Okay, so I've had a Twitter account for awhile, but have really failed to see any value in it until recently. While attending some technology training for school, I was introduced to Twitter as a professional development tool. The biggest key for this application is in who you follow. I have two accounts, a personal account (@lakalmbach) and a professional account (@kalmbachteach). I did this for two reasons, the first is that I'm a teacher and I prefer to keep much of my private life, private to those I know and trust; the second is that what may be interesting to my teacher self is not always interesting to all of my friends and my outside interests are not often all that academic. My private account is just that, private, those that follow me must be approved by me first. My professional account is open to anyone who would like to follow and read my thoughts on education, literature, and educational technology. The idea here is that if you want to read what is on others' minds, you need to be open to letting them read about you too. Be aware that most of my posts are retweets of other, much brighter folks than me, but I may be getting ahead of myself.
If this sounds intriguing, here is the quick and dirty lesson on using Twitter for professional pursuits.
1. Go to twitter.com and open an account (or two!) and configure the settings as you see fit.
2. Decide on who to follow. In order to find professionals in your field you can search in the "Who to Follow" tab. You can search by name or topic. Once you begin following some folks, you'll start to figure out who you like and who you don't. Eliminate those that disinterest you, it's okay! If you really like someone, look and see who he/she is following and follow some of those folks.
3. In your stream, you'll notice hashtags (#), in my field some of these are #edchat or #edtech. People use these to organize their posts. You can search for people in the "who to follow" tab using these tags to find more people tweeting about these topics.
4. Another feature you'll find in your stream are shortened URL addresses. Because Twitter is limited to 140 characters, long URL addresses will eat up your message. In my experience, if you are using Twitter, Peep, or Tweetdeck, these applications will shorten the URLs for you using bit.ly, tinyurl, or other services to shrink the address. These links will take you directly to the full length article the tweet has mentioned.
5. Retweet (RT) or replying (@) or mentioning (@) As you read through your stream, you'll notice these symbols. When you see RT@kalmbachteach, that means someone has taken my tweet and sent it out to his/her followers. I do this when I read something I really like or think others would benefit from. I try to be selective with this as I don't want to be "that girl" in the stream. When you acknowledge someone you follow or reply to someone's post publicly, the @ symbol will appear. You can also use this to bring someone's attention to your tweet that you think he/she will be interested in. To re-tweet, hover over the retweet link that looks like two arrows following one another in a square shape. To reply, click the reply arrow. To mention, use the @ before a username and type as usual.
6. Direct messaging. This is the equivalent of a message in Facebook. You can privately message someone through a direct message. To do so, click the "messages" button at top of your twitter screen, click the "new message button, type the username of the person you wish to send the message to, and send away. You may only send direct messages to those that follow you.
7. When tweeting think beyond what you are doing and think more about what you find interesting in your field. What are some of the exciting things happening in your field? Who is a mover or shaker in your field? What have you used that has worked? What would others in your field find interesting?
8. Dip your cup....(thanks Kyle!) Don't feel like you need to read EVERYTHING in your stream. I'll read a few articles here or there. The beauty of retweets is that several people I'm following may retweet the same article, thus bringing my attention to something that is probably interesting. You cannot read everything posted or you will never sleep or get anything accomplished ever again. Get a few ideas here or there, it will be better than no new ideas at all.
9. Enjoy! I've only been using Twitter a few days for professional development, so I'm still learning.
It is cool to see what is going on beyond my locale in my field. I've already run into a few ideas that I plan to use in the coming school year! Have fun and I hope you'll follow me on this fun journey!
10. Invite a friend! If you find this to be an enjoyable experience, be sure to invite others so we can grow together.
A big thank you to Kyle Wood for introducing me to Twitter as a professional tool. Much of the above is from his lesson at Pinnacle XVI.