Sunday, November 21, 2010

Twitter: Your Personalized Professional Learning Network

"Think about this for a second. In a last ditch effort I reached out to my community of learners and they responded immediately [when one person] whom I have never met face to face before stopped what he was doing and created a video tutorial for me (and anyone else who needed it). What an incredibly powerful reminder of the power of my PLN."
Tony Baldesero
November 9, 2010 in his blog Transleadership

I wanted to begin with this quote from Tony Baldesero because Baldesero's story really struck home with me.  When Tony was struggling to embed a Twitter roll into his Wiki, he went to his Twitter Friends for help.  Here is his account (from his November 9th blog):

Anyone know how to add a twitter feed to wikispaces?
Within two minutes I got a reply from @andycinek and @dmcordell, both of whom pointed me in the right direction.  Then @dmantz7 tweeted this:
I have several Twitter feeds on 1 of my wikis. I will write up the steps for you and send them.
My initial thought was, “Is he really typing out directions for me?”  Then I got this one from him…Will send you link for tutorial video as soon as screencastomatic completes the encoding.

Wow!  It's hard to imagine... but this is true.
I have to completely agree with Baldesero.
It's absolutely incredible that someone would stop what they are doing to create a screencast to help someone they have never met (and likely many others).  Truly, this is the power of Twitter.

Twitter is like having a Personalized Professional Learning Network, "a network at my fingertips", as Will Richardson would say. You see, with over 175 million users from around the globe, Twitter has become one of the most popular networking sites on the web ( The fantastic advantage to Twitter, is that you can choose to "follow" only those users who share your interests and passions, provide quality learning opportunities and enhance your personal and professional life. Alternatively, you can subscribe to hashtag feeds, such as my blog Twitter feed on #edtech, #tlchat, #edchat or #elemchat to name just a few.  Can't attend the conference and want to share in the learning? Simple, just follow the hashtag (#sljsummit10, #bjporter, #nsba... to name just a few).

Twitter really does help you connect with people and learning that counts. Feeling more than inspired by Baldesero's story, I viewed the screencast embedded on the Transleadership blog and embedded my own blog roll to this blog for #edtech. I didn't know you could do this... or just how easy it really was.

Feeling further inspired, I decided to create my own screencast for embedding Twitter Feeds into Blogger (simpler than Wikispaces, by the way) in the event that I might help someone in return, I uploaded the screencast to YouTube and have embedded my screencast below... Sorry, no I didn't Tweet it out (I still hate my voice!)

Twitter... first, for me.

Like many other of my endeavors "in the clouds", I created a Twitter account this past spring after hearing Will Richardson speak at this spring's IT Summit in Saskatoon.  Immediately, I followed two or three people, sent off one Tweet... and soon forgot my username and password. 

Reconnecting with Twitter has been a valuable resource for me. To share my learning journey using Twitter, I have created a little Prezi so you can see some of my actions and reflections.

I do realize that I need to contribute more. I think that will just come. In the meantime, I have tweeted out every week or so, and continue to feel a little more comfortable each time.  I remember the first time, I think it took my 15 minutes to tweet out the maximum 140 characters... but it is improving.

A few added bits of advice... I took Will Richardson's suggestion of and I found that valuable. I noticed there are hashtags for #triathlon... I thought maybe I could get a personal training network for myself, as well!
On that note, I have been enjoying creating the network that I have (see my Google map below).  I see my perspective may be somewhat skewed to North American education so that will be something to think about in the future, as well.

Map your Twitter friends

Twitter... for education:

Like so many other technologies, educators have to decide what tools to use and how to use them. Twitter is no different. Is there a place for Twitter in classrooms? I think so... let's take a look.

According to Richardson, "imagine if we could help our students use the tool to build learning-on-demand environments like the Twitter community" (Richardson, p. 88).  However, similar to Facebook, there are certainly barriers to cross. In Saskatoon Public Schools, teachers have access to Twitter, but with so few controls in place, I agree that Twitter may be a little too "Wild West" (Richardson, p.88) for many school settings. 

Concerned teachers may want to look for options  such as (see image below) which is one great option. I signed up for a free account in less than one minute.  However, I was somewhat concerned that although this site is for students and teachers, I was not asked to verify this in any way.  This was somewhat concerning, but as I looked further into Edmodo it does seem that you can only connect with teachers (not students).

Of course, just as with Facebook or any online activity, teachers need to be careful about their own actions and tweets.  Always remember that anyone can read what you say! Think carefully.  I saw this article (received via Twitter) about teachers banned after the principal was constantly criticising students in his tweets (this isn't the staff room, and not that this behaviour is acceptable there either).

So is it worthwhile to assume some risks and engage our students in "microblogging".  I believe so.  The video and research study below, although geared for college students, made me think about the power of boosting both engagement and academic achievement (two of my strongest passions) through Twitter.  I really appreciated the student who discussed how although she was very shy, she felt she could still get to know her classmates through her tweets. I loved the idea of helping students stay updated on assignments and tutoring options.  The one student who commented about his inability to use Facebook and study at the same time. Twitter allowed him this option.

Finally, if teachers don't feel comfortable having Edmodo or Twitter for their students, I appreciated Will Richardson's highlight of Westlake High School.  With almost 1000 followers of their tweets, I think it is another great way to share parent resources and school updates with the community. In my browsing of the school's tweets, I noticed reminders about gently used book donations, fundraising, sports events, important dates and corrections.
Twitter... for professional learning!

As I have highlighted, the power of Twitter in creating a learning network is invaluable.  Here are a few resources that I found very worthwhile in my learning.

I really enjoyed this Twitter Prezi.  I found the educator took the learner through lots of important information about Twitter for the brand new 'tweeps'.

For many educators, myself included, Twitter is proving itself to be a powerful tool.  Proof? See what Stump Teacher posted on his November 9 blog!

Pretty powerful words, I would say!

So get started, even if it means lurking like me. I found this LiveBinder resource on Twitter for Educators extremely helpful. I love the introduction (wikipedia), terminology (helped me out!) and I laughed as I read through the misconceptions.  One of my fears... as I mentioned in my Prezi, is that I'll waste everyone's time. 

Finally, I'd like to leave you with this thought about Twitter and your Personalized Professional Learning Network:

Have a great week.  Next week... blogs!

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