This February marks my fifth year of using Twitter!Here are some lessons learned, in the order in which I learned them...
Lesson 1: It's all about the hashtags...
Those "number signs" attached to words help categorize tweets. You can search for teachers or ideas through hashtags, and you can ask your questions or share your ideas to a wider audience by using hashtags in your tweets. Check Cybraryman's pages for which hashtags might work for you.
Lesson 2: Act on Opportunities
My first edcamp was a result of a "chat" on Twitter - the date and place were tweeted out (Thank you, #EdCampOshKosh!), and I made a tiny vacation of it. What a difference it made in my teaching career! Take the opportunities that come across your feed - whether it's joining in a chat, heading to an edcamp, or submitting a proposal to present!
Lesson 3: Meet Educators Face to Face
The reason why the edcamp was so powerful was because I was meeting my PLN (personal learning network) face to face. These were REAL educators who wanted to solve REAL problems. These were not complainers - these people were DO-ERS. What inspiration!
Lesson 4: You Don't Have to Read All the Tweets
Meeting Karen Liernman (from British Columbia!) near O'Hare airport was enlightening. Here was this woman, not afraid to get in a car with me and head to dinner to meet two other teachers she'd never met! When I told her how difficult it was getting catching up with my feed every morning, she said, "You're still following your feed?" She proceeded to tell me all about Tweetdeck...
Lesson 5: Make Lists & Use Tweetdeck (or Hootsuite)
Your feed gets to be "too much" when you follow over 100 people (at least it was for me). Time to make lists... I currently have 71 (71??) lists... including middle school ELA teachers, teachers who provide time for Genius Hour, people I've met face to face, EdCamp friends, etc. This tool helps me stay organized! I use some of these lists as columns on Tweetdeck. Then I add columns for certain hashtags I'd like to follow, such as #ttog (teachers throwing out grades), #elachat, and my district's #d25learns. And, since I have some people I don't want to miss, I have a "first" list that's private to me. I check this column daily.
Lesson 6: It's Not about the Numbers
Although it makes a difference, it really isn't about the numbers. I say it makes a difference, because the more followers you have, the more chances you have of getting help with your query. But it's also true that the more hashtags you know how to use, the more answers you'll get, as well. (Again - you really don't have to follow ANYONE in order to learn from educators on Twitter.) If you have a TON of people following you ("TON" = this number is subject to your feelings; could depend on the day), they may reach out for help, and suddenly you've got a few side jobs. Think of it like this - you've had many people help YOU on Twitter, so the more followers you have, the more you may be helping other educators. It's these connections that truly make Twitter worthwhile for all educators. With a large amount of followers, you still need to be cognizant of your time management. That leads us to lesson seven...
Lesson 7: You CAN Take a Break
I've been cutting down on Twitter time this month, as I've got so much actual school work to do. I've also taken a week or two off of Twitter during vacations. It's okay to be immersed in a vacation! It's okay if you miss something. If it's valuable for others, it will make its way back around to you eventually. Sometimes I take a break to do other things that I don't HAVE to do (such as write this blog post). What if you don't respond to someone right away? That's okay, too. People should be aware that everyone has a life offline, and that life should come first.
Twitter is a TOOL.
Make it work for YOU.
What lessons have you learned about using Twitter? Please respond in the comments below!