Twitter-What is it and why would I use it?

I’ve read many blogs and sites on the “how do you twitter” but haven’t come across many about the why you would twitter. So I thought I would blog about my thoughts on the why aspect.

The first time I saw Twitter, I didn’t get it at all so don’t worry, you are not the only one. It took me almost a month before I saw any point to it. Now, it has revolutionized how I learn and relate with others.

I actually think this video doesn’t show the whole picture. If you only tweeted about how you had coffee this morning or mowed the lawn, people wouldn’t follow you. You need to provide something substantial and interesting.

So what is Twitter?

Simply put, it is a social networking tool. The best analogy I can make is it is much like the status updates on Facebook. It provides a quick way to say what you are working or doing now. However, Facebook limits your status updates (unless you make it public) to friends or people in your network. Twitter extends this to the rest of the world.

You can follow practically anyone. Many prominent faces in the world are twittering from Obama and McCain to Britney Spears and Shaquille O’Neil. Read more about it here

Great, now why would I ever want to share what I am doing with a bunch of strangers?

Think about it this way. Why would you go to a educational conference or workshop? To find out about what best practices are out there, make connections with teachers and hopefully learn something new. However, sometimes you go to workshops that are fascinating and want to learn more from the presenter. Usually you forget about this workshop or lose their business card they gave you. Twitter allows you maintain contact and read updates, new blog posts or interesting websites that they find automatically. You do this by “following” them on Twitter.

Slowly, your network grows as you follow more people. You develop a niche of people who are interested in similar things as you. Once you have this network, you an ask them questions and build on a shared knowledge from this network. This is often referred as a PLN (personal learning network).

If you don’t have a network, I agree it is useless. If you just had a random group of people that you were following, you might ocassionally learn something new but significantly less that you do in your own PLN. I would say you probably need to find and follow at least 20 or more people who have a common interest you. I usually add international teachers or people involed in technology. My passion is technology so I get all sorts of links and great information from them.

So how might I get followed by others?

Like any team, you need to give as well as take. If you don’t “give anything” than people aren’t going to follow you. Everyone has some knowledge to offer others whether it be a good website, a great technology tool or a better teaching strategy. Share it! Slowly, you will start appearing in search results and people will recognize this and add you. This creates a culture of reciprocity. If you aren’t a team player, Twitter might not be for you.

Here is a image from my recent twitter history:

On the left is all tweets from people I have followed. In the middle, are specific replies from others to me. As you can see, each tweet is short and have links to interesting topics or ideas. It’s like 1 big sharing circle! A twitter friend (@mscofino) posted some photos her class had taken about fractions. I am teaching Fractions next week and gave me a good teaching idea to do.

So that is a little about the what and why. It may or may not make sense to you at this point. The best way to understand something though is to go and experience it and defer judgement. Try it out for awhile and slowly you will start to see the benefits and become addicted.

For a detailed how to get started, go to this blog site that is designed by and for teachers:

http://onceateacher.wordpress.com/2009/02/18/a-teachers-guide-to-twitter/#comments

http://twitterforteachers.wetpaint.com