Twitter is a social networking/microblogging platform. The main difference between Twitter and other platforms is that posts may only be 140 characters long – and no, this doesn’t restrict conversations! Twitter is great for quick updates – and yes we do sometimes mention food! Just as we might ask “How was lunch?” when a colleague returns past our desk. As with all networking the “social” interaction “oils the wheels” of the professional relationship. So how do you get started with Twitter as a professional development and networking tool?
1. Go to the Twitter website and sign up.
This includes creating a “username”. Ideally your username should be fairly short and should identify you – your name or a variant on it usually works well (my own Twitter name or “handle” is “@JoHart”).
2. Once you have signed up it is important to add an image (avatar) and complete your biography (bio). These will influence people to “follow you” or not. Twitter only gives you 140 characters for your bio so make every word count! If you want an example visit my Twitter page. There is much discussion about what is appropriate in terms of images. If you are using Twitter largely for PD then a photo is probably best, alternatively a cartoon image that you can create with a tool such as Mangatar.
3. Now it’s time to start following people and posting! There is no rush to build a huge list of followers, take your time – there are educators from all over the world on Twitter. You can tap into ideas and conversations from all sectors not just VET/Adult Ed.
4. If you follow @JoHart and Tweet me using the #FSTeach #tag (label) I will add you to my FSTeach list of FS practitioners. To see the list so that you can follow other FS practitioners go to my profile on Twitter and click “Lists” you can then select the FSTeach list. Once you have accessed the list you can easily follow people on the list or add the list as a column in Tweetdeck (see below for using Tweetdeck).
Once you have got started – especially if you want to follow #tags or join in with/follow Twitter chats – it is a good idea to use a “Twitter Client” to help you organise and manage the flow of Tweets. A TwitterChat is a conversation carried out between any number of people using a #tag so that they can all follow and participate in the conversation. There are some excellent structured TwitterChats that select a topic each week (often using a poll) and then have a designated time for discussion the topic for one hour using Twitter. The discussion is then often summarised and made available online. One of the TwitterChats that I have joined in the past is #ELTchat, this has a focus on English Language Teaching and posts regular summaries of the chats.
Tweetdeck is a very useful Twitter Client. As with starting to use Twitter or Facebook there are many “how to” posts available for starting and using Tweetdeck. This “How to use Tweetdeck” from “WikiHow” is quite comprehensive.