Saturday, April 25, 2009

Twitter

In our EDM 310 Microcomputing Systems class, we have been required to sign up for, access and learn about Twitter and it's benefits to teaching and education. My initial reaction to this project was "WHAT!? I've never even used Twitter, how am I supposed to know how to use it?" It turned out to be much easier and more helpful than I thought. Twitter is basically a social networking service used to make and keep contact with other people for mainly business and work-related reasons. The thing I like most about Twitter is that it's as public or private as want it to be; you can allow only certain people, chosen by you, to view your "tweets", or updates. Your updates can include questions directed at the general public or toward certain individuals.

One of the first things I did when I began using Twitter was to subscribe to TwitterTips. This is an excellent resource for finding out how to effectively utilize Twitter. They give several websites to very useful articles. One of these articles that Dr. Strange had posted a link to was called "Top 100 Tools for the Twittering Teacher". Some of these tips included:

14. Twits Like Me: Find other users in Education.
This could be very helpful, especially for new teachers, to make contact and receive updates and advice from more experienced teachers. It's a great way to get new ideas and gain new information from teachers who have more knowledge and experience in the classroom.

42. Twiggit: Using Twiggit, you can find news and articles related to your curriculum.
Once again, this program proves to be a big help to newer teachers. Fresh new teachers are of course less experienced and may not know where to find the best information for teaching their classes. The Twiggit tool provides new teachers with articles and other information about what they are supposed to be teaching to their students. Twiggit would also be useful to veteran teachers because they can keep themselves and their curriculum current and updated through the available news links.

These are only two out of a hundred ways that teachers can put Twitter to good use! Some of the other resources included RSS friends and feeds, scheduling help, lectures, weather updates, photos, research ideas and even games. I found this particular article about Twitter very useful and will definitely use it for reference in the future.

According to Laura Walker, a Twittering teacher, "your experience on Twitter is only as high quality as the people who you follow and the information you share." She is so right; you are not going to find anything useful through Twitter if you do not find anyone useful to follow. It's easy to use Twitter's search engine; you can search for either people or topics that may interest you. Keeping up with Twitter is not difficult either; you just have to be able to sort out useful information from the unhelpful. In my use of Twitter, I logged on about every other day, and at first was overwhelmed by the never-ending tweets left by Dr. Strange, my classmates, and other teachers who I was following. Dr. Strange told me that there was no way I could keep up with everyone and everything posted, but that I had to learn how to browse briefly through the information and pick out things that could be useful to me as a future teacher. Once I learned how to do this, it became much less time-consuming to locate what I was looking for.

I started out trying to use Twitter like I used my Facebook; posting just what I was doing at that specific moment. It was then that I read an article by an anonymous Twitterer called "5 Reasons Why People Won't Follow You on Twitter". Mistake number one on the list was "Talking to Yourself". This is what I had been doing the whole time! I soon learned that the purpose of Twitter for me was establishing a social networking community amongst myself and other teachers. My tweets changed from "I am freezing cold" to things like "What are some beneficial sites where teachers can get free curriculum ideas?" Several teachers responded, giving me links to useful websites. I had it now!

As far as I'm concerned, there don't seem to be any negative aspects to Twittering. Other than the fact that it's yet another thing to have to keep up with, Twitter is flexible and useful. I will probably be utilizing Twitter in the very near future when I graduate as an elementary teacher.