Twitter as a Professional Development Tool

5 Twitter Hashtags

This week, our class explored the world of Twitter as a tool for professional development. The first objective was to select five hashtags to follow for the week and then to track what we had learned as a consequence. I chose hashtags that best related to my professional roles and interests including #sschat, #edtech, #edleadership, #educoach, and #historyteacher. After a week of following these hashtags, I wanted to recount four connections I made through the process.

1. Follow Experts – This week, in the #sschat feed, I realized that two of my favorite social studies leaders were mentioned – Sam Wineburg and Peter Pappas. Somehow, I was not following them despite owning all of their books and using their instructional materials in my work and courses! Searching these guys out to follow just never occurred to me in all the time I have frequented Twitter. So, lesson #1 is to be on the lookout for experts and quality Tweeters via these hashtags. Building a quality pool of talented professionals to follow is crucial to ensuring Twitter remains a useful tool.

2. Curation System – I found some of the coolest primary sources (original documents) in the #sschat and #historyteacher hashtags this week. One set featured Battle of Gettysburg depictions made by Alfred Waud, a man who witnessed the battle. The others are World War II pictures overlaid on modern day images. The combination is downright bone chilling. Each time I view these images, I get goosebumps. Yes, they are that powerful!

So, in a few nights, I found some pretty amazing stuff that I can embed directly into my online history courses. I retweeted each resource and then realized this alone might not be enough to preserve these images for future use. After all, I have 400+ tweets, many of which are likely retweets. This led me to develop a retweet curation strategy. I installed the Pinterest button for Google Chrome, which will allow me to store useful resources on any of my Pinterest boards with relative ease. Any time I begin to look for ideas,  I generally begin with Pinterest, so this is a good workflow for me. If  I am on my phone or busy throughout the day, I will go ahead and retweet. Then, at the end of the day, I can curate my tweets and save the information worth keeping.

3. Retweets & Favorites Are Important Tweets Too – Sometimes retweets are as good or better than an original tweet. First and foremost, you are sharing ideas you find relevant with others. Secondly, you never know when a retweet might result in a new connection. The other night, I noticed a tweet featuring an social media management app I might have interest in (called Buffer) in the #edtech feed. So, I favorited the tweet. A few moments later, the author of the tweet followed me. When I went to check her profile, I realized that she was also a doctoral student in Instructional Systems Technology at Indiana University. I quickly refollowed her. This served as an important reminder that the people who tweet the ideas are just as vital as the tweets themselves. If an idea is particularly intriguing, it might not be a bad idea to check out the person who tweeted to see if they will fit in with your network.

4. Schedule It – I noticed throughout the week that I wasn’t monitoring these feeds as frequently as I should have. This might be a reason for my continued pattern of using and dropping Twitter. Yes, I have a chronic consistency problem with Twitter. Several times this week, I would be sitting in bed about an hour away from lights out only to realize that I had not checked my hashtags. So, I would pull out my phone, browse each hashtag, favorite\retweet what I liked, and follow anyone who seemed interesting.

This led me to the realization that I need a Twitter schedule as well as a process for reviewing content on my phone versus computer. First of all, I am going to have to schedule reminders to check Twitter at different points throughout the day. I will be setting reminders on my Google Calendar to see what time frame works best. I think I may have a lunchtime, midday, and after dinner check in. I have actually scheduled Twitter chats on my Google Calendar, since I continue to forget to participate. I should know Monday whether or not this strategy will work.

I really like the idea of following multiple hashtags routinely, and if I am on my laptop, Tweetdeck works beautifully. However, I have yet to find a similar application that will work for Twitter on my iPad and iPhone. If anyone had a recommendation, I would love to hear it!

Final Thoughts

I would love to continue using Twitter for professional development and resources. However, if this process is to persist beyond summer, I know structures must be in place to make Twitter a part of my daily schedule or any endeavor will fail. Working the kinks out this summer will be a key component of whether or not I continue using Twitter on a daily basis throughout the next school year.

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