There seems to be a thirst on the part of some educators for Twitter tactics and strategies. It seems that the more I write about this subject, the more I get requests for additional posts. I take this as a good sign and an indication that Social Media may be gaining traction with educators. I see Twitter as an excellent source for gaining an understanding of what one needs to know. I feel that when we talk about Twitter as a great source for Professional Development, that is somewhat misleading. Twitter does not provide the development, but it does offer a direction to sources for that development. It provides educators with the knowledge to ask the right questions. It steers people to the best sources to learn the answers to their questions. More basically it enlightens educators as to what they should be asking. Twitter enables those who don’t know what they don’t know, to have a direction for seeking enlightenment.
One of the benefits of this type of learning is that it can be quite specific. In the past many PD workshops addressed the bells and whistles of software applications and the general use of an application. It often failed to address the specific needs of teachers in specific subject areas. IT folks know computers and applications. Teachers know learning needs. Through the use of Twitter, a Social Studies teacher can ask other SS teachers from around the world, what timeline applications were found to be the most successful. They can even ask how it was used and get specific real classroom examples and plans from those who achieved success. Before Twitter teachers were limited to interacting with teachers they knew in their building or district. Now, they are limited to whatever range they have with Twitter. With the proper strategies, that can create a huge jump in numbers of opinions and a bigger step toward relevance for the teacher. That is the “Why” of Twitter, and now for the “How”.
Once you have put the process for “following” educators on Twitter in place, you need to begin Tweeting. The process, for most, as beginning users, is similar. At first people will lurk. That means they will watch and try to figure out what is going on. Lurking and learning is a standard way of learning through Social Media. As a passive observer much can be learned. There does come a time for everyone however that they need to engage for a clarification. There might be a time when, as educators often do, a stand on some issue must be taken. Whatever the initial reason for interaction, the learning process will increase significantly as the educator engages other educators.
The obvious beginning here is to state that a tweet is a thought or piece of information that a person (Tweeter) sends out to followers. It often contains a link to a greater-sized piece of information or video. If there are only five people following, that is not much of an audience. If a tweet with information is of interest, or found to be of importance by one of the five followers, that follower may Re-tweet it. That would be sending that same tweet to his or her followers. This is an RT. That will tell a person’s followers that she, or he, tweeted out this specific information from another source. The original tweeter gets credit for that information and the re-tweeter gets credit for finding and sharing the tweet. Everyone is a hero. If the re-tweeter also has a following of five people you are not much of a hero. If however, that person has 10,000 followers, you become an educator Rock Star. As those 10,000 see your re-tweet, many will choose to follow you directly. That makes the idea of following people with large followings a great idea. It brings to mind an old TV shampoo commercial that said, “If you tell two friends, and they tell two friends, and they tell two friends… “.You get the picture!
The other strategy with Re-tweets is for you to selectively RT others. If you spot a tweet that offers value to your followers, RT it. People will then look to you as a source to information that they may not be seeing. As they RT your RT, your name is attached and more followers will come to you. RT-ing smart tweets, always makes you look smart. For that reason, check out the tweet before you RT it. A bad Tweet, RT-ed by you, makes you look bad. There is no Educator Rock star status for bad tweets. Never hesitate to RT anyone’s good information. Never assume your followers have seen it. People come on the twitter stream at different times, or are otherwise distracted and often miss things. Your RT may come at a time that they are better able to absorb the information
It is important to note that you should not change, add or otherwise edit someone’s Tweet. You may comment on it, but DO NOT put your own personal spin on someone else’s Tweet. You can add comments before the RT appears. (@tomwhitby I Love this comment.>> RT @twittername Fridays are known for #FF, pizza, and Wine #Edchat) Keep in mind that RT’s are still limited to 140 characters. When an RT is created it includes the original Tweeter’s name as part of the 140 characters. This is important for two reasons. If you have a tweet that you want to be intentionally Re-tweeted keep it under 120 characters. This allows for the Re-Tweeters header. If you are Rt-ing a tweet, you may need to edit it down. The first thing to do is eliminate the hashtags. The original tweet already covered them. If you need more try abbreviating words. Keep the intent of the tweet intact. If all else fails and you cannot reduce it enough, go to the link and make an original Tweet based on your opinion.
Another important Re-Tweet personal policy is to RT a fellow educator’s appeal for help. If an educator is making a request and only has a few followers, that call may go unanswered. If we all RT that call, we increase the range of that tweet, so the tweeter should get substantial results from the request. Before I RT those types of tweets, I always preface it with “REPLY TO>>”. (REPLY TO>>@twittername Does anyone have data on learning w/mobile devices?)This in theory gets the response to the original tweeter and not me. This is a great theory that occasionally works. Unfortunately, I am often included in the replies. I guess I am the only one familiar with my theory.
Re-Tweeting is an important part of Twitter. It can be used in your favor to increase your following. It is also part of the learning process on Twitter. It should never be a stopping point in the Twitter experience as a tool for professional development. The best learning in social media involves engagement with others. That is what makes it social media. Your learning will increase with your further direct engagements. Another Post I did on the dark side of Re-Tweets is Twitter’s Achilles Heel. This can be a confusing topic to explain which is why there is such a need. Please feel free to comment. You may also join the Educator’s PLN for Twitter tutorials and twitter lists.