Saturday, May 21, 2011

Why Should I Tweet on Twitter?

I’m sure everyone has noticed how the little blue Twitter symbol is popping up everywhere from ads to businesses to celebrity endorsements. But, many educators don’t know that Twitter can be easily harnessed to build your own Personal Learning Network (PLN). Building your own PLN on Twitter can be frustrating if you don’t know a few simple tricks to get started.
Twitter is a perfect tool to use for the busy educator. Each tweet is limited to 140 characters per tweet. First of all, you need to know the difference between mentions, retweets, and direct messages. Mentions are when you want someone else to see what you are tweeting. You will see the @ symbol with their name such as @alnbctnetwork. That way you can answer a question that someone has posed and they will see your response in their personal Twitter feed. Retweets are when you find something that you like and you want for the people following you to see that tweet that someone else has tweeted. Direct messages are messages you only want the person mentioned to see.
Once you’ve set up your Twitter account, you will want to begin searching for like-minded educators that you can learn from and share with. If you have an educator that you admire, search for them. Then look at who they follow. Chances are they are someone that you would like to follow as well. By finding and following other educators, you are giving yourself a 24 hour hotline to resources, support, and encouragement for any of your educational needs…all from the comfort of your own home or smart phone for free.
I recently had someone tweet “I don’t understand why no one is answering my questions.” Many educators forget that their tweets are only seen by people who are specifically following them. If you only have two people following you, then only two people are going to see your Tweets. One thing to keep in mind is that Twitter is about building relationships with these other educators. Most people begin by being “lurkers.” They simply read what everyone else is saying and take advantage of resources that are posted, but they are not adding anything to the learning community. Many seasoned tweeters won’t follow you on Twitter unless you have interacted with them in a conversation.  They don’t know you. You need to join a few conversations or make a few comments. Once you do, a whole new cache of professional knowledge is open to you.
Did you know that most conferences now have a live Twitter feed? That’s right. You can still gain professional learning being streamed and tweeted by those in attendance in real time. In order to join that feed, you will need to find the hashtag (#) for that conference. To easily follow those hashtag groups, you’ll need to download an app like TweetDeck or HootSuite. It will then give you the ability to add an additional column just for a hashtag group. For example, if you want to follow the feed for the NBPTS Conference in Washington, D. C. this summer, July 28-30, add a column with the hashtag #nbpts11. Attendees there will make comments, give summations, and tweet resources that anyone following that hashtag (regardless of whether or not they are Twitter friends) will be able to read and keep up with the learning going on in D. C.  To make sure that your tweets are added to a Twitter feed, you add the hashtag name to your tweet and it will show up in that feed.
Using hashtags, you don’t even have to wait for a conference. Using the same principles, there are regular educational chats conducted through Twitter daily.  All you need to do is find a group that interests you. Here is a listing of the different educational chats from @Cybraryman1. Don’t be afraid to follow a chat, read a bit, and then join in the conversation.
So why should you tweet on Twitter?  With Twitter you can connect, collaborate, and work with educators from around the world. You have the power to develop your own personalized learning network of people you respect. Whatever you want to learn, struggle with, or share, your Twitter friends are there twenty-four/seven to lend a hand, provide answers, and celebrate successes. Instead of struggling to find the perfect tool to use with your students, you can have multiple answers within a couple of hours or even minutes by just tweeting your question. You may not have the time to read and search for that perfect resource, but through Twitter relevant and often groundbreaking resources are shared constantly. Getting other perspectives offers you the opportunity to see your situation with a new point of view.  So what are you waiting for? Start tweeting and be sure to follow us @alnbctnetwork. We’d love to learn with you.
Here are some additional resources on the subject of harnessing Twitter to build for yourself a personal learning network:


Sunday, May 1, 2011

What is Professional Development?

This is a question that can strike a sense of dread in even the best of educators. One of our goals at the Alabama NBCT Network is to provide support and constant professional learning. One way that we aim to do this is by sharing as many resources and ideas as we can through all of the professional development opportunities in which we engage. That was the driving force that caused us to form this blog, our Twitter feed, and a Facebook group (see the Resources page for more details). We want to create a portal that provides constant professional development not only for our network members but for all teachers.

Yesterday, we had the opportunity to attend the first EdCamp Birmingham held at Samford University. EdCamps, TeachMeets, and Unconferences are a different type of  format for professional learning. They are participant-driven. Instead of a set program, attendees arrive and volunteer to lead discussions on topic about which they are passionate. A board is formed and participants decide which conversation they want to join. You vote with your feet. If there are two conversations you would like to join, you just go to that session, stay a while and then move on to another conversation.

The presenters are really facilitators. They begin by sharing a bit of knowledge and then engaging those in attendance to ask questions, draw on their background knowledge, make comments, and brainstorm new ideas. At first it may seem a bit daunting because it is different than the usual "sit and get" type of professional development that most of us have been involved in throughout our careers. However, the rich conversations that happened not only in the hour time slot continued at lunch and dinner and are still continuing today through Twitter.

We want you to benefit from the conversations from yesterday. So here are some of the resources, that we gained through our time at EdCamp yesterday:

  • The Cybraryman (a.k.a Jerry Blumengarten) has been cataloging Internet resources since the mid-1980's. He has a wealth of information and resources on any subject that you can imagine. If you have a question, he (or his wife, Gail) will be more than happy to answer any of your questions.
Tools shared through the Smackdown:
  • TitanPad Need for several people to work on one document at a time and other resources are blocked? TitanPad provides that option in real-time.
  • ComicLife-Do your students enjoy graphic novels and comic books? This let's you create them digitally for free. Here's an example of one done by Nikki Robertson, Library Media Specialist at Auburn High School
  • MyFakewall- Do your students like Facebook? This tool provide your students the free space to create wall that look a lot like Facebook for book characters, historical figures, etc. Here's one on Cinderella and one on Benjamin Franklin 
  • Google Voice- Want to stay in touch with your students and their parents without giving out your phone number? Then Google Voice is for you. There is a great video on the homepage that explains how it works...for free.
  • iCivics-This site has a host of games and simulations in which 3rd-8th grade students can engage. Everything from voting, the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and how people become citizens of the United States.
  • Weebly- Do you or your students want to create a website? Weebly makes it easy...and it's free.
We hope that you've found something useful in this post. Come back often as we will continue post information that we hope you will find beneficial. Until later...