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Do you use Twitter? Perhaps you’ve not heard of it or tried but didn’t get it? Let’s be honest, watching from the outside, Twitter like the the dumbest thing you’ve heard of “Why would anyone want to tell others what they are doing in 140 characters.”

And yet to dismiss Twitter is a mistake because it’s an incredibly powerful tool for your personal learning, connecting with others and complements your blogging. Twitters way more than telling people what you’re doing!

The key to “getting twitter” lies in using it effectively. Fortunately besides being a RSS power user I’m also well known as a Twitter-a-holic so let me share my tips on how I get the most out of using Twitter.

Disclaimer: Twitter is personal; it means different things to different people and there’s various ways people use it. Like blogging, my focus for using twitter is the conversations and connections. These are my personal tips and not rules for using Twitter :).

Getting Started With Twitter

Go to Twitter.com and click “Get Started-Join.” Think carefully about your username; I personally recommend use your real name. If I could wind back time I’d use Suewaters, and not dswaters, because branding with one unique and recognizable online identity is better.

Make sure you upload a picture; people connect more when they can visualize the person. Also very important you complete your “Online line bio” and add your “More Info URL” (for a link to your website) because people check these out carefully when deciding if it’s worth following you.

Image of twitter settings

To gain a deeper insight into the value of twitter check out:

Effective management of twitter lies with:

  1. Processes i.e. how many people you choose to follow, how you choose who to follow and your purpose for using twitter
  2. Technical i.e. the tools you use to manage twitter

Adding Followers

How many people you follow, and who you follow, influences what you get out of twitter and to some extent how you use twitter e.g. how effective you will be at maintaining conversations.

When you follow a person you will receive their tweets. You get their tweets when they follow you; but not necessarily their replies (tweets that start with @) to people they follow but you don’t (unless you have @replies set to “all @replies” in Settings>Notices — this is not something you want to do if following lots of people).

Following too few people with too few following means you’re less likely to see the true power of twitter for connecting and providing assistance. Follow too many people makes it harder to maintain the conversation.

Image of how to add twitter followersMy magic number of people to follow is between 100-200; that was when life was easier. Once you’ve set up your account check out the twitter accounts of some of your favourite bloggers (most have a link on their blog)– go through the people they are following to choose people to add to your account. Remember to follow Edublogs twitter account so you get the last news on what’s happening at Edublogs.

Personally I avoid choosing higher profile people, as they often have too many followers, are less likely to engage in conversations or follow you back — however do check their @ replies.

Using A Twitter Client

The power of twitter is in the instant notification/response to tweets of people you follow.

Image of snitter interfaceA twitter client is a MUST; using the web interface isn’t the way to go. They provide instant notification of the latest updates. Which to use is very personal however my favourites, at the moment, are Snitter and Twhirl.

Twhirl is really nice which I equate to a lovely sports car; has a beautiful interface. Definitely a good choice if you aren’t following too many people. Unfortunately I follow too many people and find the way Snitter displays notifications of new tweets is better for maintaining my conversations.

Snagging Link URLs From Twitter

People are always sharing fantastic links in twitter that are worth checking out. I use Twitter Link Monitor to collect these links and feed them by RSS into my Google Reader so I can check them out at my leisure; also handy for grabbing links tweeted when I’m offline. Note — doesn’t display links from people with locked accounts.

Tracking Terms in Twitter

I use TweetScan all the time to effectively manage conversations in Twitter that I want to track e.g. replies to my twitter name dswaters and any other variations people have used e.g. suewaters and tags like Edublogs.

With the number of people I follow I need TweetScan as my eyes and ears. By subscribing to the RSS feed for the tracking term using my feed reader I’m notified through Google Reader whenever anyone, anywhere, tweeters that term. Here are my instructions for setting up TweetScan. Note — doesn’t display terms tweet by people with locked accounts.

Applying A Bit Of Twitter Karma

There’s nothing worse than having a conversation and not realising you’re having it with yourself which is why I use:

  • Twitter Karma – displays whom I’m following and who’s following me back; I’ll often unfollow if they’re no longer following me.
  • Twitter Board – Gets love and Gives love gives shows how much a user is into conversations

And Then There’s The Cool Stuff For Fun

Occasionally you’ll just want to have some fun which is why I use:

And Let’s Not Forget The Classroom

The uses of Twitter in the classroom are really only limited by our imagination. Tom Barrett’s been writing some excellent posts on what his Twitter network means to him in terms of his classroom practice and the best ways that twitter can be utilised in your own classroom. Check out Tom’s posts:

FINAL THOUGHT

I’ve shared my tips for using twitter but everyone has their own secret ingredients —what are your tips for getting more out of twitter? Do you have any favourite applications?

If you’ve tried twitter and it wasn’t working for you — what did you like/not like? If you haven’t tried twitter and you now plan to — please let me know how you go and don’t forget to follow Edublogs on twitter.

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About Sue Waters

Edublogs Support Manager @suewaters on Twitter

44 Comments

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  7. I have an addiction, where I have to read a feed if there is new article on it

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  20. Interested in seeing how fourth graders are using twitter as a reflection and micro-blogging tool? Follow Room24 and me, their teacher, jefflewis.

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  24. Great intro and expanded explanation of use of Twitter Sue. Here’s another site that you may or may not have called upon http://www.bloggersblog.com/twitterlinks/ Could easily spend many hours trialling this lot.
    It seems adapting Twitter to your own requirements is never ending.
    Cheers, Al

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  28. One other thing I wanted to add … I found your comment re identity interesting. I always thought it better to try and maintain a private identity, use pseudonames etc, but I can see for networking it is less confusing to have the same name.

  29. A further addendum … now I get twirl! It’s a bit like eavesdropping isn’t it and picking up the juicy bits of the conversation. You don’t get the whole thing but if there’s something worth following there’s usually a link to get you there! Thanks for the comment feedback Sue.

  30. @ellenrobinette I’m glad my posts on how I use these tools provide insight into how you might use them for your own use. Make sure you let me know how you go – or if you get stuck because it helps me work out information that I need to explain better.

    @Chad thanks for telling us about @pulseofedu I notice that Vicki Davis has mentioned the account on twitter and suggest is a good account for those new to twitter.

  31. You should all check out and follow The Pulse of Education @pulseofedu if you are on twitter. It is a great resource and purpose for having a Twitter account!

  32. I really appreciate your posts like this one and the one about how you use RSS to make your life easier. I look at these tools and I’m not always sure how to make them work for me. Thanks for the insight!

  33. @Marie glad you like my information. Please never feel the stress or need to keep up with it — just take your time to learn what you want to 🙂 and feel happy in the knowledge that I will have done the research for you.

    @Pat I don’t think twitter is for everyone and certainly having the processes and tools to manage it effectively helps. My personal feeling is you need to accept with twitter that you can’t keep up with the conversation and just use when you want to dip your toes in the stream. It is definitely good for gathering your thoughts while you are reflecting on information when writing a post. If we miss stuff in twitter eventually people will blog about it and we catch it there anyway.

    @Mike Glad you liked how I separated out the aspects of getting involved with twitter. I think most negative comments about twitter often relate to the fact the person hasn’t “got it”. I know myself I tried twitter, didn’t get it and went back several weeks/months later and it just clicked. And as you say with Twitter you become very efficient at working out what to ignore and what to listen to. I can’t really say what grabs me — probably the cheeky conversations. Thanks for the link to Twitter in Plain English — lots of educators like it I just felt that it didn’t capture the essence of what is so powerful about twitter which is probably hard to achieve in a short video. You can check out my comments on this post.

    @Grace I hope I don’t cause another sleepless weekend — it’s bad enough that I don’t get enough sleep. I was so excited when I got the lead on the Twitter Link monitor because it was the last tool I had been looking for. Have an enjoyable weekend.

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  35. Hi Sue – I can see myself having another sleepless weekend while I play with more tools : ) excellent. I especially needed a way to collect twitter links and found it here and am now using Link Monitor on RSS thanks to your post . It was what I’d wanted for a while.

  36. Thanks Sue.

    You did a great job of separating the various parts of Twitter and introducing the various tools.

    I just read someone’s blog who slammed Twitter and on YouTube video the comments were mostly negative.

    What folks don’t realize is when they watch TV, they automatically and quickly slip past the uninteresting shows and focus on the one (out of hundreds) that interest them. It’s the same with Twitter.

    I gravitate to the folks who include links to great articles or videos, or who post great questions or who interact with me to improve our learning.

    Twitter, like life, is what you make of it.

    Here was a useful video I enjoyed to learn Twitter and its usefulness
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ddO9idmax0o

    Cheers,
    Twitter: MikeRomard

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  38. Hi Sue,
    This is a very useful post. I have to admit that I’ve given up on twitter twice before (without ever really giving it due time and attention), and I’m now on to my third stint.
    I’m still not convinced but I’m keeping an open mind. I’ll admit that I have gleaned some good ideas from conversations, but I still enjoy reading ‘meatier’ blogs in Reader, as I can go directly from one post to the next and sift accordingly.
    I feel guilty being task-oriented in twitter, but I can’t dedicate the time to stitching up connections with social chatter. That’s not self-importance talking – just desperation in terms of affording my own family quality conversational time.
    I wonder if this comes down to a personality thing, in terms of who will get the most out of it. I know some people use it really well for both ‘work and play’ and that’s great for them, and I wouldn’t like to detract from that experience.

  39. Thanks Sue, you are a wealth of information which I struggle to keep up with!

  40. @Tommy I totally agree and every time you take twitter to the next level e.g. adding more followers you end up having to adapt again. I hope my tips help.

    @Kate I had to insert the disclaimer – seen too many posts were people have written recommendations and then commenters had felt they were rules. You’ve definitely made an important point about not just being about educators; it’s probably something I should have mentioned in the post but it was already too long — so much to talk about with twitter but not enough room. Tom Barrett does highlight some really good ways that you can use it within the classroom — the jury is out with me at the moment on this. I like to keep an open mind because sometimes it can be just a case of someone showing me an option I hadn’t consider. For example, I’m totally against use of Facebook and yet it has many possibilities.

    @Frank agreed I do look at who they are chatting with. First I look at their bio to see if they are an educator, next I see if they are having conversations with people I know. If unsure I don’t add them but will pick up their @dswaters using TweetScan. If they are having conversations with me I will then add them. Excellent point about Flock – I frequently turn off the sound — forgot to yesterday & was crazy by the end of the day. It’s also why I said this is what helps me because it is sooo individual as to what you like/don’t like with twitter.

    @murcha I was blown away when I checked Coolcat teachers account yesterday. Vicki is definitely amazing. She has well over 1000 people she is following – unfortunately the downside is it limits the conversation. However I can imagine she gets very tired from it all and full credit for her in managing so well because she does make such an effort to respond. I haven’t tried TwitPic as I normally use Flickr – I should stop being so judgmental and give it a try. I think Tom raises so really valid ways that we can use in a classroom and not let it be distracting.

  41. Great post! There is so much for me to digest here and to further research. I have loved being a serious member of twitter, for the past 3 months. In that time, I have made so many friends, shared resources and learnt different tools.
    People like @coolcatteacher amaze me, in that they are prepared to follow more than 1000 people, despite having an enormous following themselves. I am sure that they must use some of the administrative tools to filter tweets, as you have mentioned above.
    I also love the use of twitpic, where a photo can be put up, for, as someone tweeted a picture is worth 1000 words, well more than 140 characters at least!! I also wish to look into the possible use of the video insertion options.
    As to using twitter with my class, it can be very addictive and I have procrastinated using it, wondering whether it will be far more of a distraction than a useful educational tool. Thanks for sharing this valuable post.

  42. Thanks Sue …. I agree that the secret is to create a sizable enough network for twitter to make sense or to “get” it. Friend “harvesting” is the way to go, but aside from just sifting through another’s follow list, I like to also check out @newperson that someone that I am following is currently chatting with. Then I can see how that person is interacting and what they are offering to the community, ie sharing links, stimulating thought, asking for guidance, etc. … or just telling us what they ate for lunch. I use those indicators in my network selection process, too.

    For those, like me, that don’t like irritating pop-ups and sounds, and other visual-auditory distractors, the Flock Social Web Browser has a native twitter client tucked into it’s People Side Bar .. and it does refresh and allow posting … you can even drop “snippets” onto friends in your timeline to send them images, videos, and links and such.

  43. Sue – great post, you’ve covered so much information that is really important for getting started!

    I love your disclaimer about these not being rules – it’s so true that there are no rules – users have to take Twitter for what it is and either accept it and its faults or decide not to use. Also, remember that twitter is NOT just for educators – twitter is used by people from all over the world from all sorts of backgrounds and professions. I’ve heard educators bemoan that some people use inappropriate language on Twitter, and in that situation, your choice is simply to not follow them or put up with it. This is the reason that I don’t think blindly deciding to use twitter in the classroom is a good idea – I believe Twitter can be likened to having a business meeting in a bar – it’s an adult environment where a lot of good communication and collaboration can occur, but not neccessarily a place for children. Just my 2 cents, but I’m of the mind that twitter is excellent for professional development but not for classroom use. Of course, many believe differently – the glory of being allowed to have opinions! On a different note, I want to share a little more information relating to the settings for which @’s you receive – I wrote a post on this back in January – Early Morning Twitter Education

    Thanks again for a great post on this!

    P.S. I’m kolson29 in twitter for all of the people looking for someone to follow 🙂

  44. Falling into Twitter is like falling into deceptively deep water: it doesn’t look that deep, but you soon find yourself struggling to stay above the surface. So thanks for the life preserver.

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