It’s ironic, almost comical, that there seems to be more and more blog posts out there about the “right way” to “do Twitter.”
What’s especially ironic are posts from folks who say Twitter should be used for two-way communication. They go on and on about how Twitter should be used to cultivate a robust personal learning network. Some even create awesome presentations about Twitter’s do’s and dont’s. Go ahead and check out Twitter for Educators on Slideshare and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. I would put a link there, but I’ll let you actually do some work after reading this post.
Does Twitter have to be two-way communication?
For some people yes, that’s why they use it, and that’s what they want it to be. For others, they are content to simply lurk. There’s another Twitter using group that just want to see what their favorite celebrity had for breakfast. And yet, there are millions of people who don’t use Twitter at all. For me personally, nothing beats a lively conversation via Twitter, but that can be easier said than done.
Ironically, some of the Twitter evangelists are the same folks who either don’t respond to an inquiry sent to them via Twitter and/or they have an extremely low follower/to following ratio. Now I know you “Twitter critics” are going to say, “Jenn, just because you follow someone, doesn’t mean they have to follow you back.” And you’re absolutely right. They don’t. I know that. Heck, Paige Woodard preaches that in one of her Twitter tip You Tube videos (yes, I will link to the work of a student because students rock and more educators need to start sharing more of their great work versus writing vague references to it, or worse, keep it to themselves). But that’s not my point here.
I’m not saying someone has to follow me back. I lose followers daily. I’m fine with that. Maybe it’s because some people might think I Tweet too much. Maybe it’s because I…whatever the reason, I honestly don’t care. The people who follow me obviously think I have some value as a member of their PLN and for that I am truly grateful and honored. Who people choose to follow or not follow is highly personal. But what irks me are the people who are all rah-rah over Twitter, but reach out to them for help, and you get nothing. Now how is that suppose to motivate someone to believe in the power of connection? That being said…
Twitter is not about numbers. And I’m talking about me here. For me it’s about the quality of my network, not the quantity. It’s not about “doing Twitter right.” It’s my Twitter account and I will Tweet about whatever I choose to. As digital citizens we all have the right to use Twitter and any other social network for that matter the way in which we choose. Keep in mind though that if you are an educator, you also have a responsibility to model appropriate online communication for your students.
I currently Tweet about digital citizenship, career resources for students, assistive technology, educational technology and leadership, and anything else I might find interesting, inspiring, or thought-provoking on the web. I Tweet about my students. I Tweet about my school and colleagues. I Tweet about whatever I please. Because I can.
Twitter is WHATEVER I WANT IT TO BE. If you are trying Twitter for the first time, or you’re just getting started, do the same and make it whatever you want it to be. Don’t buy into all the hype about the right versus wrong way to use Twitter. If you want to follow “rock star” educators, go to Slideshare like I mentioned earlier, and you’ll find at least 50 presentations about Twitter for teachers with recommendations on who to follow and they will all give you at least 25 of the same accounts. However…
Want to follow a celebrity? Go for it. Want to start the hashtag #replacesongtitleswithpants, knock yourself out. Dean Shareski did that recently and he has almost 20,000 followers. The beauty of Twitter is that if you want it to be one-way communication, it can be. If you want to engage in conversation, it can be that too. If you want to start a quirky hashtag, no one is stopping you. But when it comes to choosing who to follow, and I’m sorry for giving more advice again but I just have to, be mindful that not every person out there who preaches about PLN’s talks the talk and walks the walk.
But then again, what do I know? I don’t have a huge network (remember it’s not about numbers), so odds are you’ll stumble across an eloquently written post about Twitter from someone with a much higher klout score than me who will convince you, better yet, teach you, about the “right way to do Twitter.” You can skip all that and just keep these three things in mind:
1. Do Twitter YOUR way.
2. That is the only RIGHT way.
3. If you decide that you’re not going to try Twitter at all, then so be it.
But here’s why I still feel the urge to preach the power of Twitter.
It’s an incredible tool to use for filtering and curating content
I have rediscovered Diigo and have been bookmarking what I find on Twitter into my Diigo library. I’ve then shared a link to my public Diigo library via Twitter using the hashtag #ATchat (assistive technology). Whatever course you teach, odds are there’s a chat related to it and there’s where you can start meeting people and building your own library of digital resources for your course curriculum. Following certain hashtags can also lead to coming up with your own ideas. After nominating Paige for a Bammy award, it triggered an idea for a new project in my Digital Literacy course that I am excited to try later this month.
Twitter is filled with incredibly generous people
Some of whom have no hidden agenda whatsoever. Some who really want to collaborate and share ideas. Many who are in education because they love teaching and they want to be better for their students and their schools. These are educators out there who really do “talk the talk” when it comes to PLN’s and Twitter. These are the people you need to find and connect with. Some of these people have large networks for a reason.
They are helpful and sincere and as I mentioned, they are in education for the right reasons. They care about kids and their colleagues, both in and outside of their own school communities. They are the kinds of people that I am glad to have as a part of my PLN. An example of such person is Nicholas Provenzano, aka “the nerdy teacher.” I sent Nick a Tweet last night just before sitting down to write this post inquiring about his upcoming TEDx event, as I am looking for as much inspiration for my TED-Ed Club members as possible, and what did Nick do? HE RESPONDED! Imagine that?
I keep hearing more and more educators, and some very smart and successful business people, talking about how social media is changing. Perhaps that is why people are heading to Google+ (give it time, you’ll get on it eventually), or perhaps that’s why more educators aren’t using social media at all. I think that those who aren’t active on some type of social media platform are missing out, especially in terms of having incredibly easy access to a vast amount of classrooms resources, not to mention the opportunity to develop some pretty amazing friendships (this really does happen). But at the same time, I do understand why people aren’t on sites like Twitter.
So how do we get everyone, those with thousands of followers and those who are still eggs, to use Twitter as a two-way communication tool? The answer is, we don’t. The more appropriate questions would be:
1. How do we get educators to understand that they can have complete control over their Twitter account?
2. How do we help educators understand that Twitter can be used to help support and meet their individual professional (or personal) needs?
3. How do we get young people to find a balance between using Twitter as a social communication tool, while at the same time, helping them understand what they Tweet contributes to their digital identity?
I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I hope I find myself in a chat where these issues are being discussed. Perhaps Paige could moderate?
All I know is that if you are going to write about connecting and Twitter and sharing and engaging and collaborating and PLN’s…then the next time you get a Tweet, or a comment on your blog, then at the very least, you should take two seconds and respond to it.