There are two distinct parts to the story of how this Social Media workshop came about, each worthy of separate blog entries. Part 1 will examine how I became a twitter proponent and Part deux will show how my participation in this workshop, quite fittingly, would not have come about without twitter.
A little over a year ago I did not tweet…although my kids are always quick to point out that I have been known to emit other, less desireable sounds from time to time. Back in 2008, I had been curious enough to set up a Twitter account but my interest soon waned as I really couldn’t figure out the value in it. I wasn’t interested in reading a tweet about Britney Spears and Gene Simmonds love-child; like many others, that’s what I erroneously thought it was all about. A couple of years passed and I started my MA in Learning and Technology. In the very first course, our professor strongly suggested that we start using Twitter in order to develop a personal learning network. What the heck was that I wondered, but was too afraid to ask, electing to suffer from imposter syndrome in silence. Not that it made any difference as no one ever really seemed to be able to explain it to me in any event. It turned out to be one of those things you had to learn by doing….kind of like teaching.
So I logged in to my old twitter account, tweeted a couple of times and then…nothing. The main reason for this was that I added all of the other students in my cohort as tweeters to follow (because I didn’t know who to follow or how to follow the appropriate people), and they were as clueless as I was regarding twitter so there was no interaction going on whatsoever. Another course started and once again, our prof strongly encouraged us to use twitter by making it a component of our participation mark. They set up an account for our class and created a hashtag (#) for all course-related tweets. Soon everyone in the class was posting comments but many of the comments were about how they still didn’t get exactly what twitter was for and weren’t sure how to find credible people to follow. At least I discovered that all my classmates (and I really mean ALL of them) were on the same page although they didn’t admit to it in class. Hmmm…maybe twitter is useful as a way of gauging what people are REALLY thinking, I thought to myself, and that might be very useful in a professional context when one is trying to evaluate, say , the latest educational research (a somehat dim lightbulb switched on). Then I got a brainstorm, a pretty rare event at my age, when brownouts are a far more likely occurence. Why not check my prof’s account to see who she’s following in the education realm, then follow them myself. I mean, there’s no law against it, it’s not like plagarism and, guess what, much to my surprise, twitter is set up to facilitate users doing EXACTLY that!
Right away I discovered that most users posted their areas of interest in their brief bios which allowed me to quickly decide who was an educator vs. who wasn’t. A brief glance at their tweets would give a very quick feel for what they were interested in, their general level of intelligence, usefullness of resources they linked to and their level of participation (important). At the same time, I started posting links to educational resources related to my MA coursework. As I started following more educators I started receiving links to a huge number of useful educational resources. I started sharing some of my resources and my followers started commenting on how useful they found them, whether they agreed or disagreed with the author, suggesting related resources, activities they used in their classrooms, information about upcoming conferences and events, etc. etc. I became hooked as I quickly discovered that I was being drawn in to very pleasant world-wide community of educators full of really motivating, passionate, supportive and innovative individuals who cared about the future of education. A tresure trove of relevant, high-quality information related to my educational interests was soon flowing in mind-boggling quantities, into my twitter account….To Be Continued…