Tweets from Buoy 46085

It was somewhat unnerving.   I had just started reviewing my resources while preparing a unit on earthquakes for my Gr. 7/8 geography class, when the news hit of the earthquake in Chile.  Within an hour, educators I follow on Twitter such as @Larryferlazzo and  @cybraryman posted extensive lists of sites and lessons.  Others on #edchat began tweeting links containing news video, causes of earthquakes, and interactive sites.  The generosity of these educators was appreciated.  My resources were now “real-time” and much more relevant for my students.

Newly created communities were being formed through hashtags (#chile, #earthquake,  #terremotochile, #concepcion) as those in the affected areas tweeted updates on tremors, relief efforts, pictures and videos.  Sadly, they include requests for the missing.

Twitter is being used in places I’d never have imagined, such as a tsunami tracking device, posting tweets from 99 buoys spread across the Pacific Ocean.  Users can literally “follow” an individual buoy, located in the path of the reported tsunami.  These buoys send out tweets every 60 seconds.  Average swell heights of 2 to 3 feet were now being tweeted at 15 to 18 feet from buoys off the coast of Santa Maria, California; Kodiak Alaska; and 97 others.  My students will be astonished when I share this with them in class.

Social networking sites like Twitter bring the world into our homes and our classrooms.  Our students have access to learning that will provide an impact.  They have front-row seating.  As educators, let’s make sure we provide the tickets.

Growing my PLN with Twitter

Below is a discussion I posted in my brand new group Ning, Rm 21C.  Far from being an expert, my perspective is still that of a “newbie”, where I hope to encourage those who are considering the jump, to jump!

If you’ve arrived at this site, you’re likely sold on the value of collaborating with other educators. Twitter is a tool that can help you grow your own Personal Learning Network (PLN) by following educators who willingly share resources in an ongoing, global conversation about education and technology. Watch the video (2:23 min.) Twitter in Plain English.

Be patient. It takes time to grow your PLN on Twitter. Here’s a collection of good advice I follow:

Set up your profile. Click on setting, the top bar of your twitter page (URL, bio, picture and design). Post a link to your website and/or blog. Differentiate yourself.

  • Try to post, even once, daily. The more you post relevant answers to other people’s questions, and share resources, the more you’ll receive in return.
  • Don’t try to follow a lot of people at once. Read the bio of each tweeter and some of their recent tweets before following them. The more selective you are, the more you will get out of the experience.
  • Block any lurkers you are not comfortable with.

As with any social networking site, Twitter etiquette is important.

One of the most complex features of Twitter for new users to understand is the hashtag, a topic with a hash symbol (“#”) at the start to identify it. Twitter hashtags,like #edcat, help spread information on Twitter while also helping to organize it. Check out the various education hastags available.

I follow my tweets using TweetDeck on my computer and iPhone. It has the ability to show you everything you want to see at once, in an organized column format. It defaults with columns of @Replies and Direct Messages. TweetDeck also allows you to create your own columns, including education hashtags, and individuals you follow by clicking their name at the bottom of a tweet. My current TweetDeck columns consist of All Friends, #edchat, web20classroom, Mentions, Direct Messages, and Facebook: Full News Feed.

Check out Twitter4Teachers to find subject specific teachers and administrators you can follow on Twitter. Mashable has a Twitter guidebook which is quite useful as a reference point.

Initially I thought Twitter would be a drain on my time, but over time, I’ve come to appreciate the value of the community. I am supported by a like-minded group of educators who are generous, willing to take the time to share their resources and links.

Recently I’ve used Twitter in the classroom, loading my TweetDeck on the Smartboard for my students to view. The day after the earthquake in Haiti, someone in my PLN tweeted the names of Haitian journalists able to post on Twitter. My students were astonished as we read first-hand accounts from citizens in Port-au-Prince. My students were astonished and moved. My sons are tweeters. One is currently following @Astro_Nicholas, an American astronaut in space, while my other son is following @MediaOps, a British Army Major posted in Afghanistan.

With Twitter, you and your students will have instant access to information that would take you weeks to find, or that you might miss entirely. Twitter is an integral part of my PLN.

How have you experienced, or hope to experience, the value of Twitter?

@hdurnin