For those of you not yet using Twitter, the first thing to learn is the vocabulary that is used with this tool.
Handle: A Twitter handle is your username. You most often see others sharing their handles looking like this “@kathyschrock”.
Tweet: A tweet is simple a single Twitter message you read or send.
Feed: The feed is the list of tweets you read from others.
Follow: When you click on someone and pick to “follow” them, their tweets show up in your Twitter feed.
Retweet: When anyone on Twitter re-sends a tweet they have received to their followers, that is called a “retweet”. Depending on which tool you are using to read Twitter, you may also be able to add additional text to the item you are retweeting.
Mention: In your Twitter account, you receive a notification when anyone puts your Twitter handle in a tweet (mention). In addition, if you are reading Tweets in your feed, you can click on a username mentioned in a Tweet and see that person’s Twitter postings.
Direct message: The ability to send a Tweet to just one person is called “direct messaging”. There is a setting in Twitter that allows you to limit the Twitter users who can direct message you to just the people you follow in Twitter.
Lists: In Twitter, you can create lists to categorize those that you follow and/or those you do not follow. For instance, if you create a list called “Administrators” and add those that are principals and superintendents to the list, you can simply click on the list title and see the information being posted by all users on that list
Hashtag: A hashtag is most commonly an agreed-upon phrase or word that is added in a tweet. For instance, a edtech conference in Massachusetts might decide that #MAssCUE17 will be the hashtag for their conference. If everyone who tweets from the conference includes that hashtag as part of their tweets, anyone can do a search on that hashtag in the Twitter search tool and all of the tweets from the conference will show up together.
Twitter chat: Educators love to share their thoughts and ideas. An educational Twitter chat is a scheduled time for an online discussion. There is usually a moderator who asks questions, preceding the question with Q1, Q2, etc., and including the hashtag for the Twitter chat. Those attending are looking for that hashtag, and responding to the questions with A1, A2, etc., and also including the agreed-upon hashtag. You can find list of scheduled educational Twitter chats here and here. The Teacher Challenges blog provides a great overview on how to attend a Twitter chat session.
Teachers often ask me how they find people to follow on Twitter. My suggestion is to find one trusted source to follow, and look at the list of people that person follows. You can click on any person on that list, and read some of the tweets, and, if the tweets look useful, you can follow that person, too. This is the social media component of Twitter– you can see everyone else’s lists of people they follow and make them your own!
It is not just people that have Twitter accounts, but also companies and organizations. Discovery Communications has multiple Twitter accounts you may want to follow.
@DiscoveryComm: the account for the parent company, Discovery Communications which includes overviews of new and upcoming offerings
I have some personal thoughts on the usage of Twitter.
- If you want to ask another Twitter user a question that will require a answer of more than 280 characters, use email to ask the question. This way, you can receive a more detailed answer.
- When you sign up for Twitter, there is an area for a short biography. I suggest you put the fact you are an educator in that bio so others know that about you.
- Remember the goal is not to gather the most followers. The goal is to hone your PLN online and collaborate with those you follow and who follow you.
- Do not be offended if you follow someone on Twitter and they do not follow you back. Perhaps they are keeping those that the follow to a small, manageable number.
- Sometimes you find someone you follow has blocked you, which means you can no longer see their tweets in your feed. Don’t take offense at that. Sometimes Twitter users want to hone their followers so they know exactly who they are tweeting to.
There are many different tools and apps you can use to read and post tweets. Some have single columns, some are specifically for mobile devices, some are Web-based, and some have configurable columns so you can follow your feed, other users, and hashtags all on a single screen! I have links to many of these on my “Twitter for Teachers” page. This page also includes links to how you might use Twitter to support teaching and learning.
Do you have any Twitter tips and tricks to share? Please add your thoughts to the comments!