So, has it happened to you? Are you in love with Twitter?
To all those digital immigrants out there asking themselves ‘What the heck is she talking about?’, this week’s adventure in Web 2.0 Land pertains to the microblogging sensation called TWITTER.
The lingo that accompanies this week’s topic is literally for the birds – tweets, retweets, hootsuite, twitterdeck, tweetups and twooshes. If you’re chuckling as you read some of these terms you’re in good company.
I’m sure these guys (picture on the right) would have a field-day ‘heckling’ the creators of Twitter and their name/term choices. Though it all sounds funny the inventors of Twitter named it just so because all the chatter of persons messaging back and forth within their online communities really did resemble the ‘tweeting’ within a flock of birds. Hence the term ‘tweet’ meaning message and the community or network called ‘Twitter’ and it’s lovely blue bird icon.
What is Twitter?
Twitter is a microblogging social network where users send out ‘tweets’ of 140 characters or less. Members of Twitter create lists of persons/businesses/organizations they wish to follow and the service then creates timelines of ‘tweets’ issued by those one follows. Twitter timelines operate similar to RSS feeds and aggregate all tweets in chronological order from those one follows. Users can also be followed by others hence, the development of communities with shared interest amongst the Twitter network.
For another quick intro to Twitter view: @mastermaq’s Twitter Slide Show
The best explanation of Twitter that I came across this week was one created by Social Media DIY Workshop as seen below.
Why use Twitter?
Twitter is the most up-to-date information. It’s current. It’s what’s happening essentially in the moment. Twitter gives users access to news that is as local as your family and your community, as well as global news as it happens. See, Twitter is really in the hands of the public…it is the experience of the public, not news that comes from a major broadcasting company. Tweets reveal what’s going on as people experience it and as fast as they can type the news, or ‘tweet’ using their mobile phones. Users can subscribe/follow news corporations, such as CBC news, but Twitter is really more than this. People tweet news/information as it happens, as was the case this past summer in BC during the intense forest fires. I remember the evening news reporting that people in the affected areas were beginning to rely on Twitter feed for information regarding their area because they could not get current enough information about the fires from the internet or other sources. It was people tweeting the various fires status that kept people informed about conditions.
As seen above people tweet about an unlimited amount of things. Pick a subject or an issue and I’m sure you’ll find people tweeting about it. People tweet for both personal and professional reasons.
According to Bobbi L. Newman in her blog Librarian by Day Twitter will make you a better employee, better at your job and will benefit your library. She has found Twitter has done just that for her in 10 ways:
- Connection to experts
- Pool of information
- Real time awareness of News
- Real time updates in technology and library issues
- Connection with patrons
- Professional development
- Contact with local organization and groups
- I’m always learning
- Keeps me in touch with the larger world
- Sharing and borrowing
See her post ‘10 Ways Twitter Will Make You a Better Employee, Better at Your Job and Benefit Your Library‘ for the complete article.
Should Twitter be used in Schools?
According to Laura Walker, a UK educator and author of ‘Nine Reasons to Twitter in School‘ from Tech & Learning.com, educators should be using Twitter for the following reasons: (quoted from article)
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!
Twitter is anything but complicated! You simply visit Twitter.com and create your account. A little light searching using key words for your areas of interest will soon yield a list of interesting people to follow. There are plenty of Web sites offering advice on getting started and how to avoid a few common beginners’ faux-pas. Your biggest challenge is likely to be getting the twitter.com unblocked on your school network if your main usage will be at school.
The following youtube was created to show how social media, such as Twitter and Wikis could be used to have ‘shared authentic conversations’ with a ‘professional learning network’ to create a ‘quick, useful resource’, which in this context is a resource wiki that contains links, videos, and ideas all related to using social media within school contexts. The wiki is called New Hampton School – Social Media Reading List.
Learning the Tool:
Anyone can read the top tweets in Twitter; however, to follow others and to tweet yourself, you need to create a free account. Below is my homepage in Twitter. The left hand side is the tweet timeline and the right pertains to who I follow and those that follow me.
This is my profile page with my avatar and personal description. The timeline also lists my tweets/retweets, etc. Twitter is like most other programs out there that allow personalization, and so I’ve changed the background to one of my own photos.
When I want to ‘tweet’ I have to either go to the homepage to enter my tweet in the following ‘What’s happening?’ box, or use the ‘new tweet’ button in my profile page (see 2nd picture below). Tweets can include text, links to webpages, hashtags, pictures and videos.
Tweeting Commands: Learning to read and write tweets…
A few more terms to define…
Tweetups: A group of friends on Twitter (social network) that are planning to meet up. A request by a user to meet with friends via Twitter.
Twooshes: A perfect, 140 character Tweet on Twitter.
Hashtags: Hashtags are a community-driven convention for adding additional context and metadata to your tweets. They’re like tags on Flickr, only added inline to your post. You create a hashtag simply by prefixing a word with a hash symbol: #hashtag.
Twitpic: Application required to include pictures in your tweets.
TwitVid: Uesd to include videos in your tweets.
Searching in Twitter:
Twitter Applications for Desktops:
Personal Life & Learning:
So, the question is this… Will I use Twitter in my own personal life? Using Twitter certainly seems advantageous if I am on a quest for information and conversation about a specific topic, so I guess the answer to my question is “Yes”. That being said, my twitter use is very likely to revolve around issues I’m interested in, and not to post my status to friends/family. Frankly, that’s an option I have in Facebook and I don’t even do that there. I’m being honest; it won’t happen in Twitter either. I’m not an individual who updates her status via mobile phone to stay connected either. My phone doesn’t even have this capability, so no you’ll not see me tweeting either via my mobile. My life outside of work and school is to me an area that I would like to remain private and not open to public consumption. I enjoy my anonymity. Still, Twitter is a great place, as mentioned already, to find people with similar interests who I can dialogue with, share ideas with, and simply gleen information from. So in terms of my own personal learning network, yes Twitter definately has a place. I’m quite sure that I’ll be using Twitter for future coursework in my Masters program as well as for networking and learning about any other independent areas of interest.
Professional Life – Teaching & Learning:
Though I may seem somewhat hesitant in embracing all things Twitter in my personal life I do believe that it has incredible advantages for my professional life. Twitter is a source of immense knowledge – the wealth of collective knowledge.
Being a member of Twitter, having a group of people in my occupational field that I have access to gives me an unlimited amount of free professional development. Reading the tweets of others gives me a portal to a world of resources that never seem to run out. In this context I also have access to people who are ‘gurus’ within the library and technology arenas and I am able to be the ‘sponge’ to absorb what information/ideas they are passing along. In this way, my own practice is being enriched as I discover what is being tweeted along.
Twitter also gives me access to global information. Again, the web allows me to connect with others irrespective of space and time, thus giving me and our students the largest classroom ever…the world.
The great thing about Twitter is that I am not the end terminus. I could be, but I certainly don’t want to be. I want to share what I am learning with others, and I can do so with those that follow me. This is an area of incredible potential within our school, and so I have begun to share Twitter with my staff and hopefully develop a network of ‘twits’ (a little tongue and cheek here). My role would be both to share and dialogue in this network, but to also support staff members as they develop competency with this new concept.
Twitter is a way to social network, to update information, find trend information, search for information, ask questions, promote self or business/organization, identify experts within a field, and keep up to date with technologies and developments (Phil Bradley).
Twitter gives me access to a wealth of information. For example I can search about libraries and education via @heyjudeonline or via @librarycloud. I can also find information about fabulous books and ideas regarding reading education via @Simplybooks or @sljournal. There is a plethera of people to follow.
As for the library… There are so many ways Twitter can advance our library. It could be used for disseminating information about library hours, openings/closures, staff news items, new resources/books, events, local community links, links to news alerts, notifying students/staff/parents about library happenings, sharing resources with staff or classes working on specific projects, having Q and A sessions, sharing new research ideas/ bibliographic help, notifying patrons of website updates, sharing with other libraries and field experts, following conferences or edchats, or even alerting patrons about requested materials. The examples listed below use tweets to announce book awards, new hours of operation, contests, events, resources, photo postings, storytimes, and even tweet about job opportunities available. Needless to say, tweeting would be a great way to inform users about what is happening in their library!
Some examples of libraries already using Twitter are:
- Cleveland PL on Twitter
- Ada Comm Library on Twitter
- Lunar and Planetary Institute on Twitter
- City of Casa Grande Library
- UIUC Undergrad Library
- Nebraska Library Commission
For more ideas about using Twitter in libraries see the following links:
I think Twitter could even be a great application within the classroom. Transmitting information in 140 characters isn’t an easy thing to do and would definately teach students to be clear, capture the attention of their audience as well as provide good information and links worth tweeting. Students could also learn about using hashtags, shortening urls, and the general commands used for tweets. Again, this is a social media tool, like Facebook, that needs to be taught so students have the tools necessary for their futures. I see my role as a TL to collaborate with teachers wanting to use this technology, to co-teach the technology in the classes, to evaluate progress and development with this tool, and to support the teachers and their classes in this adventure.
Yes, I’m in Twitter, but I think it’s safe to say I’m not twitterpated with it. That being said we’ll certainly be seeing more of each other in the coming days, so who knows what could happen…? As Owl says, “It could happen to you, and you, and yes, it could even happen to you”.
So, back to the beginning… Could Flower, Thumper and Bambi stay true to their claim of it never happening to them? Have a watch to see… or simply to relive some old times and some classic animation. Enjoy!
If after reading all of this you think I’m worth following, look me up in Twitter. I’m @trees_traveller .