This guest post was written by Kathleen Morris, a grade two teacher and blogger from Victoria, Australia. This is post #3 in the “30 Days to a Whole New PLN” challenge!
Now you know what a PLN is, we’re going to look at ways to build one.
Most teachers who are using Twitter would probably agree that it is their number one way they build and connect with their PLN.
What is Twitter?
Twitter is a social networking and microblogging service that allows you to send out short messages called tweets. Tweets are limited to 140 characters but can also contain media like photos or videos.
Twitter is a place that you can just lurk, by reading others’ tweets, or contribute to, by sending out your own tweets. Obviously the latter is what you work towards as the more you put in, the more you get out!
One of the great things about Twitter is that it is accessible via regular computers and mobile devices like iPads, iPhones and other smartphones. There is even a function to access Twitter via SMS.
Twitter is used by people in nearly every country around the world. For teachers, this means you have access to thousands of teachers around the world with rich backgrounds and experiences that can contribute to your professional growth.
Think you’re not interested in Twitter? Think again!
Twitter is more than just “another social networking tool”. It differs from Facebook in that it isn’t just about reconnecting with people you know or sharing what you’re cooking for dinner; Twitter is about connecting with like minded educators for personalised and ongoing professional development.
There are millions of tweets flying around in the Twittervese 24-7 but the good thing is you can use Twitter as your time and inclination permits!
I like Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach’s analogy of Twitter being like a river. The river keeps flowing but sometimes you might just walk past and have a quick look, sometimes you might hang around and dip your toes in, other times you might spend hours swimming around.
What will you get out of building a Twitter PLN?
I find Twitter to be like a virtual staffroom where I can catch up with my PLN. It is a place where I can find advice, give advice, find great links, share my work and engage in general musings about education.
In this post, Chris Betcher describes what he got out of tweeting for just 10 minutes.
Similarly, in this post Edna Sackson describes what she got out of 30 minutes on Twitter one morning.
Effective teaching and learning doesn’t occur in a vacuum. To be the best teacher you can be, you need a diverse and innovative network. Traditionally, the staff at your school was your only network of teachers to collaborate with. This network may not be diverse or innovative. With Twitter, the barriers of distance and access are broken down and the world is at your fingertips!
Five Steps to Building Your PLN via Twitter
To sign up for Twitter, simply go to www.twitter.com and create a username. Don’t make your username too long and make it something that identifies you, like your name, rather than a complex nickname.
Compete your bio so people know who you are, and add an image. Personally, I like real photos much better than cartoon avatars. It helps you to build your relationship with your PLN. When you can’t build trust by meeting people face to face, things like bios and photos hold a lot of weight.
If you need more detailed information about setting up your Twitter account, check out this comprehensive post by Sue Waters - A Twitterholics Guide to Tweets, Hashtags and all Things Twitter.
2. Follow people
There are thousands of teachers around the world on Twitter, you just have to know where to find them! No ideas? Start with some people from the Edublogs community like @edublogs @suewaters @ronnieburt @tasteach @mgraffin @murcha @mr_avery and me, @kathleen_morris
Once you have a few people to follow, look at who they are following and you will start to build up your PLN.
You can also adopt some Twitter regulars as your mentors and ask them to put a tweet out to encourage their followers to follow you (I am happy to do that, just tweet me – @kathleen_morris)
You’ll need to spend some time checking out the stream of tweets and getting the hang of tweeting, retweeting, direct messaging and hashtags. Click here for an overview. Many people say Twitter isn’t as intuitive as other web tools but it doesn’t take long for it to make sense.
Most people who use Twitter don’t actually use the Twitter website. There are a lot of more user-friendly Twitter clients out there. I like TweetDeck on my laptop and Echofon on my iPad. Find out more about Twitter clients here.
Remember, the more you put in, the more you get out.
Don’t be afraid to start replying to people, retweeting tweets, asking questions and striking up conversations. Most teachers on Twitter are very friendly and always happy to help newbies find their feet!
5. Stick with it!
It took me a few attempts to get going with Twitter and I know I’m not the only one! Sticking with it is so important. Make yourself check in to Twitter daily for a month before you make any decisions about whether it is for you.
It takes time to build rapports with people. When you do, you’ll find your professional world will be so enlightened and your students will be better for it!
Your Task Challenge – Jump on the Twitter Bandwagon
- If you haven’t joined Twitter yet, head over to www.twitter.com and sign up. Leave a comment on this post with your Twitter name so we can follow you.
- Write a blog post about your initial impressions of Twitter. You could include – what you see as obstacles to taking part in Twitter, what you have learnt from being on Twitter, or who you have connected with via Twitter. Don’t forget to leave a comment here with the link to your post.
- Check out this list of nominees from the 2010 Edublog Awards – Best Individual Tweeter. Choose some tweeters who appeal to you to follow.
- Send out a tweet pointing people to this post!
About the Author
Kathleen teaches grade two at Leopold Primary School in Victoria, Australia.
2011 is the fourth year she has blogged with her students. Her class blog is a big part of her daily curriculum.
Kathleen writes a blog for educators about technology integration, educational blogging and global collaboration.
She also writes a free fortnightly e-newsletter for educators called Tech Tools for Teachers. Click here to sign up.
Find Kathleen on Twitter @kathleen_morris